Understanding the Intelligent Mail® Barcode (IMb)

An introduction to the USPS® Intelligent Mail® barcode (IMb).

The USPS® Intelligent Mail® barcode (IMb) is a barcode used to encode mailing information for letters and flats. It is the successor to the POSTNET barcode. The Basic Intelligent Mail barcodes satisfies new automation requirements, and is required for automation discounts beginning January 28, 2013.

The IMb should be used only for letters and flats. Mailers who wish to create a barcode for bound printed matter parcels, media mail, or parcel select lightweight should use the Intelligent Mail Package Barcode (IMpb).   The IMb should not be used for packages.

Mailing software will generate most of the information required by the IMb.

Two Types of Intelligent Mail Barcodes

Satori Software® products support both Basic and Full-Service Intelligent Mail® barcodes.

Basic Intelligent Mail Barcode

The basic Intelligent Mail Barcode is required for automation discounts beginning January 28, 2013.

The Basic IMb encodes the Barcode ID, the Service, Type ID, the Mailer ID, and delivery routing information for the mailpiece.

Full-Service Intelligent Mail Barcode

Full-Service Intelligent Mail allows USPS to uniquely track mailings, containers, and pieces throughout the mail stream. It requires some additional work for mailers.

Full-Service IMb requires that:

  • The IMb includes a unique serial number and is printed on all mail pieces
  • The Intelligent Mail tray label is included on trays and sacks
  • The Intelligent Mail pallet placard is included on pallets
  • All postal paperwork is submitted electronically (mail.dat or mail.xml)

USPS plans to require Full-Service Intelligent Mail barcodes for automation rates in 2014.  Mailers who use the Full-Service IMb today are eligible for a small discount.

Information Included in the Intelligent Mail Barcode

The Intelligent Mail barcode is composed of the following pieces of information:

  • Barcode ID – Encodes the presort identifier, which is also displayed in an optional endorsement line. This is automatically generated by your mailing software.
  • Service Type ID (STID) – Identifies the mail class, and any special services requested, such as OneCode ConfirmTM.
  • Mailer ID – Uniquely identifies you and your mailing operation. Depending on your mailing volume, you can have one or more six- or nine-digit Mailer IDs. You can request one from the Business Customer Gateway.
  • Sequence number – This identifies the individual mail piece.
  • Routing code – The ZIP Code of the address. To receive automation discounts, this must include the correct ZIP + 4 Code and the two-digit delivery point indicator.

Requirements for using the IMb

In order to use the IMb, each mailer will need to have a USPS® Mailer ID.  The Mailer ID is part of the information that is contained in the barcode.

In Satori Software® products, your Mailer ID is entered when you sort your mailing.

Comparing IMb and POSTNET Barcodes

POSTNET is a barcode type previously used by USPS to encode information about the delivery address.  USPS® will retire POSTNET on January 27th, 2013. POSTNET contains 11 digits of delivery routing information, including the delivery address ZIP Code, +4 and Delivery Point data. When printed, the POSTNET barcode contains 62 bars.

The Intelligent Mail® barcode was introduced in 2006. It encodes information including the delivery address, Mailer ID, and sort information. Starting on January 28, 2013, the IMb is required for Automation discounts. In addition to the 11 digits of delivery routing information also contained in the POSTNET barcode, the Intelligent Mail barcode contains 20 additional digits of data, including the Mailer ID, piece sequence number, and piece sorting information. When printed, the Intelligent Mail barcode contains 65 bars.

Comparing IMb and IMpb Barcodes

Although the names sound similar, the Intelligent Mail™ barcode (IMb) and the Intelligent Mail™ package barcode (IMpb) are different.  The key differences:

  • The IMpb uses a different set of information than IMb and is tracked differently by the Post Office. The barcodes are designed to be scanned by different sorting machines.
  • The IMpb is only used for parcels, and the IMb is only used for letters and flats.

If you are mailing parcels and want to use Intelligent Mail™, you will need to use the IMpb instead of the IMb. You may be interested in these related topics:

Creating the IMb in Satori Software® Products

Satori Software products will generate the IMb.  The basic steps are:

  1. Process your list through Address Correction
  2. Select Intelligent Mail in the sort template
  3. Enter your Mailer ID with your permit information
  4. Sort the mailing
  5. Print or export the Intelligent Mail barcode
  6. Before mailing, print samples for USPS to test

For additional information about using these steps with with Satori Software® products:

Related Resources

USPS has published additional information about the IMb:

Satori Software has available recorded webinars that go into additional detail about using the IMb:

And an article about using IMb in Satori Software® products:


Satori Software is a non-exclusive NCOALink® Full Service Provider Licensee and RDI™ Licensee of United States Postal Service®.

Prices for Satori Software products and services are not established, controlled or approved by the United States Postal Service or the United States Government.

The following trademarks are owned by the United States Postal Service: CASS™, CASS Certified™, DPV®, eLOT®FASTforward®, First-Class Mail®, Intelligent Mail®, LACSLink®, NCOALink, Media Mail®, PAVE™, Post Office™, Postal Service™,PostalOne!®, POSTNET™, Standard Mail®, RDI, The Postal Service®, US Postal Service™, U.S. Postal Service®, USPS®, ZIPtm, ZIP Code™, ZIP + 4® and the United States Postal Service

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