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The cheapest overnight shipping for Christmas

Here's our price comparison and 5 more tips for saving money when you ship gifts.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 16, 2013 1:23PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyIf you've ever spent Dec. 23 standing in line to ship a last-minute Christmas gift, you know all about the crazy cost of sending packages by overnight mail. Sometimes the fees cost as much as the presents.

What you may not know is that there's a huge difference in fees for the same service among the big three shippers -- the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS.

Who's cheapest?

We compared the cost of overnight shipping between New York and Los Angeles for the three largest shippers: UPS, the Postal Service and FedEx. Here are the results for an overnight letter, delivered by no later than the next afternoon:

  • The U.S. post office had the cheapest price -- $19.95 for a flat-rate envelope.
  • FedEx ranked second, at $37.40 for the same package.
  • UPS came in a close third, at $37.57.

The results were similar for shipping a 5-pound box:

  • USPS charged $39.95.
  • FedEx charged a whopping $82.89 for the exact same box.
  • UPS came in even a bit more expensive, at $83.26.

We compare overnight shipping options every year and each year the Postal Service is the winner. By a lot.

The costs rise steeply, of course, when you're shipping heavy packages, so take that into account when you’re doing your holiday shopping for items you'll mail.

Santa Claus © CorbisEven cheaper 

USPS offers even cheaper rates if you go online, print your own label and request a pickup online.'s survey of shipping costs included prices for 5-pound packages sent overnight from New York to Chicago. The results:

  • FedEx, $78.16.
  • UPS, $82.05.
  • At the post office, $48.10.
  • On, $34.08

You can compare shipping prices at sites like Shipping Sidekick, ShipGooder and PostalAnnex.

Five more ways to save

There's more you can do to cut your shipping costs for the holidays and throughout the year. Here are five tips:

  • Check out flat-rate shipping. USPS and FedEx offer it. Delivery takes one, two or three days, depending on where you're sending to and from. (Shipping can be faster from some towns than others.) Buy the box and pay a flat price for everything you ship in it. Flat rate is a better deal if your package is heavy.
  • Give gift cards. Personalize them to make them unique. To keep shipping costs down, buy them in a brick-and-mortar store and mail them yourself. If you buy online, be sure to read the fine print about shipping and other charges.
  • Shop online stores that offer free shipping. L.L. Bean, Nordstrom, Zappos and Abe Books are a few companies offering free shipping with no minimum purchase.
  • Use Free Shipping Day. It's a one-day promotional event -- on Dec. 18 this year. Participating merchants offer free shipping with delivery guaranteed by Christmas Eve.
  • Mail your stuff now. Avoid the rush and the cost of overnight shipping by mailing gifts as soon as possible.

More on Money Talks News:

Dec 16, 2013 3:08PM

and every year the majority of people still ship with the USPS, yet the claim they lost 5 BILLION dollars last year.


Here's a couple of ideas to save money;


1.) Stop Saturday service except overnight deliveries.

2.) STOP ADVERTISING! Everybody knows who the USPS is and uses them on a regular basis. You will not lose any customers if you stop the stupid commercials and radio spots.

3.) STOP ALL CORPORATE SPONSORSHIPS! Stop sponsoring everything from Nascar to the Bike Teams.


Bet you will be in the black in the first year.

Dec 16, 2013 3:02PM
No wonder why UPS makes so much money - and - no wonder why the USPS is going broke. 
Dec 16, 2013 4:02PM
The private shipping services are ripping off the consumer.
 Airborne was the best but they were bought out and ruined by DHL, the tried and true method of eliminating competition. That was just one example of what the Pope was referring to as corrupt capitalism. 
Dec 17, 2013 10:40AM
The retirement funds draining USPS are for employees that don't work for them yet. The Party of NO in Congress mandated the funding. The current workforce pension monies are already reconciled and adequate. As for the cost to ship through USPS with E-Delcon tracking available for more and more countries, the cost for private shippers is outrageous. 
TittiumKid-- likely the ID was supposed to be Titanium but he couldn't spell it, is an investor with stock in those shipping dinosaurs and losing. A reminder that private carriers have been cutting staff and raising prices, whereas USPS volumes are on the increase, which makes cost management easier to forecast. 
Dec 16, 2013 6:33PM
Shipping isn't cheap, but FedEx beats UPS every time.
Dec 16, 2013 5:35PM
Just went to post office today (12/16) and was told in order to arrive for Christmas it would have to ship as "Priority" mail for a cost of $47.  Sent this type of package last holiday by Priority and it took 8 days to arrive (Christmas Eve) and was told they don't guarantee the 2-3 day shipment!  I could not justify the high cost of  $47 and decided to stop at Federal Express.  This same package to be delivered in only 2 days was priced at $19.53!!  Needless to say, my package from PA to FL is being sent via Federal Express.
Dec 16, 2013 5:24PM
What I would like to see is a comparison between these carriers to places like Alaska and Hawaii. I live in Alaska, and we really pay dearly for shipping up here. But, the private shippers regularly take it from pricey to absolutely outrageous. Worse still, often those who live in non-contiguous locations  have only one price choice: take it or leave it. Even if we order from companies such as Amazon affiliates, they not only specify the carrier they will use, they demand that items are shipped 2nd day air or overnight...turning an already steep price into a grim piece of extortion. I would like to see a law insisting that companies offer a choice in shippers to their customers. When you are being told your only option is to spend over one hundred percent of an item's cost to ship it somewhere, that takes outrageous costs to a whole new level.     
Dec 16, 2013 5:32PM

Another thing is that Fed Ex and UPS also give you a delivery guarentee on your shipment. Meaning if they damage or loose it they will reimburse 18 year old shipped a $180 USPS it never arrived I called them they told me that they had indeed thrown the book away because "their policy dictated that is any portion of a pallet had any damage they would dispose of the entire pallet" USPS confirmed they threw her book away but informed me they were not responisble for the damage nor would they return the shipping fee or the price of the book..............becuase they do not insure all of their shipments you must request it. The price of the Fed Ex and UPS includes product replacement etc.


P.S. I will never mail anything through the tax revenue sucking USPS they should shut the entire system down.

Dec 16, 2013 3:17PM
just one problem with the cheapest...USPS only promises to do their best to deliver overnight, no guarantee...and time and time again after I have paid for overnight delivery and the package took 3-5 days as standard the USPS...and go with fedex or ups. they may cost more but they get the job done, and when they don't, they will refund your money.
Dec 16, 2013 4:27PM
Yeah USPS is cheaper but you get what you pay for!! When they say overnight, it means post office to post office, not necessarily to your door, and that's from personal experience!! If you want it there on time, UPS is the way to go!
Dec 16, 2013 3:06PM
I believe we have all learned by now that there is a value to consistent on time delivery.  USPS fails that test consistently.  FedEx isn't bad but if you want to be sure it gets to where you want it to be on time, every time, UPS has them all beat. 
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