Forever Stamps: What They Are and How They Work
Save Money on Mail-In Sweepstakes with Forever Stamps
Forever Stamps are first-class stamps issued by the United States Postal Service. What makes them special is that they are non-denominational, which means you can buy them at the current first-class postage rate, and they remain valid even if that rate rises in the future.
So if you buy a Forever Stamp at $0.55 per stamp and the first-class postage rate rises to $0.60 per stamp, you save $0.05 for every letter you send.
The first Forever Stamps were issued by the United States Postal Service in 2007. By 2011, almost all stamps sold by the USPS became Forever Stamps. Today, you can only buy first-class stamps with their value stamped on them if you purchase bulk coils of at least 500 stamps.
The change to first-class stamps is generally good news for people who enter mail-in sweepstakes. If you assume postal rates will always rise and never sink, then Forever Stamps are a good investment. And there's good reason to make that assumption. According to a Wikipedia article on the history of US postage rates, the prices generally rise.
There have been only two times that the postage rate has fallen in the past century or so: in 1919 when the cost of mailing an envelope dropped from three to two cents, and in April of 2016 when the USPS dropped their first-class postal rate from $0.49 to $0.47 for a standard letter. However, that rate drop didn't last long; the prices rose again in January of 2017, going back to $0.49 per stamp.
How US Stamp Rates Work
The United States Postal Service isn't allowed to set the price of stamps at any value they want. In fact, the Postal Service lost a lawsuit over theirlargest-ever rate hike, which took place in 2019.
US stamp rates are roughly tied to inflation. When inflation rises, the US Postal Service can request an increase in stamp rates from the Postal Regulatory Commission, with oversight from Congress.
This process generally results in a price increase of a few cents every year or couple of years. As long as inflation rises, stamps will get more expensive.
So does that mean you should buy a ton of stamps right now? Not necessarily. The Postal Service announces its rate hikes before they go into effect. So you can wait to see what the Post Office does before you make a purchase.
What Forever Stamps Are Worth
Forever stamps don't have a dollar amount printed on them. Instead, they're worth whatever the first-class postage rate for a one-ounce envelope is on any given day. To find out what that amount is, check the USPS website for the current first-class postage rate.
This means that you can send a letter — or a sweepstakes entry — with a Forever Stamp today, tomorrow, next year, five years from now, no matter what the current stamp cost is.
How Forever Stamps Work
Forever Stamps are easy to use. Simply buy stamps at the current first-class rate and you don't have to worry about how much sending a standard letter costs. Stick a Forever Stamp on your #10 (or other standard-sized) envelope, drop your letter in the mailbox, and voila, you're done.
You can use more than one Forever Stamp if you need to send a package or a letter that weighs more than an ounce.
Each stamp is worth the current first-class rate (not what you paid for them). So if you paid $0.49 and the rate rises to $0.50, you can put two Forever Stamps on a package to get $1.00 worth of postage.
You can also use Forever Stamps to send letters internationally. All you'll need to do is to calculate the rate of your international letter or package and divide that amount by the current first-class postage rate to determine how many Forever Stamps you'll need to cover the price.
Be aware that you might save money by getting the exact postage you need at the post office or on the USPS website rather than using only Forever Stamps. For example, if a Forever Stamp is currently worth $0.55 and you need $0.60 worth of stamps, you'd lose $0.50 if you use two Forever Stamps.
Tip: Forever Stamps Don't Last Forever
Be careful with your Forever Stamps! Although their value is eternal, the physical stamp is not. Automatic sorting machines can reject stamps that are torn, damaged, or unreadable. They may also reject stamps that have been taped or glued to the envelope.
If you have a stamp that's damaged or has lost its stickiness, bring it to your local post office to see if they can exchange it for you. But try to avoid problems by keeping your Forever Stamps stored flat in a safe, dry location.
The Forever Stamp Program's Success Is a Win for Everyone
The Forever Stamp was so successful for the USPS that in 2011, they started using Forever Stamps for almost all first-class stamps. In 2015, the postal service extended the Forever Stamp concept to postcards and more.
Why? According to a 2015 notice from the Postal Service, the Forever Stamps eliminate "the need for customers and the Postal Service to acquire and distribute new denominated stamps in anticipation of price changes affecting these stamp types, each time a price change occurs."
The Postal Service saves money when they don't have to collect and destroy outdated stamps. And customers are spared the inconvenience of having to buy stamps worth just a few cents in order to be able to use their old stamps when prices rise.
Why Forever Stamps Are Great for Entering Sweepstakes
If you enter mail-in sweepstakes, buying Forever Stamps can protect you from rising postage stamp costs.
For example, mailing an envelope with your entry form in it today might cost you $0.55. In the future, sending the same letter could cost you $0.60 or more. That's only a few cents per stamp, but when you send dozens, or even hundreds, of sweepstakes entries every month, those cents add up.
Stocking up on Forever Stamps now means that you won't overspend on your sweepstakes entries... as long as postage costs keep rising. If you think that postage rates will fall in the future, buying a Forever Stamp now is not a good decision.
Where to Buy Forever Stamps
U.S. Forever Stamps can be purchased from the United States Postal Service at your local post office, online, or by telephone. Many other stores, like grocery stores and gift shops, also carry the stamps.
For people who live in other regions, the Canadian Post offers a similar product, the Permanent Stamp. Many European countries also have versions of the Forever Stamp. Contact your local post office for more details.
How to Save Money on Forever Stamps
If you're looking for a bargain on stamps, some creativity can get your stamps at lower prices. Try searching for stamp sales on eBay, for example. Just be sure to avoid counterfeit stamps.
You can then increase your savings by using cashback deals from your credit card, from an online site like eBates, or from eBay Bucks. Sometimes club stores like Costco offer small discounts on Forever Stamps. You can also try to win a gift card to stores like Staples which sell stamps.
Using these methods, you can bring your cost of entering mail-in sweepstakes down even farther.