Stamp Prices To Rise Again, This Time To 49 Cents

12/27/13 10:37AM EST

Stamp Prices To Rise Again This Time To 49 Cents Stamp Prices To Rise Again, This Time To 49 Cents

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The price of a stamp is about to increase 3 cents to help the U.S. Postal Service recover losses from the Great Recession, according to the Associated Press. The cost will be 49 cents beginning Jan. 26.

Thrifty consumers can avoid the hike, at least temporarily, by purchasing stamps ahead of time. Forever stamps can be purchased for 46 cents each until the new price takes effects, and they can be used regardless of future prices.

The higher rate, which was approved Tuesday, likely isn’t permanent either. It “will last just long enough to recover the loss,” Commission Chairman Ruth Y. Goldway said.

The loss is a big one – the USPS is still trying to recoup the $2.8 billion it suffered in losses between 2008 and 2011 – but Goldway estimates it will take no more than two years to make up.

The Postal Regulatory Commission Weighs In

The independent Postal Regulatory Commission rejected a request to make the new price permanent, but officials say it may become permanent anyway, depending on inflation. The commission’s 2-1 ruling stated there was no “justification for permanent price increases in connection with recession-related mail volume losses,” according to United Press International.

The commission added that the Postal Service’s drop in mail volume wasn’t only recession-related. The surcharge plan “conflated losses that are a result of Internet diversion with losses that were a result of the Great Recession.

Price Increases For All Mailings

Other mail, including periodicals, bulk mail and package services, will also cost more to ship. For most mail, the commission approved a 1.7 percent increase for inflation, on top of a 4.3 percent recession-based increase. This means most mail will cost 6 percent more to send. Even postcard stamps will increase by a penny to 34 cents.

Opponents say the decision will have far-reaching effects. Bookstores competing with online retailers and charities that use mass mailings will be among those hurt.

This is a counterproductive decision,” Mary G. Berner, president of the Association of Magazine Media, told the Associated Press. “It will drive more customers away from using the Postal Service and will have ripple effects through our economy — hurting consumers, forcing layoffs and impacting businesses.”

Others might not even notice the new price, since internet correspondence has taken the place of regular mail. “I don’t know a whole lot of people who truly, with the exception of packages, really use snail mail anymore,” Wisconsin resident Kristin Johnson told the Associated Press. “It’s just so rare that I actually mail anything at this point.”

Moving Forward And Reassessing The Price Hike

The Postal Service has been struggling for years as people take Johnson’s outlook. The post office is an independent agency and does not receive tax dollars, but it is subject to congressional control. Congress requires it to pay $5.6 billion annually to cover expected costs for future retirees. This law has been in place since 2006, and the service has already defaulted on three of those payments.

Although the Postal Regulatory Commission voted to make the increased rates temporary, it will have to reevaluate the situation in two years. If inflation averages 2 percent, 49 cents for a stamp may be considered an acceptable, permanent price.

If the Postal Service sticks to the plan and reduces the cost, it will mark only the third time in history that it has done so. The cost of a stamp was lowered once in the mid-1800s from 3 cents to 2 cents, and again after World War I. Neither decrease was in response to a temporary increase.