Labels FAQs

Parent Topic: All FAQs

See also:

What is the correct placement for a shipping label?

For USPS®, PB Standard, and PB Presort labels, advise shippers to follow these guidelines:

  1. Place the label such that none of the adhesive backing is exposed. Exposed backings can interfere with mail-processing equipment.

  2. Place the label fully on the address side of the parcel, without overlapping the side or overlapping any other labels.

  3. When affixing an IMb label, place the label in the top right corner of the package.

  4. Do not cover a label’s barcode with tape or plastic wrap. These can affect readability.

  5. When placing a barcode label on a rounded package, such as a mailing tube, place the label such that the bars of the barcode are perpendicular to the curve of the package, as shown in the illustration below from the Label Placement appendix of the USPS Parcel Labeling Guide. If a package curves in more than one direction, consider placing the parcel in a box or other flat-sided container.

    Placing an IMpb label on a tube

What is an IMpb?

An IMpb (Intelligent Mail package barcode) is the part of a USPS label that provides tracking on a package. For detailed information on IMpb tracking and its benefits, please see the blog entry A Crash Course on the USPS IMpb on the Pitney Bowes shipping blog. See also the USPS PostalPro page on IMpb.

Example IMpb:


What is an IMb?

An IMb (Intelligent Mail barcode) is the part of a USPS label that provides tracking on a letter or flat. When tracking an IMb label with the Tracking API, set the carrier query parameter to IMB, all caps.

Example IMb:


How do I print a First-Class Mail letter or flat label with an IMb?

To print a USPS First-Class Mail letter or flat label with an IMb, issue the Create Shipment API call using the following options:

  • Set the following:

    FCM DOC_6X4
  • Do not include the specialServices array. No extra services are supported with an IMb.

  • Do not include the PRINT_CUSTOM_MESSAGE* shipment options. They are not supported for FCM letters and flats.

The label displays the postage amount as human readable and displays the return address using the information in the fromAddress in the request.

To track the label through the Tracking API, set the carrier query parameter to IMB, all caps.

How do I print a Doc Tab label?

To print a 4X8 label with a 2-inch Doc Tab, issue the Create Shipment API call with the following values:

  • Set the documents.size field to DOC_4X8.
  • Enter the information to be printed on the Doc Tab in the documents.docTab array. For details on the array, see the Documents Object.

The following is a sample request:

curl -X POST .../v1/shipments \
-H "Authorization: Bearer <oauth_token>" \
-H "Content-Type: application/json" \
-H "X-PB-TransactionId: <unique_transaction_id>" \
-d '
    "fromAddress": { ... },
    "toAddress": { ... },
    "parcel": { ... },
    "rates": [ { ... } ],
    "documents": [ {
        "type": "SHIPPING_LABEL",
        "contentType": "BASE64",
        "size": "DOC_4X8",
        "fileFormat": "ZPL2",
        "printDialogOption": "NO_PRINT_DIALOG",
        "docTab": [ {
            "name": "parcelTrackingNumber",
            "displayName": "Tracking Number"
        }, {
            "name": "Order#",
            "value": "FG3876"
        }, {
            "name": "Discount code",
            "value": "Mar20"
        } ]
    } ],
    "shipmentOptions": [ ... ]

The following is a sample response:

    "fromAddress": { ... },
    "toAddress": { ... },
    "parcel": { ... },
    "rates": [ { ... } ],
    "documents": [ {
        "type": "SHIPPING_LABEL",
        "contentType": "BASE64",
        "fileFormat": "ZPL2",
        "pages": [ {
        } ]
    } ],
    "shipmentOptions": [ ... ],
    "shipmentId": "USPS2200097907656638",
    "parcelTrackingNumber": "9405509898641491248893"

The following is a sample Doc Tab label:

Sample Doc Tab Label

Can I get only the USPS postage indicia to use on a label?

Pitney Bowes is not authorized by the US Postal Service (USPS) as a USPS PC Postage Vendor to supply only the indicium. We must supply a complete shipping label. USPS requires that shipping labels that contain indicia are certified by them. The labels the PB Shipping APIs produce have been certified by the USPS and must be provided as a complete label. We must print the entire label, and the label must go through a certification process.

How do I print a return address that is different from the origin address?

For USPS shipments, you can print a return address on the label that is different from the origin address of the parcel. Do one of the following:

For a domestic shipment, set the following when creating the label:

  • In the fromAddress field, enter the return address you want printed on the label.
  • In the rates.inductionPostalCode field, enter the zip for the address from which the parcel is actually being shipped.

For an international shipment, set the altReturnAddress field to the return address you want printed on the label. Note that the altReturnAddress field applies only to international shipments.

How long is a USPS shipment label valid?

Once the label has been generated and physically printed, it should be shipped that day, but generally USPS does not stop shipments if they are shipped within a couple of days.

Labels can be postdated up to 7 days for regular shipments and 3 days for Priority Mail or International shipments.

See also: How long is an SBR label valid?

Can I get the transaction receipt for a label that has already been printed?

No. The API does not support printing a label receipt after the label has been printed. You can, however, print a receipt when creating the label by using the SHIPPING_LABEL_RECEIPT shipment option. See Shipment Options.