Inside Indicias: The Basics for Your Next Direct Mail Project

by Marisa Cogan

What is an Indicia? 

An indicia (pronounced In-DEE-Sha) is a marking that appears on an envelope in the place of a stamp or metered postage. Also known as a permit imprint, an indicia is used only with bulk mail and requires the company that is completing the mailing to apply for and purchase a permit from the post office.  In simple terms, an indicia provides a simple and more cost effective means for purchasing postage.  In order to use an indicia, mailings must contain minimally 200 – 500 pieces of mail, depending upon the mail class. The USPS has specific rules and regulations in regards to using an indicia, which can found here /link/.  Our team at CPS Cards is very knowledgeable about mail regulations and we help guide our customers through the process.

The permit number of an indicia is similar to an account number, whereby funds are deducted from your account with each mailing. An electronic report is sent to the Post Office for each mailing (done by your mail house, if you are using one), which provides them with all the information they need, such as number of pieces mailed. You are only authorized to use your permit number for the post office that holds your permit.  

Indicia Guidelines

Designing an indicia is fairly simple, however, if you work with a direct mail or fulfillment vendor, they may have an indicia that you can use. However, some companies prefer to use their own indicia for accounting purposes. First class mail, standard mail and non-profit mail are the most common formats, which is what we use at CPS Cards.

An indicia must contain the following information, in this order – the class rate (first, standard, non-profit), the words “U.S. Postage Paid”, the city and state or zip code of where the permit is held and the permit number.  Below are examples of a first class, standard and non-profit indicia.


There is no standard font required when designing an indicia, however, it cannot be any smaller than 4 pt and you should stay away from fonts with serifs so that it is readable.  Also, indicias must be placed in a clear area no smaller than ½” high by ½” wide, in the upper right hand corner of the envelope. The indicia should be places no more than 1 ½” from the edge of the envelope.

Why Indicia Vs. Stamp

So why use an indicia at all?  Indicias are the cheapest form of affixing postage because you aren’t really affixing postage at all. The indicia is part of the design phase of the project and is printed directly on the envelope during production. It saves you the time and expense of applying a stamp manually.

When deciding on whether to use a stamp, metered mail or an indicia, you will need to consider your audience and how you want them to interpret your mail upon receipt. If you want the recipient to know this is a professional or business correspondence, an indicia is the way to go.  If you want them to believe that it is personal, use a stamp.  A stamp indicates that a person took the time to apply it to the envelope.  Indicias will provide a cost savings as well since you pay a bulk rate.

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