How to stay compliant with USPS IMI

May 25, 2023
Minh Mai

A big change is on the horizon for USPS and its customers: a mandated shift from its widely used Information-Based Indicia (IBI) technology to the more sophisticated Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI) technology.  


Originally designed for mailing system management, IBI lacks many of the advantages offered by the newer, data-based IMI standard. While the upsides of IMI compliance are undeniable, you may be wondering what navigating the change will mean for your business — especially with the looming compliance deadline of June 2024.

Below, we’ll explore everything you need to know about USPS IMI and how a proactive approach to compliance benefits your business.

What is USPS IMI compliance?

Alongside Information-Based Indicia (IBI), Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI) is a digitally based postage evidencing system used by the USPS. While both systems are currently in use, the latter incorporates technological advancements that enhance transaction data, automation, and security.

IMI was launched in 2013 and significantly improved upon IBI. However, mailers were slow to make the move to IMI meters. In response, the USPS announced plans to phase out IBI with the following deadlines:

  • All IBI meters will be decertified by June 30, 2024.
  • Any remaining IBI meters will be deemed non-compliant by the close of 2024.
  • All postage paid for using non-IMI postage meters will be invalid after June 2025.

What's the takeaway for businesses, third-party mailing service providers, and other operations still relying on IBI? If you’ve been refraining from adopting this “new” standard, there’s no better time to upgrade because the postage machines you rely on will soon be obsolete.

The closer we get to the deadline, the more backups and bottlenecks may arise — meaning a greater risk that you may not have your new IMI system up and running as quickly as you’d like. While you could wait until December 31, 2024, to upgrade, you’ll miss out on its benefits. 

We’ll get to a more in-depth examination of those benefits later in this article. First, let's examine what necessitated the mandate to switch to IMI-compliant technology and highlight the differences between IBI and IMI standards.

Why did the USPS mandate a move to the IMI standard?

The USPS first introduced IMI as an alternative to IBI approximately a decade ago. However, despite the system’s superior speed, accuracy, security, automatic updates, real-time pricing, and connectivity, many businesses resisted adopting it. This directly interferes with the USPS’s need for accurate, complete, and timely data and is especially problematic when you factor in lagging delivery times.

On the other hand, by supporting the USPS in fully automating refunds, postage payment validation, and other back-office operations, the IMI standard promises critical improvements.

In establishing the decertification mandate, the USPS will accelerate the transition to IMI standards — thereby accelerating access to its benefits for itself, mail senders, and mail recipients.

IMI-compliant meters do everything IBI meters do — and much more. The more widely the IBI standard is adopted, the more beneficial it becomes for all parties.

What is the difference between USPS IBI and IMI?

Both IBI and IMI are digitally based postage evidence standards used by the USPS to demonstrate that electronic postage payment has been made.

While each method supports and simplifies the mailing experience, helps save businesses money, and prevents returned packages resulting from improper postage, IMI captures more data, mitigates common issues associated with mailings, and enhances accuracy, security, and more.

Which begs the question: How do the two standards differ?

IBI is a two-dimensional data matrix barcode comprising postage amount, mail class, weight, originating zip code, destination, confirmation and tracking information, and a cryptographic signature. It also incorporates human-readable information in fulfillment of the USPS Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) requirements.

IMI contains everything included in IBI plus additional features and functionalities. It captures more data and syncs more frequently with USPS’s data system and comprises the latest technology, up-to-date postal rates, and analytics and tracking capabilities.

IMI’s offerings include:

  • Detailed transaction data for every mailpiece
  • Automated funds transfer, refunds, and fraud detection
  • Restricted keyed-in postage (more accurate mail classification)
  • Info on end mailers provided to the federal government
  • Tracking and management of reprinted Indicia
  • Enhanced readability, Indicia management, and fraud detection
  • Accurate paid and overpaid postage calculations
  • Improved data exchange, rate tabs, and log files

4 Benefits of IMI Compliance

If your business deals with high volumes of mail, you’re probably already aware of the advantages of metered mail, including First-Class Mail discounts, exact postage printing (no under- or over-spending), and less frequent visits to the post office.

Given the advanced nature of IMI, it’s not surprising that compliance confers many additional benefits for businesses, including:

1) Improved processing efficiency and accuracy

The USPS processes a staggering 4,877 pieces of mail every second. Amplified by this extraordinary volume, the importance of accuracy and efficiency cannot be overstated.

But manual data entry comes with inherent limitations — both for speed and accuracy. IMI meters take human error out of the equation. All you have to do is input the required service class, and your IMI meter will automatically and accurately calculate the postage.

2) Reduced mail processing costs

More automation = less wasted time and money. In addition to supporting small businesses in doing more with less, IMI compliance also reduces the costs associated with mistakes. Greater connectivity and more timely updates translate to faster and better mail flow and mail management.

3) Increased mail security

Data encryption standards are constantly evolving. In adhering to Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS), IMI compliance ensures that better security standards are met for information transmission — both to and from postage meters.

4) Improved customer service

Who doesn’t love saving time and money while also enjoying a more satisfying mailing experience with fewer errors and returns, faster delivery (and responses), and exceptional security and accuracy?

This is exactly what you can look forward to when you prioritize IMI compliance. Not only will your business and employees appreciate these outcomes, but your clients and customers will too. In fact, adopting IMI is an indication of your business’s commitment to delivering the best products and services by staying abreast of the latest trends and technologies.

Stay up to date on USPS IMI compliance standards with Stable

While digitization continues to have a major moment, physical mail is still a fact of everyday life. IMI compliance with a postal service-certified postage meter will change — and improve upon — the process by reducing manual processing and optimizing operational costs thanks to automation, enhanced security, and more comprehensive views of transactional data.

When you partner with Stable for your digital mailbox and digital address, you can do so with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ll be reaping many equally business-boosting benefits.

The best part? It couldn’t be easier on you or on your business thanks to Stable’s expertise in all things mail management, including super-convenient mail forwarding service, guided change of address assistance, and more.

In addition to supporting IMI technology compliance, Stable offers a multitude of other mailing solutions designed to help small businesses thrive, like automatic check depositing, bulk forwarding with discounted shipping rates, and guided change of address assistance.

To integrate these invaluable tools into your workflow, create your Stable address today.

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