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How the U.S. Postal Service Works

        Culture | Agencies

Mail Rules
Postman Ron Comly delivers the mail in Philadelphia during the Christmas rush.
Postman Ron Comly delivers the mail in Philadelphia during the Christmas rush.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

The USPS has specific size and weight requirements for each type of mail, from postcards to large packages.

Postcards (rectangular cardstock not contained in an envelope) have a minimum size requirement of 5.5 inches in length and 3.5 inches in height and a maximum of 6 inches in length and 4.25 in height.

Envelopes (small rectangular mail pieces no thicker than .25 inch) must be between 5 inches and 11.5 inches in length and 3.5 and 6.125 in height to qualify for standard letter rates. There is also a "large envelopes" category with minimum letter sizes of 15 inches in length and 12 inches in height.

Each type of mail must also fall within specific weight limits to be mailed at the standard rates. For example, you can't write a 12-page letter and mail it at the standard letter rate even if it does fit into an envelope that meets the size requirements. It has to weigh 1 ounce or less — the accepted limit for a letter.

You can mail heavier and larger letters or postcards — you'll just have to pay more. For example, the current rate for a standard 1-ounce letter is 47 cents. But if your letter weighs 3 ounces, you'll have to cough up an additional 42 cents.

Ultimately, there are limitations to what you can mail. The largest package you can mail must be less than 130 inches on its longest side for Retail Ground, and it can't weigh more than 70 pounds.

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