Do postcards need two stamps?

Postcards are a fun and nostalgic way to send quick notes, photos, or greetings to friends and family. With the rise of email and social media, receiving an actual physical postcard in the mail can be a delightful surprise. However, one thing that gives some postcard senders pause is trying to figure out if their postcard needs one stamp or two stamps for delivery. This conundrum has likely been around since postcards were first introduced in the late 1800s. So what’s the deal – do postcards need one stamp or two? Let’s take a look at the history and regulations around postcard postage to get to the bottom of this question once and for all.

A Brief History of Postcards

While the concept of a note card goes back much further, the first postcards as we know them today emerged in the late 1860s in Europe, particularly in Austria-Hungary. However, it was not until May 19, 1898 that the United States Congress passed legislation authorizing the use of “Post Cards” within the U.S. mail system.

The earliest postcards were made of plain cardstock and did not include images. It was not until 1901 that several printers began experimenting with color lithography printing processes to allow for images to be printed on postcards alongside the text and address. This launched the era of “pictorial postcards” featuring everything from city skylines to travel destinations to comics and more. It touched off a collecting craze and “postcard mania” swept the nation in the early 1900s. At the peak of the postcard craze around 1908, Americans were sending an estimated 677 million postcards per year!

The initial postcard regulations in 1898 set the cost of mailing a postcard at one cent, as opposed to two cents for standard letters. This made postcards an enticing and affordable means of communication. However, there was some confusion around whether one or two stamps were required, especially after the introduction of pictorial postcards which were often printed on heavier cardstock.

Postcard Regulations and Formats

Today in the United States, the United States Postal Service establishes the regulations and postage rates for mailing postcards domestically and internationally.

The USPS defines a postcard as:

“A privately printed mailing card. May be prepaid by postage stamp(s) or permit imprint indicia to transmit messages between correspondents. Must be rectangular, at least 3-1/2 inches high x 5 inches long and no more than 4-1/4 inches high x 6 inches long, with a thickness of 0.007 inch and no more than 0.016 inch. Made of cardstock paper stock.”

The maximum dimensions for a USPS postcard are:

  • Minimum size: 5″ x 3.5″
  • Maximum size: 6″ x 4.25″
  • Maximum thickness: 0.016″

As long as a card meets these specifications, it is considered a valid postcard by the USPS regardless of whether it is a plain postcard or contains photos, art, or other printed designs.

There are some exceptions to the size limits, such as Square Photo Postcards which can be square shaped from 5″ x 5″ to 6″ x 6″, and Oversized Postcards which can be 7″ x 5″ but must be sent at a higher First Class Mail® postage rate.

The USPS defines two main kinds of domestic postcard formats:

1. Stamped Postcards – These contain the postage stamp(s) directly on the card to show prepayment of postage.

2. Metered Postcards – These have metered postage printed directly on the card instead of using stamps.

Do Postcards Require One Stamp or Two?

This brings us back to our original question – how many stamps do you need to put on a standard rectangular postcard that meets the USPS size limits in order to mail it?

The definitive answer is that a standard rectangular domestic postcard only requires one First-Class Mail Forever stamp for postage.

The Postal Service’s postcard rate is lower than the standard letter rate since postcards are easier to process and take less room in postal equipment. Since May 2019, a First-Class Mail Forever postcard stamp allows you to mail a standard domestic 1oz postcard regardless of any future postal rate increases.

Some key pointers on postcard postage:

  • Oversized postcards cost more to mail and may require additional postage.
  • Heavier decorations like glitter or wood may increase the weight and require extra postage.
  • International postcards require Global Forever Stamps instead of domestic stamps.

But presuming you are mailing a typical rectangular thin paper postcard within the continental United States, all you need is a single Forever stamp in the upper right corner!

Are There Any Exceptions?

While standard postcards only call for one Forever stamp, you may be wondering if there are any exceptions where a postcard would need extra postage?

The main exceptions include:

Oversized Postcards

As mentioned earlier, the USPS does allow for larger-than-standard postcards up to 6″ x 9″ to be mailed domestically, but these oversized postcards require extra postage above the single Forever stamp rate.

Heavy or Irregular Shaped Postcards

If you affix decorations or use thicker cardstock that pushes a postcard over 1 ounce in weight, you will need to add extra First Class Mail postage stamps. Unusual shapes beyond a standard rectangle can also mean a card no longer qualifies for the postcard rate.

International Postcards

Sending a postcard internationally will require additional or different postage beyond a domestic Forever stamp. Be sure to check the USPS website for current rates.

So in summary – while 99% of standard postcards only need a single stamp, make sure to pay attention to the size, weight and destination of your postcard to determine if extra postage is required. When in doubt, visiting or checking with a postal clerk can help verify the required postage.

Do Postcard Stamps Need to Be in the Upper Right Corner?

Another common postcard postage question is – where exactly on the postcard should the stamp go?

The United States Postal Service states that any stamps or metered postage indicia must be placed in the upper right corner of the address side of the postcard.

Having the stamp positioned here helps postal machines and employees quickly process millions of pieces of mail by always knowing where to look for the postage. It also minimizes any chance of the stamp getting damaged or accidentally obscured in transit.

So be sure to stick to tradition and affix postcard stamps to the top right corner every time for efficient delivery.

Are Forever Stamps Required for Postcards?

Beginning in 2019, the USPS introduced the “Forever” stamp which provides first-class postage that is always equal to the current first-class mail 1 ounce price, regardless of when the stamps are used.

You can use older denominated postcard stamps, but since those are not set at the “forever” value, you will need to add a penny stamp if current rates exceed the original value.

To avoid any hassle or short paid return, the easiest option is to stick to the newer Forever stamps for all your domestic postcard needs into the future.

Creative Ways to Use Postcard Stamps

Once you’ve established that standard postcards only need one stamp, you may want to have a little fun with how you use stamps to decorate the postcard:

  • Use commemorative or artistic stamps – Select beautiful or unique stamp designs to enhance your postcards.
  • Stamp layering – Carefully layer multiple small stamps to create visual designs.
  • Partial stamp coverage – Let portions of the postcard image show through underneath the stamp.
  • Add stamped accents – Tiny stamps can be worked in as decorative accents around the card.

Integrating the stamp creatively into the overall look of your postcard can add to the charm! Just be sure not to cover up the address or communication lines in the process.

Save Money Mailing Postcards

Finally, one last postcard pro tip – take advantage of online services that offer discounted bulk ordering of personalized postcards to save money!

For example, services like VistaPrint, GotPrint, and PsPrint provide quick online ordering of full-color custom postcards printed and shipped to you ready to hand address and stamp. Costs typically range from $.08 – $.20 per postcard depending on volume ordered.

Compare that to buying boxes of generic postcards from a big box retailer for $.25 – $.75 per card, and the savings add up fast! Just add your address list and Forever stamps and you have a cost effective way to mail everything from travel news to wedding invites.

The Bottom Line

So in summary – the vast majority of standard rectangular hand addressed domestic postcards only require one Forever First Class stamp for postage, placed in the upper right corner.

Oversized or irregular shaped postcards may incur additional postage. Be sure to check with the post office when mailing international postcards or anything non-standard.

With a single Forever stamp and some creative styling, postcards remain one of the most economical ways to send meaningful snail mail greetings and stay in touch with loved ones. Just remember where to put the stamp!


We’ve covered a lot of territory on the seemingly simple question of whether postcards need one stamp or two. While standard domestic rectangular postcards only require a single Forever stamp for postage, there are special cases where oversized or international mail may need additional postage. Creative stamp placement and bulk ordering can help maximize the fun and cost savings of sending out photo postcards. The next time you encounter a stack of vintage postcards at a thrift shop, ‘wish you were here’ images in a gift store, or customizable online postcard websites, you’ll know exactly how to get them stamped and on their way to family and friends.

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