All Things Shipping
Jan 22, 2020

What Does Flat Rate Shipping Mean? Check Our Cheat Sheet

With e-commerce rapidly expanding each year, the process of shipping will need to be able to scale along with it. More than half of retailers say the cost of shipping is their biggest business challenge. And as consumers get more accustomed to free and expedited shipping, not to mention free returns, e-commerce brands will need to find ways to keep costs in check and streamline fulfillment operations. 

Flat rate shipping is one option that can make it easier to predict shipping expenses and potentially help you reduce shipping costs

If you’re not super familiar with flat rate shipping, or just want to learn more about how it might benefit your e-commerce business, consider this your cheat sheet.

What Does Flat Rate Shipping Mean?

Plain and simple, Flat rate shipping refers to the single, uniform fee charged to ship a package, given that it meets the stipulations set by the flat rate shipping provider. 

Flat rate shipping is a simplified process that allows consumers the convenience of an uncomplicated shipping option, and the ability for businesses to forecast shipping expenses with greater accuracy and predictability. As an added bonus, it can be especially helpful for shipping heavier items.

When people mention “flat rate shipping,” they’re often referring to USPS Flat Rate shipping. USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate shipping delivers within three days (not including Sunday). These shipping boxes can be an easy-to-use, cost-effective shipping option.

Flat Rate vs. Standard Shipping

While flat rate shipping includes a consistent fee for packages, standard shipping varies more. Standard shipping rates might be applied based on size, shape, weight, distance traveled, or even package type. Each carrier sets their own standard shipping rates

How Much Does Flat Rate Shipping Cost?

Flat rate shipping has a uniform cost, but this varies depending on the envelope or box you use to send the package.

Here are how the USPS Flat Rate fees break down:

How Long Does Flat Rate Shipping Take?

USPS Flat Rate shipping generally takes between one and three days, excluding Sunday, depending on package origin and its final destination. Packages shipped via flat rate are sent via USPS Priority Mail

Should You Use Flat Rate Shipping?

In short, It depends. Flat rate shipping is great in some people and not so great for others. 

For one, you need to make sure your shipping software will accommodate USPS Flat Rate shipping. If it doesn’t, you won’t be able to take advantage of this option. Or, you’ll need to find a new shipping software. 

Beyond that, it really boils down to the cost. Use a shipping calculator to help you compare. 

Shipping costs depend on a few key factors:

Distance traveled: Referred to as zones, USPS applies fees based on the origin and destination zones of each package. Typically, standard shipping costs are based on the distance between zones—the further you ship, the more it costs.

Weight: All carriers institute weight limits for their uniform shipping options. USPS flat rate boxes allow up to 70 pounds of weight, making anything heavier ineligible for the flat rate shipping option.

Size: Flat rate shipping is only available in specific box sizes and shapes. Some items cannot be shipped via flat rate shipping because they will not fit in flat rate boxes.

Overall, small, heavy objects are ideal for USPS Flat Rate shipping, especially when traveling far distances. Bed sheets, books, metal objects, and various home goods are perfect candidates for flat rate shipping. Lightweight objects might be better suited for other shipping methods. 

Related: When is USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Cheaper than USPS Priority Mail? >

Lower costs aside, flat rate shipping also offers a fair amount of convenience. You can order USPS Flat Rate boxes online or pick them up from the post office free of change. Then being able to rely upon consistent shipping charges will make forecasting and planning easier and more straightforward for your business.

Moving Forward With Your Shipping Needs

If you’re looking for USPS shipping software that can print labels and score you discounted rates, it’s time to explore Shippo

Shippo is a multi-carrier API and web app that helps retailers, marketplaces and platforms connect to a global network of carriers. Businesses use Shippo to get real-time rates, print labels, automate international paperwork, track packages and facilitate returns. Shippo provides the tools to help businesses succeed through e-commerce shipping.

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