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Sending USPS packages will cost more this holiday season. Here's why

The surcharge over the holidays is temporary but you can expect more rate changes in the future.

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A new USPS systemwide plan includes slowdowns and price hikes starting this month. 

Angela Lang/CNET
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Are you planning on sending holiday cards and gifts this year? If so, you should plan to send your gifts as early as possible and expect to pay more when using the US Postal Service. That's because the USPS has raised the price on shipping parcels throughout the holiday season.

The seasonal price hike -- which lasts till Dec. 26 -- goes hand in hand with delivery slowdowns that began Oct. 1. The rate increases and shipping delays are all part of the Postal Service's plan to stabilize its finances, which have taken a downward turn over the past decade, and the ongoing pandemic burdens. The USPS started raising its postage prices this summer with stamps, envelopes and more. 

You'll most likely see adjusted postal rates in the future -- twice a year going forward. And fortunately, not all first-class mail and packages will be impacted by the snail mail but the farther your package has to travel, the longer your loved one may have to wait. Here's what to know about the temporary price increases, including what kind of mail it applies to. This story was recently updated. 

Why is the USPS raising prices on packages for the holidays?

To help close a budget deficit the service has been running since 2007, the US Postal Service is taking a series of steps overseen by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy -- some more controversial than others -- to get its financial house in order.

The temporary rate hike is to cover extra handling costs the Postal Service said it expects to see starting the first week of October with the increase in holiday-related shipments. 

How much have package prices changed with the seasonal increases?

From Oct. 3 through Dec. 25, the US Postal Service will increase the cost to ship parcels from 25 cents to $5 depending on the delivery service you pick and the distance the parcel has to travel. Note that this price increase is not for letters -- the post office just increased the cost of stamps in August (see below for more). 

The Postal Service defines a "parcel" as anything that isn't a postcard, letter or flat (a large envelope, newsletter or magazine). A box of cookies, for example, would be a parcel.

Here are the temporary price increases to ship parcels based on distance the parcel will travel and its weight for Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, Parcel Select Ground and USPS Retail Ground. Roughly, the distance covered through zone 4 is 600 miles, from, say, Boston to Richmond, Virginia:

  • 75-cent for Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Boxes and Envelopes.
  • 25-cent increase for Zones 1 to 4, 0 to 10 pounds
  • $1.50 increase for Zones 1 to 4, 11 to 20 pounds
  • $2.50 increase for Zones 1 to 4, 21 to 70 pounds
  • 75-cent increase for Zones 5 to 9, 0 to 10 pounds
  • $3 increase for Zones 5 to 9, 11 to 20 pounds
  • $5 increase for Zones 5 to 9, 21 to 70 pounds

Didn't the Postal Service raise its rates already this year?

Yes. In August, the Postal Service increased the price of a first-class stamp to 58 cents, up from 55 cents. Before that the last increase was in 2019, when the Postal Service bumped the price to 55 cents from 50. Adjusting for inflation, you can see that the price of a stamp hasn't changed much over the last hundred years.

Do the new postage rates apply to Amazon, UPS and FedEx deliveries, too?

The current rate hike applies only to packages sent through the US postal service. UPS and FedEx are separate from the postal service. Some Amazon packages may arrive through the Postal Service, but Amazon sets those rates. Here's how to track when a package will arrive at your doorstep.

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Amazon delivery prices aren't part of the increase.

Could the USPS increase prices again?

Although the Postal Service calls this holiday-season price increase temporary, it's the Postal Regulatory Commission that sets prices. According to a Sept. 15 filing on USPS rate adjustments, there won't be another increase until July 2022. However, the announcement also predicts that starting in 2023, the Postal Service will annually implement price changes twice a year, in January and July.

For more information, here's a look at the Postal Service's policy to slow down some first-class mail. Here's also what we know about the next child tax credit payment and which states are sending stimulus checks now.