Business Reply Mail Printing Knowledge
Business Reply Mail

Introduction | Design Requirements | Required Design Elements | Size/Weight Requirements


Business Reply Mail (BRM) allows customers to return first class postage paid pieces to the sender. The sender is liable for the postage only on the pieces that are returned to them. The sender distributes a wide range of items including cards, envelopes, cartons, labels, and self-mailers. Some of the uses for Business Reply Mail are: 

  • Companies can use it for receiving orders for their products and for gaining new customers.
  • Cards or inserts are placed in magazines with the intent of gaining new subscribers.
  • Researchers can use BRM to gather information on marketing.


Note: Another common type of reply mail is Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM). It requires that the customer pay the postage before mailing the reply back to the sender. Courtesy Reply Mail works well when the response from the customer is almost a guarantee, such as when the CRM piece is a billing statement and the customer has to remit a payment. Even though the customer pays for the postage, the CRM item adds convenience because it is preaddressed and the customer doesn't have to worry about the response going to the wrong place.

Design Requirements

Required Design Elements

Business Reply Mail (BRM) contains six elements that must follow guidelines set up by the Postal Service. A design analyst from the Postal Service can be very helpful to ensure these elements meet all of the necessary design requirements before the BRM piece is printed. It is best that the design analyst be involved early in the process in order to make suggestions and recommendations. Involving the design analyst will help to save the customer time and costs that may occur if changes had to be made later in the process. You may contact an analyst at your nearest postal business center. The illustration below shows the six required design elements on a BRM piece. Click on the titles below to learn more about them.

No Postage Necessary Endorsement

Horizontal Bars

Facing Identification Mark

Business Reply Legend, Permit Number, Postage Endorsement

Complete Delivery Address

Barcode Clear Zone

No Postage Necessary Endorsement

The endorsement "NO POSTAGE NECESSARY IF MAILED IN THE UNITED STATES", is required in the upper right corner, as shown in the illustration. The endorsement is generally inside a box and the left edge of this endorsement box must not extend more than 1 3/4" from the right edge of the BRM piece, and the top line of the box should be 1/2" below the top edge of the BRM piece but can be less if necessary.

Horizontal Bars

A group of horizontal bars is required below the "No Postage Necessary..." endorsement on the Business Reply Mailer. The bars must be of uniform length, thickness, and spacing, and each bar must be at least 1" long and 1/16" thick. There must be a minimum of 1/2" clearance between the right edge of the ZIP Code and the left edge of the horizontal bars. The bottom bar of the group must be above, and not on or below, the delivery address line which is the line directly above the city, state and ZIP Code line

 Facing Identification Mark (FIM)

A facing identification mark (FIM) is required on all letter sized BRM pieces and on Business Reply Labels that are attached to letter size mail. The FIM is a series of vertical bars printed in the upper right, to the left of the space used for the postage area. Automated processing equipment reads the FIM and identifies the BRM piece. Also, the FIM identifies mail that includes preprinted barcodes. A high speed barcode sorter reads the barcoded mail. The high speed sorter is used instead of slower manual sorting or Optical Character Recognition (OCR) processing equipment.

There are two types of FIM's for Business Reply Mail:

Note: There is a FIM A, but it is used with prebarcoded Courtesy Reply Mail

In addition to regular Business Reply Mail, Penalty Mail* and Franked Mail*, which are official mail types used by U.S. government departments and by Congress, use FIM B if they are without a preprinted POSTNET* barcode. Use FIM C for regular BRM, Penalty Mail, or Franked Mail with a preprinted POSTNET barcode. The Postal Service provides camera ready positives of FIMs and camera ready prints of the barcodes which represent the ZIP+4 or specific delivery point for reply mail. There is no charge for any of these. The barcodes cannot be changed in any way or they will not be valid.

  *Penalty Mail: refers to official mail sent by U.S. government agencies relating solely to the business of the U.S. government, that is authorized by law to be carried in the mail without prepayment of postage.

*Franked Mail: refers to a stamp, printed marking, or signature on a piece of mail indicating that the postal charges have been paid.

*POSTNET Barcode: (POSTal Numeric Encoding Technique), is a series of tall and short bars printed in the lower right portion of the business reply mail, which represents ZIP Code information that is read by high speed processing equipment.

Requirements for FIM B/FIM C:

  • A clear zone must be maintained for the FIM, that contains no other printing.
  • The right bar of the FIM must be 2 inches (+ or - 1/8 inch) from the right edge of the Business Reply Mail.
  • The FIM bars must be 5/8 inch (+ or = 1/8 inch) high and 1/32 inch (+ or = 0.008 inch) wide.
  • The tops of the FIM bars cannot be lower than 1/8 inch from the top of the BRM piece. They may extend over the top edge to the back flap of an envelope.
  • The bottoms of the FIM bars should touch the bottom edge of the FIM clear zone but they cannot be more than 1/8 inch above or below this edge.

FIM B and FIM C bars must be printed within the dimensional tolerances shown below:

Business Reply Mail, Penalty Mail, or Franked Mail without a POSTNET barcode.

Business Reply Mail, Penalty Mail, or Franked Mail with a POSTNET barcode.

Additional Requirements:

The print reflectance difference between the type of ink used for printing the FIM and paper stock on which it is printed, must be at least 30%. Black ink printed on white paper stock is recommended. The FIM bars must be within 5 degrees of being at a right angle with the top edge of the Business Reply Mailer.

 Business Reply Legend, Permit Number, and Postage Endorsement

The items listed below are required for the Business Reply Mail legend box:

  • The first line, called the business reply legend, must contain the words, "BUSINESS REPLY MAIL". The letters must be capitals and at least 3/16 inches high.
  • The second line, called the permit number line, begins with the words, "FIRST CLASS MAIL", and then the words, "PERMIT NO.", then the actual permit number, and finally the originating post office city and state. All of this should be in capital letters.
  • The business reply legend and permit number lines must be enclosed inside a rectangular box.
  • Under the rectangular box, is "POSTAGE WILL BE PAID BY ADDRESSEE" in capital letters. This line is referred to as the postage endorsement line.

Delivery Address

  • A complete delivery address is required on Business Reply Mail. The address includes the name of the permit holder for the BRM, the street address or post office box number, city, state, and ZIP Code. The bottom of the lowest line of the address must be between 5/8 inch and 2 1/4 inches from the bottom edge of the BRM piece, for letter-size mail and for cards.
  • A specific ZIP+4 code, unique to Business Reply Mail and unique for each category of BRM piece (such as a postcard, 1-ounce letter, 2-ounce letter, etc.), is assigned by the Postal Service.
  • The address that appears on the Business Reply Mail must be that of the permit holder or of an associate authorized by the permit holder to use it. The Postal Service should be contacted for information concerning procedures pertaining to this.

Barcode Clear Zone

A clear zone for barcodes is required on Business Reply Mail. It must measure 5/8 inch from the bottom edge of the BRM and 4 1/2 inches from the right edge. The POSTNET Barcode is the only thing permitted in the clear zone.

BRM Size/Weight Requirements

Physical Characteristics

The physical characteristics of Business Reply Mail determine whether or not an item can be processed automatically. The Business reply Mail must be rectangular, have straight edges, and be within the dimensions shown below, in order to be processed with automated equipment.

Business Reply Card

Business Reply Letter

Minimum Height
Maximum Height
Minimum Length*
Maximum Length*
Minimum Thickness
Maximum Thickness

3 1/2"
4 1/4"

Minimum Height 
Maximum Height
Minimum Length*
Maximum Length*
Minimum Thickness**
Maximum Thickness

3 1/2"
6 1/8"
11 1/2"


   *Note: The length of Business Reply Mail is the dimension that parallels the lines of the delivery address.

 **Note: A Business Reply Mail Letter should not be less than 0.009 inches thick if it is more than 4 1/4 inches high and/or more than 6 inches long.


Nonmailable Pieces

All items that do not meet the minimum size standards shown above are considered nonmailable pieces.

Nonstandard Size

There are sizes that are outside of the standard dimensions that may be used, but are subject to an applicable surcharge. Contact the Postal Service for these sizes and rates.


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