The U.S. Postal Service will slow down our mail delivery even more, starting Oct. 1. Top line: Nearly half of first-class mail will take longer to get to its destination. And post office hours will be cut. It’s part of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s 10-year plan to make the postal service more efficient. Oh joy.
This means everything from bills to birthday cards will take longer to arrive in our mailboxes. And credit card and loan payments, and government forms we send will take longer too.
The Postal Service said about 40 percent of first-class mail will take up to five days. The old standard was three — as in, three days, not three weeks. I know a lot of the mail I received in the last year arrived two, three or four weeks after the postmarked date.
So if you’re nervous about longer delivery times, it’s understandable.
Here are some tips about how to cope:
Know when you usually get your electric bill, your credit card bill, etc. If you don’t get it within a couple of days of when you were expecting it, it’s time to call the company and find out how much you owe and when, so you can make payment arrangements.
Sign up to get notification of your bills by email. If you sign up for online account access to your credit cards, cellphone, utilities, etc., you can get email alerts that your bill is ready to view. If you opt for paperless bills, it helps the environment too.
Enroll in online bill payment through your bank. It’s free. It’s secure. Your bank will make most of your paymentselectronically, so you won’t have to worry about mail delays. If you need help setting it up, go into your local bank branch or call your bank’s customer service number. A possible alternative: Many utilities and banks allow you to make payments by phone at no charge, as long as it’s not an express, same-day payment.
If you do mail bill payments, allow two weeks, to be safe. The standard delivery time for first-class mail used to be three days. Now, the post office says it will be five days. That’s the optimistic view.
Figure out options for prescriptions, if you get them through the mail. If you experience a delay in any of your deliveries, you should contact your pharmacy to see what options are available. While insurance companies often won’t process refills more than five days before the prescription is supposed to start, you may need to push for an earlier refill or other solutions if you’re not getting your prescriptions on time. The solution might be delivery through UPS or FedEx instead of the Postal Service.
Small businesses need to anticipate delays, too. Small businesses often depend on the Postal Service for shipments of parts and materials, as well as payments from customers. Businesses may have to build in buffers so their operations and finances aren’t disrupted.
Think ahead to the holidays. We experienced awful delays last year with everything from gifts to holiday cards. DeJoy apologized for that in comments to a congressional committee. What will happen this year? We should all be planning ahead.
Consumer Watchdog, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers’ health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio’s largest daily newspaper. She received dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, a National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis, and a journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected 15 million customers nationwide. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.