How To Use a Franking Machine: The Details

By Dan Barraclough | Updated: 14 March 2018

This page outlines the specific actions that must be followed correctly to frank mail, including set up, rules and the practical actions businesses will need to take. Whether you own a franking machine already or are simply thinking about owning one, make sure you know how to get the most out of it.

Jump to Machine Set Up Franking Your Mail Royal Mail Rules Ongoing Use Where to Post

Franking Machine Set Up

The franking machine will require a red ink cartridge corresponding to your make and model. The correct size envelopes should be used; machines are all designed to frank the most commonly used sizes of envelopes and packets but for anything larger, franking labels will have to be used and adhered to the package.

The franking machine will require a licence in order to be used; these are obtained through Royal Mail. It is then either topped up with credited postage paid for in advance, or postage is paid for in arrears by an invoice printed out through the machine. Payment methods may be through a modem, over the phone, via a website or through the post. Some of the companies who maintain this service for you may make a charge for the machine to be topped-up.

The franking machine will also require programming with the latest postal tariffs from Royal Mail. These tariffs are usually maintained through the company who provides the machine, and the company may make a charge for updating the tariff to the machine.

A yearly inspection of the machine is required by Royal Mail. This can be carried out by any engineer who has been approved by Royal Mail.

Any machine servicing and breakdown cover may not be supplied as part of the purchase or lease agreement and should be negotiated with the machines' supplier.

Franking Your Mail

To use your franking machine you will need to have a supply of envelopes available, and it is advisable to do a test run so you can be sure you are confident at using the machine.

If the items you are sending are of a particularly heavy nature, then they will need to be placed on the weighing scale prior to franking.

If the scales are digital they will automatically enter the weight and if they are manual you will have to enter this information yourself. Likewise, if the items are more bulky than usual, then the machine may have to be altered using the thickness adjustment knob.

Then select the class of postage you wish to use and any special requirements such as airmail on the control panel. The logo and message you want to use can also be chosen at this point.

Once this is done, the letter is placed face upwards on to the feed deck, and depending on the machine you have chosen, the letters will be fed in automatically, or you may have to do it manually.

The letters will then appear at the other end of the machine in the stacker until you are ready to post them. Some machines offer cost centre functions and password protection, which may require people to log in prior to franking any mail.

The Rules of Posting Franked items

These are the basic rules for franking, as set by Royal Mail, and which need to be adhered to:

  1. Items have to be posted on the same day they are franked.
  2. Items must be posted in the area shown by the franking mark.
  3. The item should show a clear and legible franking mark. Royal Mail recommends that envelopes and packets that are coloured or patterned have their franking marks printed onto special franking labels that are then adhered to the package.
  4. Unless specified otherwise, the mark itself should be situated in the top right hand corner of the mail and must only be printed in red ink.
  5. Franking impressions cannot be used in place of a stamp on a return envelope because the franked item needs to be posted on the same day as it is franked, and posted from the same area.
  6. Once franked, the mail needs to be sorted into bundles according to class, letters or packets. It should be secured with an elastic band and each item in the bundle facing upwards with the franking mark to the right. Royal Mail will provide red pouches for bundled first class mail, green pouches for bundled second class mail, and will expect you to use a different pouch for each specific envelope size. For larger amounts of mail, Royal Mail provides bags, and for the very largest volumes of mail, trays and containers are supplied. Regardless of whether bags, trays or pouches are used, the mail still needs to be sorted by class and service.
  7. Anything that hasn't been franked (for example, business reply envelopes and stamped envelopes) should not be placed in with franked mail, but handed in separately. This also applied to anything with signed-for delivery.
  8. The franked mail should be posted by a correct method, but there are options. Pouched mail can be taken to a Post Office or Royal Mail Enquiry Office, or a sorting office (Mail Centre). Trays and bags should be taken to the Mail Centre. Small amounts of franked mail can be posted at agreed post boxes, as long as Low Volume envelopes are used. Royal Mail can also provide Business Post Boxes and, for an annual fee (currently starting at £600) they will collect from the businesses' premises. Large volume users (spending over £15,000 per annum on Royal Mail services) can have collections for free.

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Ongoing Use of a Franking Machine

Whether you choose to buy or rent your franking machine, you will need a licence from the Royal Mail to use your machine.

This document can often be arranged by the machine's supplier. In addition, one of the conditions of ownership of a franking machine is that it is inspected annually to ensure it is working correctly.

If you do make mistakes while operating your franking machine, the Royal Mail offer refunds for incorrect prints. The amount refunded is the value of the frank less a 15 per cent administration charge.

Any refunds claimed need to be sent to the Royal Mail within six months of the print being made, and the total claim must be more than £10.

If your machine breaks down, the Royal Mail offers a machine breakdown service where they will frank the mail for you, for a fee of the postage plus 20 per cent.

To use this service you have to contact the Royal Mail on 08457 950 950.

Where to Post Franked Mail

Your business has a number of options for posting your franked mail. Most mail can be posted in post boxes, which have a dedicated franked mail slot, so long as a low volume envelope has been used.

Alternatively, items can be taken to any Post Office or mail sorting centre which can be found using the Royal Mail branch finder.

If you want the Royal Mail to collect the post from your business they do provide business post boxes, with fees starting from £14 for a one off collection to £1,700 plus VAT per year for a regular weekly collection.

If your business spends more than £15k annually with the Royal Mail, then they offer a free weekday collection, with the collection time mutually agreed between the two parties. There are further charges if your business is not on the ground floor or if you are sending international mail.

Find out more: Franking Post Box Locations

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Dan Barraclough

Dan’s a writer for Expert Market, specialising in a range of cool topics. He loves web design and all things UX, but also the hardware stuff like postage metres and photocopiers.

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