Dec. 29 2006 12:08 PM

In the last few years, the U.S. Postal Service and postage meter manufacturers have been quietly working together to commercialize immediate access to postage through the new information based indicia program (IBIP) digital meter a great leap in efficiency and security for users, especially mid-to-large businesses. Immediate access to postage is available via several electronic payment solutions that were developed by the Postal Service under its PostageNow program. This is just one of a number of high-tech programs where the Postal Service is pushing to better secure postage meter funds.


Electronic payments benefit anyone from the small office/home office (SOHO) meter user to the high-volume corporate mailer who needs thousands of dollars' worth of postage daily. Electronic payment options give any and all meter users an alternative to the outdated method of paying for postage by check or money order.


Meter users can now reset their digital postage meters 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The electronic payment options are really quite simple and convenient to use and are completely free of hidden charges or fees. These options are ushering in the new era of safe and secure methods for immediate access to any postage amount.


The Old Way of Securing Postage

In the past, postage meter users had to establish an account or lock box at the Postal Service. The lock box was used to deposit funds via check or money order and to refill postage meters at the local Post Office. If deemed an acceptable financial risk, the company would then be allowed to issue a check to the Postal Service for postage. However, the mail center would have to wait for the check to clear the company's chosen financial institution and for the funds to actually appear in the account, sometimes creating up to a 10-day delay on the funds before being able to use the postage in its account.


As a result, many large corporate mail center managers were faced with the frustrating task of making sure the postage funds were always available. Sometimes this would mean tying up thousands of corporate dollars, which could be better used for other projects or to earn interest. No mail center manager ever wanted to be faced with insufficient postage and a delay in processing important mailings such as invoices or direct marketing campaigns.


The Meter Evolves to Facilitate Postage on Demand

Today, the collaborative efforts and support of the banking, meter manufacturing and Postal Service industries as well as the trust of a loyal meter user base has brought about electronic payment solutions. Together, these institutions' concerted efforts have made it an accepted practice for postage meter users to safely, accurately and easily download postage electronically into their meters.


The goals of immediate access to postage via electronic payment options are twofold: First, to make the meter a one-stop point of entry to postage. This means that the meter needs to emulate the 24/7 operations of today's economic world, enabling postage meter users to select and pay for the correct postage amount at any time from their offices or mail centers. Second, to give the Postal Service a way to accurately accept payment for postage electronically, and to do so with integrity and trust.


The easy-to-use PostageNow technology installed in every digital meter developed in the last few years is designed to facilitate this process. They replace the old-fashioned physical purchasing and payment process transaction with electronic information exchange. The new digital meters come equipped with technology that enables postage requests to flow from the user to meter manufacturer and to the Postal Service seamlessly.


Three Electronic Payment Options

PostageNow technology allows meter users to download postage via three reliable, secure and flexible solutions all using the Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments method. The three options are:


ACH Debit Option Considered the best option for most businesses, especially SOHO and small- to mid-volume mailers, this option provides immediate access to postage in just a few minutes. Easy to establish via a debit account, which automatically debits the mailers chosen bank account, the postage customer only has to press a few keys on the meter, instructing it to download the exact dollar amount of postage needed. Payment is electronically handled by the postage meter manufacturer, where it is debited from the mailer's secure chosen bank account. The postage is then delivered electronically to the meter in minutes, and the postage user is ready to go.


ACH Credit Option This is a flexible, cost-effective option for those businesses that process large-volume mailings. Via ACH credit, the mailer makes a request to its company bank to send money from a select secure bank account to a separate postage account overnight. This allows the mailer to have tighter control of large amounts of capital and to avoid the pitfall of not having enough postage on hand. ACH credit also is the most cost-effective option for companies with no prior electronic payment arrangement with a meter company.


Federal Wire This option is the most efficient postage payment solution for companies that often transfer more than $25,000 of postage in a day. The payment is transferred from the postal customer's secure bank account into a postage account, freeing funds to download postage into the meter within hours.


The Benefits: Speed, Efficiency, Security

Electronic payment solutions demonstrate the positive impact that immediate access to postage can have on a mail center's productivity.


All of the electronic payment options are also backed by a digital technology infrastructure to support and create the highest level of online security for postal funds transactions. Electronic downloads of postage are now becoming commonplace, eliminating trips to the Post Office to load a meter and securing the transfer of postal funds from business bank accounts to postal meters. And, they provide new levels of efficiency by making just-in-time mailing efforts even more convenient.


A 20-year veteran of high-tech business development, Larry Turner is CEO of FP Mailing Solutions, a mail center solutions provider, meeting the needs of small, mid-sized and large organizations. For more information, visit or call 800-956-6465.