Do you need 1 or 2 stamps for a letter?

When mailing a standard letter within the United States, you typically need just 1 stamp. The current price of a First Class Mail Forever stamp is 60 cents. This allows you to mail a standard 1 oz letter anywhere within the U.S. Adding a second stamp would be unnecessary for a standard letter.

What counts as a standard letter?

A standard letter that only needs a single 60 cent stamp must meet these criteria:

  • Weighs 1 oz or less
  • Rectangular shape
  • Uniform thickness
  • Maximum size of 6.125 x 11.5 inches

As long as your letter fits within these dimensions and weighs no more than 1 oz, a single First Class stamp will cover postage. If your letter is oversized, non-rectangular, thicker, or heavier, additional postage may be required.

When would you need extra stamps?

Here are some situations when a single 60 cent stamp would not be sufficient for mailing a letter:

  • Oversized letters – Any letters larger than 6.125 x 11.5 inches would require additional postage. For oversized envelopes or postcards, check the USPS postage price calculator for current rates.
  • Heavy letters – Letters weighing over 1 oz require extra postage. Each additional ounce over 1 oz costs $0.21 (as of 2022).
  • Non-rectangular shape – Circles, squares, triangles – anything not rectangular shaped is considered a non-machinable letter and costs more to mail.
  • Very thick letters – Letters over 0.25 inches thick also require additional postage above the base 60 cent stamp.
  • International mail – Letters to other countries require extra postage. International postage prices vary by destination.

How much extra postage do you need?

If your letter requires additional postage beyond a single First Class stamp, the amount of extra needed depends on the reason:

Letter Characteristic Extra Postage Required
Oversized Varies by size, check USPS calculator
Heavy (per extra ounce) $0.21 per ounce
Non-rectangular shape $0.30 surcharge
Very thick (over 1/4 inch) $0.21 surcharge
International mail Varies by destination

So for example, if you had a 2 oz square shaped letter, you would need:

  • 1 stamp for the first ounce ($0.60)
  • Extra postage for the extra ounce ($0.21)
  • The non-rectangular surcharge ($0.30)

That’s a total of $1.11 in postage.

Using extra stamps for regular letters

If you put extra stamps on a regular 1 oz letter, that is totally fine and the letter will be delivered. The extra postage will essentially go to waste, but it will not affect delivery. Some people choose to use extra stamps on letters by doing things like:

  • Commemorative stamps – Using new commemorative stamps even if not needed for postage
  • Precanceled stamps – Getting stamps precanceled by the Post Office as souvenirs
  • Make-up stamps – Adding make-up stamps to use up small quantities left over from previous mailings

So feel free to use up your extra stamps! Just know that for a standard 1 oz letter within the U.S, one 60 cent stamp is truly all you need.

Creative ways to use extra stamps

If you want to find creative ways to use up your leftover stamps rather than wasting them on regular mail, here are some fun ideas:

  • Make stamped stationery or gift tags
  • Create DIY stamp art collages or decoupage
  • Start a stamp collection or album
  • Save stamps for pen pal letters
  • Craft handmade stamps using carved erasers
  • Liven up mundane objects like notebooks or mugs with stamps
  • Donate extra stamps to charitable or nonprofit organizations

Weighing your letter

To figure out if your letter needs extra postage beyond a single stamp, you’ll need to weigh it. Here are some options for weighing mail:

  • Kitchen scale – A digital kitchen scale works great for weighing letters and small packages.
  • Postal scale – Specialized postal scales designed for weighing mail can be purchased online or at office supply stores.
  • Post office – Take your letter to the post office and have them weigh it for you at the service counter.
  • Online calculator – The USPS website has a postage calculator where you can input dimensions and it estimates the weight and postage cost.

Weighing on a kitchen scale, most standard letters fall between 0.5 oz to 1 oz. Heavier envelopes packed with materials can reach 2-3 oz easily. It’s a quick way to double check if extra postage is required before heading to the post box.

Mailing without stamps

In some cases, letters and postcards can be mailed without any stamps using these methods:

  • Business reply mail – Companies send envelopes with pre-printed postage for you to use to mail back payments or responses.
  • Metered mail – Postage meters print the postage directly on envelopes or labels instead of using stamps.
  • Prepaid envelopes – Prepaid postage envelopes can be purchased from USPS and used without additional stamps.
  • Postage printed on envelopes – Some bulk mailed items have the postage pre-printed directly on the envelope.

But for standard letters with regular mail, at least that one 60 cent stamp is required. No getting around it!

Tracking letters without extra services

For regular first class mail with just standard postage, there is no way to track the letter within the USPS system. However, here are some options to confirm when your properly stamped letter has been delivered:

  • Ask the recipient to let you know when it arrives
  • Follow up with recipient after expected delivery timeframe
  • Write your return address on both envelope and contents
  • Mail something that will be returned to you – like an invitation or RSVP card
  • Use USPS Form 3811 to request delivery status on standard mail

To get full tracking and delivery confirmation for letters and large envelopes, you would need to use USPS services like Certified Mail or Priority Mail which require additional postage.

How to avoid insufficient postage

To make sure your mail doesn’t get delayed or returned for insufficient postage, follow these tips:

  • Weigh letters over 1 oz on a scale
  • Read size requirements and check if envelope is oversized
  • Calculate postage for non-standard, international mail
  • Use online USPS postage calculator tool
  • Round up – if in doubt, put an extra stamp
  • Take advantage of USPS tools to check if postage is correct

Avoiding insufficient postage ensures timely delivery and prevents unnecessary delays or extra fees for the recipient. Taking a few moments to weigh, measure, and confirm postage rates helps get your letter where it needs to go.

Saving money on stamps

While postage rates are set by the Postal Service, there are some ways you can try to save on stamps when mailing many letters:

  • Buy Forever Stamps in bulk coils or sheets vs. booklets
  • Participate in USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services for organizations
  • Ask for precanceled stamps at Post Office
  • Consider Presorted First Class Mail services for bulk mail
  • Shop USPS for discounted or on-sale stamps
  • Buy stamps by the roll in vending machines
  • Re-use extra stamps or stamp corners on new mail

Savings may be small, but every bit counts when you’re mailing high volumes. Planning ahead with stamp purchasing and discounts can lead to small reductions in total postage costs.


Most standard letters within the US only require a single First Class stamp for postage. Heavier, oversized, or international mail will need extra stamps to cover the additional fees. While a second stamp on a regular letter may not be technically necessary, creative stamp uses can eliminate waste. Understanding basic postage rates and weighing mail ensures your letters get to their destination without delay.

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