This title may sounds obvious, but you would be surprised at how easy it is to lose track of your postage. You may have money sitting on postage meters, in prepaid meter accounts, or in different USPS permit used to fund mailings, business reply mail or postage due charges. You may also be giving Mail Service Providers (Mail Houses and Presorters) advance postage funds for mailings they will send on your behalf. We have found thousands of companies that have lost postage funds, which could have easily been avoided. The goal of this article is to show you how funds get lost, where the funds go and what you can do to make sure it does not happen in the future.

Here are the main reasons that funds can get lost:

1. Expense Vs. Asset - Once the funds are deposited in the different postage accounts, most companies write it off as an expense. In other words, the money is spent. These postage balances are actually an asset of your firm until the postage is utilized as should be treated as such.

2. Decentralized Oversight - Often times, the metered postage is managed separately from the permits and mail house funding. There could also be multiple departments managing their own permits for different mailings or reply mail activities. Example: The Marketing Department has their own permit for mass mailings where Accounts Receivable uses a separate account for Business Reply Mail to get payments returned.

3. Multiple Locations - The management gets more difficult when individual sites set up their own permits or have individually funded postage meter accounts.

4. Mailings Run on Mail Service Providers Permit Numbers - They will typically give you an estimate of the funds needed for your mailings, but most companies do not look at the final postage statements to validate what was spent.

This is what happens to this money when it is not tracked and managed.

Postage Meter Lost Funds - When a mail machine gets picked up because it is no longer needed, the money on the meter gets put back into the postage account. The final balance of this account is now available to be refunded. The question comes to how this money get sends back to your company. You may get a statement of the final postage balance and can call the meter vendor to request a check for reimbursement. If no one requests these funds, they may sit at your vendor for a period of 2-5 years (Depending on your state) and are then turned over as unclaimed property. We have found thousands of lost postage transactions turned over to the states waiting for customers to claim their funds.

Permit Accounts Lost Funds - The USPS Defines an Inactive permit as "imprint, meter, or pre-canceled account as having no mailings or payment of fees during a 2-year period from the date of fee expiration." If the balance exceeds $25, they are required to send the customer a letter with a form 3553 to get your funds reimbursed.

In 2011 the USPS had almost $1.3 billion dollars in prepaid funds on account (For all active permit accounts) and had only refunded $22 million dollars back to customers. With the amount of moves, consolidations, closures and staff changes, we believe there is significant lost funds sitting with the USPS that never get turned over to the states as unclaimed property.

Mail Service Providers Lost Funds - Often times, customers will use the permit accounts of their mail house or presort service for the ease of funding or because the company does not want to set up permits in the geographic area where the provider is located. Money will typically be deposited upfront to fund future mailings. On the invoice, the provider will list out the funds used by the recent projects.

The issue comes in with the auditing of the expenses and the management of the balances. We rarely see companies requesting postal statements and balance receipts of the funds utilized. To make matters worse, invoices typically give little or no detail or are difficult to decipher if you are not an expert in the mailing industry. Finally, very few clients check the detail of these invoices to know exactly what they are paying for. All this can lead to lost postage funds.

Here are the best practices for keeping track of funds to eliminate these issues from happening in the future.

Postage Meter Accounts - The best practice is to have online visibility to your postage balances. Most meter vendors can give you web access. This way you can see your balances as well as every time the meter gets filled. If you have multiple meters, link them to this same online visibility and if possible, onto master account numbers. Now, if any office closes, the money will automatically go back into the master account to be used by other locations.

Permit Accounts - Link all of your permits to a central CAPS Account. This way you can go onto the USPS website and see your account balances and transactions where funds were withdrawn. The best part is you can manage the funding and permit fees from one place vs. needing to scramble last minute to pay postage for mailing projects.

Mail Service Providers - The best practice is to use as few providers as possible where you partner with them on your mailing projects. As part of the scope, have quarterly reviews where the details of your mailings, invoices and account balances are discussed. Make sure to go over at least a couple of invoices to understand their format and request additional detail if it is required.

By having an understanding of what can happen to your funds and by developing structure around its future management, you will eliminate potential lost postage for your organization. More importantly it will make it easier to manage your mailing operations because you will have a higher level of visibility and control.

Adam Lewenberg, CMDSS is President of Postal Advocate Inc. with over 19 years of experience in the mail industry. Their mission is to help entities with large numbers of locations reduce mail related expenses, recover lost postage funds, and make their spends easy to manage. He can be reached at (617)372-8653 or