Not that long ago, just about every household in America made certain to have a supply of postage stamps on hand. After all, how would you pay your bills without stamps? How would you respond to an invitation or (god forbid) a notice from the government? How would you get birthday cards out to friends and family on time, if you couldn’t find a stamp in the house?
Where to buy stamps is becoming an increasingly common question. In the past it was simple, the only place that sold them was the post office.
The irony is that postage stamps are now more widely available than in the days when U.S. Mail was the only reliable way to send things without paying a fortune. You can still spend time and fight traffic to get to the post office to pick up a book of stamps. However, why would you, when you can buy stamps almost anywhere that you visit on a regular basis?
If you didn’t realize that so many places sold stamps, read on. Our rundown may save you gas and time.
Stores Where You Can Buy Postage Stamps
- USPS/UPS Store
- Most Chain Grocery Stores
To anyone reading this who claims that they don’t use Amazon: we don’t believe you. The easiest way imaginable to purchase stamps is with a couple of clicks on Amazon. You can buy books or sheets of 20 Forever stamps (the ones that go on letters and bills and can be used even after postage rates increase.) They also sell rolls of 100 Forever stamps for just a tiny bit over what you’d pay at the post office. Amazon shipping is free if you’re a Prime member or order more than $25.00 worth of merchandise at a time. If you need them immediately, you can pay extra for faster shipping, of course, but they should show up in a few days (or sooner) in any case.
If you manage to land on an Amazon page offering Forever stamps at prices that seem ridiculously high, look more closely. Chances are you’ve found one of the many sellers who offer vintage or rare stamps – which are great for collectors, but an awfully expensive way to pay a bill. Even the Postal Service sells its stamps directly on Amazon, and there’s absolutely no line to buy them. For most people, that makes the slight extra cost well worth paying. Amazon easily breaks into one of the top locations of where to buy stamps.
2. Post Office
Speaking of lines…
You may be one of the lucky ones whose local post office has plenty of free parking and usually isn’t crowded. If so, and if the office is nearby or on your way somewhere else, buying in person directly from the Postal Service is an excellent option. You’ll always pay face value for your stamps, and you’ll find the greatest range of choices when it comes to variety and denominations; you won’t find Christmas or Chanukah (or collectible) stamps at most of the outlets we’ll be discussing, and your Priority Mail envelope won’t be delivered if you simply stick a single Forever stamp on it. You’ll always be able to get the “right” stamps at the Post Office.
On the other hand, getting in-and-out of many post offices quickly is almost as impossible as making a “quick stop” at the Department of Motor Vehicles – and it’s even worse during holiday or tax seasons. Readers who are unlucky enough to find themselves serviced by one of those nightmarish post offices would do better to buy their postage stamps elsewhere.
At Staples, for example. The majority of individuals may now pay bills online, but businesses are more likely to use old-style checks, envelopes, and stamps. So what better place is there to buy postage stamps than a store that specializes in office supplies? Most (but not all) Staples stores sell books and rolls of Forever stamps at prices that are usually the same as the Postal Service charges, and the Staples that have a “Print and Marketing Services” department often sell stamps in other denominations as well. Just call your local store to be sure they have what you need before you head out.
When CVS was first becoming a national drugstore chain, the company’s advertising included the catchy slogan “Today’s Neighborhood Drugstore: CVS.” It’s been a long time since CVS depended solely on selling prescriptions, bandages, and toothbrushes; most of their stores now carry everything from food to holiday decorations – and postage stamps.
You’ll only be able to buy books of 20 Forever stamps at CVS pharmacies (no other denominations and no rolls of 100), but almost all cashiers have them in their registers, and you’ll generally pay the post office price when you check out. They’re occasionally out of stock, however, so a quick advance call to make sure stamps are available would be a good idea. One other note: you can’t use CVS coupons to get discounts on stamps.
How big is Walmart? Consider this: if Walmart was a country, experts say its sales revenue would make it the 26th largest economy in the world regarding GDP (gross domestic product). If we told you that a retail monster of that size doesn’t sell postage stamps, you probably wouldn’t believe us, and you’d be right. Of course, Walmart sells stamps, and if you live near a 24-hour Walmart Supercenter, you’ll be able to buy them at any time of the day or night.
Since Walmart’s marketing approach focuses on low prices, they’d look foolish unless they charged the same price for USPS stamps as the post office. You’ll pay face value for books of stamps at a cashier’s register, and some Walmart stores even sell individual stamps. If they happen to be out of stamps when you’re ready to check out, many locations also have ATMs that sell postage stamps, too.
CVS isn’t the only pharmacy-centered location where you can buy stamps. You can purchase them at Walgreens and other major drugstore chains as well. It may because of competition or just because they’re nice people, but like CVS, Walgreens doesn’t add a “convenience charge” to the price of a book of Forever stamps. You’ll pay exactly what you’d pay at the post office, with the added benefit of being able to pick up a six-pack of Coke or a new pair of pants at the same time.
You know the drill by now. Just ask the cashier for a book of stamps when you check out, and there’ll be no reason to make an extra trip to the post office. As always, a phone call to your local store will ensure that they have stamps on hand when you get there.
What supermarket would be “super” if it didn’t sell postage stamps? Most major markets now offer books of stamps in the checkout line, but as the nation’s largest grocer (and the second largest retailer of any kind in America), Kroger sells the most. That eliminates the need to wonder where to buy postage stamps; you can get them anytime you have to run out to the store.
The company operates nearly 3,000 supermarkets, but if you’re not familiar with them, that could be because Kroger’s stores aren’t all branded with that name. In your area, they could be called Ralph’s, Smith’s, QFC, Roundy’s, Harris Teeter, Baker’s or City Market. They own smaller grocers under other brands as well. And all of them sell postage stamps, at regular prices without a markup.
Buying Single Stamps
If you only need one stamp you’re options are quite a bit more limited. You can either find a single stamp on Amazon, or go directly to the USPS store. Most other retailers will only have larger denominations such as 10, 20, or books of 100.
How Much Do Postage Stamps Cost?
It’s almost impossible to give a realistic answer to that question because it seems the Postal Service increases its rates nearly every time you look. The price of a first-class stamp for one ounce or less (the stamp you put on a regular letter) in 2002 was 37¢, where it stayed for almost four years. But after that, there were one or two cent increases every single year (with the exception of 2010-11) and a postage stamp currently costs 49¢. A proposal to let the Postal Service increase rates by another 2.15%, which would make the first-class price an even 50¢, is currently stalled in Congress.
The Forever Stamp
The release of “Forever” stamps in 2007, which could be used to mail a letter even after prices went up, was billed as a boon for customers but was really a marketing gimmick – because who keeps stamps forever? You buy them to use them.
Those aren’t the only stamp prices that keep going up. The 2002 price for a postcard (does anyone still send those anymore?) was 23¢ but is now 34¢, and the rate for mailing each additional ounce has increased over that time from 17¢ to 21¢.
Packages and First-Class Mail
Similar percentage increases for first-class packages, Priority and Express Mail have been instituted over the years, but since those cost a lot more to ship, the actual price increases have been enormous. For example, shipping a one-ounce first-class package in 2006 cost the same amount as a letter, 39¢. A year later, the price soared to $1.13, and it currently stands at $2.67.
Other common rates today include $6.65 for a small Priority Mail flat rate envelope (10 years ago it was well under $4.00), $7.15 for a small Priority Mail flat rate box, and a whopping $18.85 for a large Priority Mail flat rate box – dramatically higher prices than just a decade ago. Want overnight delivery? Well, the Postal Service no longer guarantees next-day service for Express Mail but if you want to try it, it will run you $23.76 for a flat rate envelope and a little more for legal or padded envelopes. There are no longer flat rates for Express Mail packages at all; the prices are based on weight and destination.
If you want to know where to buy postage stamps for these other services, here’s the bad news: you can only buy most of these higher-priced stamps at a post office unless you want to use enough Forever stamps to add up to the total. For example, you could put 14 Forever stamps on a small Priority Mail flat rate envelope, or 49 Forever stamps on a flat rate Express Mail envelope, and they would be accepted and delivered. But who’s going to do that?
So, if you’re asking yourself “How many stamps do I need to mail a letter?” The most convienent answer is simply one Forever Stamps, or 49 cents worth of regular postage.
Why do stamp prices keep going up…and up…and up? It’s largely because fewer people are using first-class mail, replacing it with email for correspondence and online payment for bills. The Postal Service’s package operations are showing impressive growth thanks to Amazon and other online retailers, but the increases aren’t enough to offset the losses in other USPS mail services. Laws requiring the funding of postal workers’ retirement funds for 75 years in the future have also put the Postal Service in a deep hole, with the agency reporting huge losses for the last ten years in a row.
How To Use Postage Stamps
It’s a fairly simple and straightforward process. You simply place the stamp in the top right corner of your envelope or package. Below is a picture on the proper envelope formatting.
Why Do We Use Postage Stamps, Anyway?
There are two reasons that everyone who’s alive, everywhere in the world, has always put postage stamps on their mail: they’re traditional, and they make sense.
The first stick-on postage stamp was used in Britain in 1840s and was introduced as part of a reform package for that country’s postal system. The system was failing and plagued with corruption. Before that time, the recipient of mail paid upon delivery. That caused major problems, however, when people refused to pay for their envelopes and packages. The postal system had already incurred the costs of processing and delivery. The newer system of “pre-paid” postage, signified by affixing a stamp to the mail, made complete sense. It makes just as much sense now and has been adopted by every country in the world.
The importance of postage stamps has declined somewhat over the last generation. Not only because of the ubiquity of email, but by businesses taking advantage of bulk mailing rates and using postage meters. It’s unlikely, though, that the postage stamp is going anywhere. At least until – or when – the Postal Service goes belly up. That means we’ll continue to pay more and more for our stamps for the foreseeable future. But with so many places now offering them at the register, at least we won’t have to wonder where to buy postage stamps.
This is a big no-no. Not only will you get hit with hefty fines, but you could also see in the inside of a jail cell. The reuse of psotage stamps is a federal crime and will land you in hot water. Furthermore, by partaking in this behavior, you’re creating a burden for the United States Postal Service. Don’t do it.
Today, a majority of people pay their bills online, via apps or by phone; for example, a recent study showed that 56% of all household bills are paid online. Most interactions with party-throwers can be done directly via texting or email, correspondence with government agencies is mostly conducted directly on websites, and the greeting card industry is in steep decline thanks to people using ecards, social media, and apps like FaceTime instead of sending a card.
However, just because the mail service isn’t as large or important as it once was, doesn’t make it obsolete. Tens of thousands of people still use stamps everyday. Our article is a great resource on all the different stores and locations where you can buy stamps near you. If you’re asking yourself “Where Can I Buy Stamps?” Well now you know!