At midnight Sunday, the cost of mailing a first-class letter will increase by 4 cents.
Other postal rate increases include: postcards, up from 15 to 19 cents; express mail, up from $7.75 to $8.35, and a book of 20 stamps up from $5 to $5.80.
"The average customer will pay between $8 and $10 more per year in postage costs," said Irene A. Lericos, Baltimore division communications manager for the Postal Service.
With the increased price, the Postal Service has issued a new "F" stamp, which depicts a red tulip and green leaf on a gold background. The letter is used instead of a price in keeping with the Postal Service's current alphabet series of stamps.
"I think it's one of the prettiest stamps the Postal Service has ever issued," Lericos said of the "F" stamp.
For those customers with 25-cent stamps, they can use them in combination with 4 cents of postage to make up the new rate. To help, the Postal Service has produced "make-up rate" stamps for the first time. This rather odd-looking stamp sells for 4 cents and there's no design, just the statement: "This U.S. Stamp, along with 25 cents of additional U.S. postage, is equivalent to the 'F' stamp rate."
Lericos said the post office hasn't been flooded with complaints about the increase. But, "We've gotten calls from people who wish we'd even it out and make it 30 cents," Lericos said, adding that those customers don't like toting a lot of pennies.
To accommodate customers during the rate change, the main post office on East Fayette Street will remain open today from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow.
The increase is the second in less than three years, Lericos said. The Postal Service hopes to raise rates one more time in the 1990s to keep pace with inflation, she said.
The increase, which was approved Jan. 23 by the governing board of the U.S. Postal Service, is expected to generate $6.3 billion in new revenue annually.
Yesterday, Brenda Jackson, 37, an executive secretary, said of the increase: "I just think it's totally ridiculous. It hasn't been that long ago when we went to 25 cents.
"I think with the economy the way it is, the post office could have sacrificed the cost of stamps," Jackson said, adding that she will no longer buy books of stamps.
"I will buy [stamps] when I need them," she said.
Sam Watkins, 55, a retired worker, had a different perspective.
"I still think we're getting a deal even with the rate hike," he said. "It's cheaper than I can carry it."