Orientation of letters or postcards in the USA

Yup. Fastest mail delivery ever! :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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Square and vertical envelopes are non-machinable and are subject to the (currently) 39¢ nonmachinable surcharge. As with large postcards mailed with less than 60¢ however, whether it slips through undetected is another matter.

You can verify this by going through the “calculate a price” function on the USPS website. At some point you’ll come across this:

And if you click on anything other than “none of the following” the rate will be 99¢:


That’s news to me. I had no idea we could send vertically oriented postcards without a non machinable fee.

You can’t. While the address side of a post card may be divided either horizontally or vertically into its message and address halves, it must still have a “landscape” orientation to qualify for the postcard or nonmachinable rate. A post card written with a “portrait” orientation is charged the nonmachinable letter rate of 99¢.

People are erroneously equating division with orientation, but they are not the same.

Per USPS, the maximum postcard height is 4.25 inches and the minimum width is 5 inches. A “portrait” oriented postcard cannot meet these requirements.



The USPS site is rather confusing, witnessed by what @Walden and @johnbradleytlh have shown above. I use the retail calculator all the time but never considered an envelope “odd shaped” just because it was oriented vertically. With those postcards I have that are vertically oriented on the written side (with lines on them) I guess I will just have to use them “correctly” to be sure the recipient gets them. But I won’t be buying any more cards oriented that way. Why is this not an issue in other countries?

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I have a few vertical cards, which I have always intended to send in envelopes.

So far I’ve just converted my vertical cards to horizontal and plan on continuing :woman_shrugging: Definitely an interesting topic :sweat_smile:


I had a few Postallove cards with a portrait orientation and I wrote them with a landscape orientation. Didn’t look bad either.

As for other countries, I’m guessing they don’t rely on sorting machines as much as the US does.

There’s good and bad to this. On one hand European cards don’t get as beat up as any card that goes through the US. On the other hand some European postal rates can be significantly more than US rates.

You can send portrait oriented cards, it just costs a bit extra because there’s more manual processing involved, and to be fair the US nonmachinable rate is cheaper than the standard rate in some European countries.


Yes, you’re right, I hadn’t thought of it that way. I just don’t remember so many of my cards being so destroyed as they have been in the past 6 months. I know the PO is also understaffed.

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How do you mean? It says on the USPS site that it’s okay to use vertical cards (divided by a horizontal line, so yes that bit’s confusing), just put the address on the top half. I send these all the time with no issue and no extra postage. Surely it’s only a matter of time, but I’ve never had one of these cards go missing. Here’s an example. Sent from USA to Germany and it arrived in 11 days. You don’t need to write these vertically-formatted cards horozontally.

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You can divide the address side either vertically (top) or horizontally (bottom). But it must still have a “landscape” orientation.

Fun fact: US sorting machines can only tell if there is a tagged stamp, not it’s value. All stamps 10¢ and above are tagged. So you can send a letter with just a 10¢ stamp (or a large postcard with the regular sized postcard rate), and 90% of the time it’ll go through. Only when the underpaying happens to be caught by a postal clerk will it be returned or held at the post office until the recipient pays the postage due.


I have sent these like this too, but being that I’m getting things back now that I never did before, I won’t take any more chances. Yes, the card may be vertical, but apparently they want the address in the landscape mode. I think not everyone who works at the PO goes by the rules, so it’s all a gamble. And the instructions on their website are really not very clear (at least, to me).

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This is very interesting!

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I mostly write the Postallove cards this way, almost like they were “normal” (like @johnbradleytlh ?):

So I cover the small image where stamp is thought to be put, put stamp over or next to the text describing the card, and then write my message the way the lines go.

But, somehow I feel there is less room to write this way, so I don’t buy these cards anymore, because it requires extra work.

I have received these cards written with so many ways :smile: I don’t know why the smaller cards have this orientations, when their bigger cards have the “normal”.

In Finland, when sending, the receiver’s address should be in the lower right corner, so that’s is why I do it this way.

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Almost, but with the “postallove” on the right, and the photo, uncovered, on the left.

(It doesn’t bother you to write opposed to the lines :smile: ?)

Nah, I’m a rebel.


Amuses me that you ask that given that your avatar image is skewed! I frequently send postcards to my sister that I write in a spiral, but I’m not sure she really enjoys reading them.


:smile: :laughing: perhaps the avatar had to squeeze there as the lines were like that


Its still 1st class rate of $.60, be sure to add more postage next time!