Don Marti

Sun 09 Apr 2006 08:01:51 PM PDT

Transaction mail or junk mail? Check the postage.

It says "Personal and Confidential" or "IMPORTANT CORRESPONDENCE REGARDING YOUR OVERPAYMENT" on the envelope—can you really discard it without opening it? You sure can. Some junk mailers disguise their mail pieces as important correspondence from companies you actually do business with, and the USPS helped them out a lot by renaming "Bulk Mail" to "Standard Mail". But you can look at the postage to discard "stealth" junk mail without opening it.

Postal regulations require that any bills or mail containing specific information about your business relationship with the company must be mailed First Class. And the lowest rate for First Class mail—for companies that pre-sort it down to the carrier route—is $0.29 (9 Apr 2006).

So, if the postage is less than $0.29, or if "STD" appears in the upper right corner, it's not a bill, it's not your new credit card, and it's not a check. It's just sneaky junk mail.