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Published: Aug 27, 2021 4 min read
Close-up of a hand placing a stamp with the United States flag on a white envelope.
Money; Getty Images

Still sending snail mail? Tell your penpal the cost of exchanging letters is about to go up.

The U.S. Postal Service is set to raise stamp prices this Sunday, increasing the cost of regular postage by 5.5%. First-Class Mail Forever stamps, as well as the cost of mailing a single-piece, 1-ounce letter, will go from $0.55 to $0.58.

But wait, that's not all. The cost of sending a postcard domestically will jump from $0.36 to $0.40. Postage for outbound international letters is rising, as well, from $1.20 to $1.30. You can see a full list of the USPS August 2021 price changes here.

In an FAQ on its website, the Postal Service says the new pricing will enable it "to grow revenue to help achieve financial sustainability to fulfill its universal service mission." The increases are part of the agency's 10-year Delivering for America plan, which aims to help it recover from a recent $87 billion loss.

"In the past 10 years, mail volume has declined by 46 billion pieces, or 28 percent, and is continuing to decline. In the same time frame, First-Class Mail has dropped 32% and single piece First-Class Mail — including letters bearing postage stamps — has declined 47%," the service says, adding that the new rates will keep it competitive while providing revenue. "Even with post rate increases, USPS prices will remain among the world’s most affordable."

While that's true — in the United Kingdom, a first-class stamp costs the equivalent of about $1.17 — some Americans are still grumbling about what they see as yet another price hike for a basic good. But at this point, increasing postage rates is basically a national tradition.

Mail costs have been steadily increasing since at least 1932, when the cost per ounce increased from $0.02 to $0.03. It crossed the 10-cent mark in 1974, the 20-cent mark in 1981, the 30-cent mark in '95 and the 40-cent mark in '07. Stamp prices have been above $0.50 since 2018. Bear in mind that First-Class Mail Forever Stamps can be used to mail letters at any time, regardless of when they were purchased.

Though some postage rates climbed this past January, the stamp price stayed the same. Sunday's change will be the first since 2019, when the cost went up a nickel from $0.50 to $0.55. It also precedes a series of changes scheduled to take effect in October that will make shipping certain items take longer and cost more on both a temporary and permanent basis.

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