Franking (or "Franks") are any and all devices or markings such as postage stamps (including printed and/or embossed on postal stationery), printed or stamped impressions, codings, labels, manuscript writings (including "privilege" signatures), and/or any other authorized form of markings affixed or applied to mails to qualify them to be postally serviced. [ [ Postage Payment Methods U.S. Postal Service] ]

Franking types and methods

(the application of franking of more than one country) before the world's postal services universally agreed to deliver international mails bearing only the franking of the country of origin.

* ), pre-paid franking was applied exclusively by a manuscript or handstamped "Paid" marking and the amount of the fee collected. [Miller, Rick [ "The evolution of franking: different ways to indicate postage was paid"] Linn's Stamp News]

* or markings affixed by a postal service which designate any amount of insufficient or omitted postage fees to be collected on delivery. [ [ Insufficient or Omitted Postage USPS Domestic Mail Manual] ]

* "Privilege" Franking is a personally pen signed or printed facsimile signature of a person [ [ Official Mail (Franking Privilege) USPS Domestic Mail Manual] ] with a "franking privilege" such as certain government officials (especially legislators) and others designated by law or Postal Regulations. In the United States this is called the "Congressional frank" which can only be used for "Official Business" mail. [ [ "Franking Privilege: Historical Development and Options for Change" U.S. Congressional Research Service Report RL34247, December, 2007] ] In addition to this type of franking privilege, from time to time (especially during wartimes) governments and/or postal administrations also authorize active duty service members and other designated individuals to send mails for free by writing "Free" or "Soldier's Mail" (or equivalent) on the item of mail in lieu of paid postal franking, or by using appropriate free franked postal stationary. [ [ 39 U.S.C. 3401(a) U.S. Postal Service Armed Forces & Free Postage] ]

* "Official Business" Franking is any frank printed on or affixed to mails which are designated as being for official business of national governments (i.e. governments which also have postal authority) and thus qualify for postal service without any additional paid franking. [ [ Official Business (Penalty) USPS Domestic Mail Manual] ] In Commonwealth countries the printed frank reads "Official Paid" and is used by government departments on postmarks, stationery, adhesive labels, official stamps, and handstruck or machine stamps.
* (or equivalent) unless otherwise designated (such as "bulk" mailings).

* "Business Reply Mail" (BRM) Franking is a preprinted frank [ [ Business Reply Mail USPS Domestic Mail Manual] ] with a Permit number which authorizes items so marked to be posted as First Class Mail with the authorizing postal service without advance payment by the person posting the item. (International Reply Mail may specify Air Mail as the class of service.) Postage fees for BRM are paid by the permit holder upon its delivery to the specified address authorized by the permit and preprinted on the item of business reply mail. Governments also use BRM to permit replies associated with official business purposes,

Each of the world's several hundred national postal administrations establish and regulate the specific methods and standards of franking as they apply to domestic operations within their own postal systems. [ [ "Status and Structures of Postal Administrations" Universal Postal Union (June, 2006)] ] Any and all conflicts that might arise affecting the franking of mails serviced by multiple administrations which result from differences in these various postal regulations and/or practices are mediated by the Universal Postal Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations, as the organization which sets the rules and technical standards for international mail exchanges. [ [ "UPU at a Glance"] ] [ [ UPU Technical Standards] ]

Franking privilege

is compensated for the servicing of these mails by specific annual appropriations against which each Member is given a budgeted amount upon which he/she may draw.

A 6-member bipartisan Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards, colloquially known as the "Franking Commission," is responsible for oversight and regulation of the franking privilege in the Congress. [ [ "Regulations on the Use of the CONGRESSIONAL FRANK By Members of the House of Representatives and RULES OF PRACTICE IN PROCEEDINGS Before the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards" June, 1998] ] Among the Commission's responsibilities is to establish the "Official Mail Allowance" for each Member based proportionally on the number of constituents they serve. Certain other persons are also accorded the privilege such as Members-elect and former Presidents and their spouse or widow as well. A President who is convicted in the Senate as a result of an impeachment trial would not have a franking privilege after being forced to leave office. [ [ "Former Presidents: Federal Pension and Retirement Benefits" Congressional Research Service] ] The sitting President does not have personal franking privileges but the Vice President, who is also President of the Senate, does.

In Canada, the Governor General, members of the Canadian Senate, members of the House of Commons, Clerk of House of Commons, Parliamentary Librarian, Associate Parliamentary Librarian, officers of parliament and Senate Ethics Officer all have franking privilege and mails sent to or from these people are sent free of charge.


A limited form of franking privilege originated in the British Parliament in 1660, with the passage of an act authorizing the formation of the General Post Office. In the 19th century, as use of the post office increased significantly in Britain, it was expected that anybody with a Parliament connection would get his friends' mail franked.

In the United States, the franking privilege predates the establishment of the republic itself, as the Continental Congress bestowed it on its members in 1775. The First United States Congress enacted a franking law in 1789 during its very first session. Congress members would spend much time "inscribing their names on the upper right-hand corner of official letters and packages" until the 1860s for the purpose of sending out postage free mail. Yet, on January 31, 1873, the Senate abolished "the congressional franking privilege after rejecting a House-passed provision that would have provided special stamps for the free mailing of printed Senate and House documents." Within two years, however, Congress began to make exceptions to this ban, including free mailing of the Congressional Record, seeds, and agricultural reports. Finally, in 1891, noting that its members were the only government officials required to pay postage, Congress restored full franking privileges. Since then, the franking of congressional mail has been subject to ongoing review and regulation.

The phrase franking is derived from the Latin word "francus" meaning free. Another use of that term is speaking "frankly", i.e. "freely".

Because Benjamin Franklin was an early United States Postmaster General, satirist Richard Armour referred to free congressional mailings as the "Franklin privilege".


External links

* [ History of Franked Mail] from the
* [ E050 Official Mail (Franked)] from the United States Post Office
* [ US Codes]
* [ Canadian Parliament contact information]
* [;jsessionid=JDISJCDQWWMUEFB2IGFEOSQUHRAYWQ2K?mediaId=600024&catId=400043&_requestid=94770 Description of franked mail in the United Kingdom]
* [ News relating to mailing and franked mail within the UK]

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