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What’s the difference between stamps, franking, and other mailing services?

The difference between stamps, franking and other mailing services is down to cost and convenience and which method is best for you and your business will depend on what you’re posting and how much.

A “frank” is a general term for a postmark, whether it’s with stamps, franking by a machine in the office, or PPIs (Printed Postage Impressions) printed in house or by mailing houses..

The Royal Mail determines the price of a stamp in the UK but since January 2006 they no longer have a monopoly on the mail service, although they do still handle 99% of the ‘final mile delivery’ – the actual posting through the letterbox. Since 2006, regulators Postcomm, the Postal Services Commission, has issued a further 59 licences to postal operators in the UK in addition to Royal Mail, opening up the market to competition, and lower cost services.

Discounts on postal rates vary between stamps, franking, PPIs and mailing house services, as does the level of convenience. It’s a matter for careful thought when you consider that business mail makes up 90% of all the letters in the UK.


Whilst volume discounts are available from Royal Mail for businesses, it still remains the most expensive postal option. And does it make economic sense to have staff tied up sticking stamps on letters (not to mention stuffing the envelopes in the first place)?


Processing your mail through a franking machine can be a cheaper alternative – as much as 34% on a 2nd Class letter or 12% (35p) to send a small parcel. Other advantages of using a franking machine include no restrictions on minimum and maximum volumes, the facility to send all kinds of mail, and being able to add logos and advertising messages within the frank itself.

However, there are issues to consider. Firstly, you need a franking licence from Royal Mail. The terms and conditions are strict and breaking them can result in the licence being revoked.

Secondly, there’s an investment in the franking machine, whether bought or leased. Royal Mail does not supply the franking machine either – you need to source that yourself from their list of accredited suppliers. Whichever supply option you take, remember there will be machine inspections to comply with the terms of the licence and annual maintenance to pay for. Then there’s the cost of ink, again from recommended suppliers, to add into the equation.

Thirdly, the discounts are dependent on the mail volume. To qualify for savings and avoid penalties you must separate – or sort – the mail by UK or international destination and then by product and class. This is a cost that many businesses fail to recognise; having staff spending their time sorting large volumes of mail may not be a good use of their time or your investment in them.


PPIs are easy to use – you simply print them on to labels from the postal operators’ website. However, you will need a PPI number from Royal Mail in order to be able to do it, and remember all Royal Mail PPIs are the copyright, trade marks and designs of Royal Mail Group Ltd 2003.

Mailing houses can print PPIs for you straight on to the envelopes during the processing of your mailing job. Just make sure you supply them with your PPI number and chosen design.

Asendia UK

Mailing houses like Asendia – a Royal Mail-approved wholesale partner – offers a competitive alternative to do-it-yourself stamps, franking and PPIs. Asendia processes thousands of mail items every day, so they are well placed to achieve postage discounts on your bulk mailings, and also to consolidate your small mailings with others to create volume, and therefore discounts. Remember - postal operators like Royal Mail, TNT, DHL, UKMail typically save their best rates on postage costs for wholesalers.

Asendia has the facilities to offer end-to-end services: they can actually print your mailings for you, print carrier sheets and polywraps, fulfil envelopes, sort the mail – no matter where its destination across the globe – and send it on its way. As well as the cost savings, imagine the time savings.

As a joint venture between La Poste and Swiss Post, two of Europe’s leading postal operators, Asendia has access to an extensive network of delivery routes around the world and deals with all types of mail and categories:

Checklist Tickletters

Checklist Ticklarge letters

Checklist Tickpackets

Checklist Tickparcels

Checklist Tickdirect mail

Checklist Tickcatalogues and brochures

Checklist Tickbusiness mail

Checklist Ticksmall goods

Checklist Tickmagazines and journals.


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About the author
Catherine Jackson is an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has been a publishing professional for over 30 years, working in newspapers, magazines, and marketing in the education, retail and travel sectors. She has also worked as a freelance copywriter, editor and proofreader before joining Asendia UK as Content Marketing Executive & Copywriter. Google+