What's the difference between IPA and ePacket?

We often have this conversation with prospective customers - how are these services different?  International Priority Airmail (IPA) and Commercial ePacket (CeP) are both services of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and are best utilized by consolidators like IMS.  By creating large volumes and having the processing expertise, we can provide the best possible rates and delivery of your packages.

There are both similarities and differences ......

  • ePacket offers door to door tracking, IPA packages only get an acceptance scan upon entry in Chicago (Endicia users).
  • IPA offers options for Letters, Flats, Packages, and M-Bags (printed matter over 4.4 lbs).
  • ePacket is for Packages only.
  • IPA offers service worldwide, ePacket goes to 36 of the most popular countries (and adding more).
  • Both services travel the exact same paths to ultimate delivery in an average of 3-7 days.
  • Both have maximum piece weights of 4.4 lbs.
  • At basic published pricing, IPA is up to about $1.00/pkg cheaper than ePacket for lightweight packages.  But when you get over about 1 lb to most countries, ePacket is actually cheaper and provides full tracking!
  • Most of our customers will use ePacket for all qualifying countries, and IPA for the ROW.
  • We can integrate with the most popular software vendors (including the whole Stamps.com family) to make these services available on YOUR work stations.

Japan asks us to inform Union member countries and their designated operators of the following:

Customs inspection of inbound mail in Japan is being strengthened as part of counter-terrorism measures, in connection with the convening of the Ise-Shima G 7 Summit this year, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Therefore, Japan Post would like to request each designated operator’s cooperation in conducting a thorough inspection of the contents of all mail items, without exception, based on the Regulations of the Universal Postal Convention, ensuring that all these items are accompanied by all the required documents, and not accepting any dangerous goods.

Looking for improved international mail delivery? Maybe you should start with the delivery address. International addresses follow a specific format which is dictated by recommendations from the country of origin and from the destination country. And although each country has their own specific addressing requirements, there are some universal standards that should be followed when addressing a foreign mail piece.

The first thing to remember is that the name of the destination country must always:

Be printed as the last line of the address

Be in all capital letters

Be in the language of the dispatching country

The next item to consider is the “postal code”. Like a US zip code, a foreign postal code is an essential element of an international address. Currently there are more than 116 countries that use postal codes as a part of their addressing requirements. The tricky thing about postal codes is that their format varies widely around the world. From an alpha numeric format of 6 characters with a space between the 3rd and 4th (ANA NAN) used in Canada, to Australia which uses 4 digits to the United Kingdom which uses 6 different alpha numeric formats. Yes, it can be hard to keep it all straight!

We see numerous postal codes that have been corrupted due to the field being set as a “Zip + 4”, or the field not being large enough to contain a code over 5 digits. Just like here in the US where a bad or missing zip code may impede delivery, a missing or corrupted international postal code can have the same effect – especially in countries where the postal technology is still developing.

One of the best resources for information on formatting international addresses is theUniversal Postal Union. There you can find country specific addressing requirements and formats as well as links to member postal organizations. Another great source for foreign address knowledge is “Frank’s Compulsive Guide to Postal Addresses”.

There are companies out there that provide international address hygiene and standardization. They can correct address format and spelling, identify undeliverable or uncorrectable addresses and often add missing address elements and postal codes.

And we’re here if you need us! We’d be happy to take a look at your address file prior to addressing and offer assistance and guidance. We can help identify addresses that are missing elements, addresses that are insufficient and can even “clean up” formatting issues. That way you’re not wasting time and money prepping mail pieces that aren’t going anywhere. So, if you’re concerned about improved international mail delivery, start with the most important part of an international mail piece – the delivery address.

Effective January 4, 2010, return addresses are required on all outbound international mail - regardless of service used.  The new requirement is being established in response to changes in Universal Postal Union (UPU) regulations.  It specifies that mailpieces must bear a complete return address in the country of origin (where you pay postage).  In other words, if mailed through the USPS, return must be a US address (See USPS Regulation 122.23).  If mailed direct through Canada Post, return must be Canadian.  Further, it’s recommended that the destination country name be on the last line in capital letters.

A frequent mistake in addressing international mail pieces is an incorrect postal code format.  But, an error here can cause your mail to be greatly delayed or not delivered at all.  It can be difficult to know if a postal code is correct with so many different formats and the fact that some countries don’t use them at all.  Often, the problem is trying to fit a foreign postal code into a domestic zip + 4 format.  There are many resources available to find out if your destination uses postal codes, or what the proper format is.  One is the Universal Postal Union, which has a section for each country.  You can also contact your international mail specialist, like International Mail Service.