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Published: Sunday, 5/11/2008

New rules hike rates of postage Monday

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON - The cost of mailing a letter goes up a penny to 42 cents tomorrow, the latest in what are expected to be annual price adjustments by the Postal Service.

A new law regulating the post office makes it easier to raise rates as long as the agency doesn't exceed the rate of inflation. Rates are to be adjusted each May.

But the post office has introduced a way for people to save money when the price goes up, the Forever stamp, which is valid for first-class postage regardless of any increases.

With the rate increase approaching, sales of the Forever stamp reached 64 million a day in April, postal officials said. Forever stamps sell for 41 cents, but can be used after the rate increase without additional postage. But when the rate goes up, so does the Forever stamp price.

The other 41-cent stamps will require additional postage under the new rates, and postal officials said they printed 1.5 billion 1-cent stamps in anticipation of the demand.

In addition, for the first time the agency has stamps available at the new rate before the change takes effect.

A set of five 42-cent stamps honoring pioneering journalists went on sale in April, as did a set of four stamps featuring the U.S. flag flying at different times of day.

A 42-cent stamp featuring singer and actor Frank Sinatra will be released Tuesday.

The increase takes effect a week after the post office announced it had a loss of $700 million in the second quarter of the fiscal year, blamed largely on declining mail volume and rising fuel prices.

While the charge for the first ounce of a first-class letter rises to 42 cents, the price of each added ounce will stay 17 cents, so a 2-ounce letter will go up a penny to 59 cents.

Mailing a post card will go up a penny, to 27 cents.

Other rates:

•Large envelope, 2 ounces, $1, up 3 cents.

•Money orders up to $500, $1.05, unchanged.

•Certified mail, $2.70, up 5 cents.

•First-class international letter to Canada or Mexico, 72 cents, up 3 cents.

•First-class international letter to other countries, 94 cents, up 4 cents.

•Priority mail flat-rate envelope, $4.75, up 25 cents.

•Express mail flat-rate envelope, $16.50, up 25 cents.

But the Postal Service said overall prices for Express Mail, its overnight service, will be lower at the weights and in the delivery zones most used by customers.

Express mail and Priority mail customers can save by buying postage online, the agency said. Express mail customers will get 3 percent off the published retail prices and Priority mail customers will save an average 3.5 percent.

Postage rates last went up in May, 2007, with a first-class stamp jumping 2 cents to the current 41-cent rate.



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