How do forever stamps work?

A mailman delivering mail to a mailbox.
Rob Byron / Shutterstock

Forever stamps were introduced by the Postal Service in 2007 and are intended for use on regular, or first-class, letters. The very first forever stamp featured the image of the Liberty Bell.

Since 2011, all 1-ounce first-class stamps have been forevers.

Regardless of how much you pay for a forever stamp, you can use one to send a regular letter (no heavier than an ounce) forever. So if a stamp was worth 49 cents when you bought it and the price of mailing a letter has since gone up to 58 cents, you can still use that old stamp.

Forever stamps are sold in sheets, rolls and booklets of 20. You can buy them in person at your local post office or from the USPS over the phone or online. Some grocery stores and chain drugstores also sell forever stamps.

You can pick some up when you do your food shopping. If you use an app that gives you cash back simply for snapping a photo of your grocery receipt, you might earn enough to buy stamps for a year, depending on the amount of snail-mailing you do.

How much will a forever stamp cost in 2022?

young woman working at the post office
rlat / Shutterstock

The Postal Service started 2022 by making no change in the price of a forever stamp or the first-class letter rate. They remain at 58 cents.

There's no indication that an increase will come later in the year, but officials noted around the time of last year's price hike that the Postal Service is losing billions of dollars because of a 28% drop in mail volume over the last 10 years.

Meanwhile, 2022 is bringing average 3.1% increases in rates for Priority Mail services.

To give a couple of examples: The cost of using a Priority Mail medium flat-rate box is climbing from $15.50 to $16.10, and the rate for a small flat-rate box is going up from $8.45 to $9.45.

Postal officials say in the news release that they believe these new rates will help keep the Postal Service competitive while providing some needed revenue.

How many forever stamps do I need?

Close-up of woman's hand holding envelope and inserting in mailbox
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

Within the U.S., you need only a single forever stamp to send a regular-sized letter. The stamps are always sold at the same price as regular first-class postage.

But if you’re sending an oversized letter or mailing something internationally, you can use a forever stamp, but you’ll need to attach additional postage. Your forever stamp will be worth the domestic first-class-mail letter price the day you use it.

You might use two or more forever stamps on letters that are weightier or are going to international destinations, but that may not be the best strategy.

Postage for an additional ounce costs 20 cents. So if you've got a letter weighing in at close to 2 ounces and you add a second forever stamp worth 58 cents, you’ll be paying $1.16, not the required 78 cents. That's paying 38 cents too much.

It's better to save your forever stamps for regular mail and buy a mix of stamps in smaller and larger denominations to help you hit the higher rates on oversized and international letters and cards.

Why do we have forever stamps?

United States Post Office building shot from below
Susan Law Cain / Shutterstock

Postage prices are roughly tied to inflation. The U.S. Postal Service requests rate increases as inflation rises, meaning prices at the post office go up most years.

A good deal of the USPS' revenue comes from stamps — so why does it want you using older forever stamps when rates go up? Wouldn't it make more sense for the agency to make and sell new stamps with higher values?

Well, it turns out that the increased revenue from offering new, costlier stamps would be more than offset by the expense of having to collect and destroy outdated stamps each time the postage rate changes.

With forever stamps, everyone wins. You can buy a stockpile of stamps when rates are set to go up and save yourself those extra cents. You might even invest those small savings using a popular stock trading app that allows you to buy fractions of shares with as little as a $1.

Meanwhile, the Postal Service wins because it will never have to track down "expired" postage.

About the Author

Sigrid Forberg

Sigrid Forberg

Reporter

Sigrid is a reporter with MoneyWise. Before joining the team, she worked for a B2B publication in the hardware and home improvement industry and ran an internal employee magazine for the federal government. As a graduate of the Carleton University Journalism program, she takes pride in telling informative, engaging and compelling stories.

You May Also Like

5 Wise Money Moves Before the Fed Starts Raising Interest Rates Again

Time's almost up on ultra-low rates, so don't be caught off guard.

Want to Earn Big Returns Without the Shaky Stock Market? Try Art

Art investment is no longer reserved for the wealthy

How to Get a Free Credit Score

It's simpler than ever to get a free credit score.

Do Big Stores Save You the Most? We Price-Check Our Shopping List

With one 30-second trick, we found $460 in savings beyond Walmart and Amazon.