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Prepaid Envelopes EXPLAINED - An Overview and explanation of how to use UK printed pre-paid envelopes


Click on the menu on the left for Envelope prices

Printed Prepaid Envelopes which in the UK are also called Business Reply Envelopes by the Royal Mail, are used to encourage customers to reply to you or your company without your customer having to pay the Royal Mail's postage cost at their end. You'll pay it for them. Prepaid envelopes are the professional way to do it and can be printed by Trade Printing UK (after you first apply for a licence from Royal Mail - see below) with your company's details and company logo, under Royal Mail's layout guidelines (we'll use our superb, professional templates to create that for you!). Trade Printing UK are probably the leading (and one of the cheapest) prepaid envelope printing specialist company within the UK's envelope printer industry, for these types of Royal Mail prepaid printed envelopes.

I want Prepaid Printed Envelopes now - how do I get them?

Firstly you'll need to apply to the Royal Mail DOWNLOAD their application form here to purchase either a 'Business Reply Standard' or 'Business Reply Plus' alpha licence number (Eg. AAAA-BBBB-CCCC). You only pay for the actual post that is sent back to you rather than buying all the postage costs up-front. You pay Royal Mail for that on a MONTHLY basis. So Prepaid envelopes really mean you're only paying for what you receive back from your customers.

What are the postal cost differences between PLUS and STANDARD prepaid licences?

1st & 2nd Class Indicia for Prepaid Envelope products by Royal MailThere is an annual licence fee that has to be paid up front to Royal Mail which is currently £90 per year to get your pre-paid licence in the first place. This is a grouped licence, so you get a bundle Business Reply Standard / Freepost Standard licence or Business Reply Plus / Freepost Plus licence together. Just pick either the 'Standard' or 'Plus' licence bundle.

Postage prices for PLUS are cheaper than STANDARD...

After you have your licence from the Royal Mail, you then pay a price per single response [i.e. you pay Royal Mail directly - on a monthly account basis - for EACH returned pre-paid envelope a customer sends you back] for all items up to 100g (e.g. under the PLUS licences for DL + C5 "Letter" sizes - 1st Class: 42p; 2nd Class: 29.5p; under the STANDARD licences for DL + C5 "Letter" sizes - 1st Class: 48p; 2nd Class: 35.5p; "Large Letter" such as C4 and above are more expensive [up to 100gsm weight] e.g. C4 1st class - 66p; 2nd Class: 54.5p because they are hand sorted by humans) and of course this depends whether you use a Royal Mail 1st Class or 2nd Class Indicia mark on your custom prepaid envelopes. C4 envelopes are NOT available as part of the "PLUS" licence, only DL and C5 sizes.

Once you have that licence number, you can place your order with Trade Printing UK to actually print the DL envelopes (we also do C5 and C4 size variants) professionally for you. Don't forget you can include your company logo for free (your address block, the 1st/2nd class indicia in the top right, and the Licence number must ALWAYS BE PRINTED IN BLACK INK so that is the minimum colour you can print your logo as well. If you want to add more ink colours e.g. 2/0, then that'll cost you a bit more, or if you want 4/0 CMYK Full Colour, then that'll be about three times the price). We would then draw up your professional artwork with our own professional templates designed specifically for Royal Mail's products, then send you back a high-resolution PDF which you subsequently send on to the Royal Mail response services account team in Glasgow [they handle the whole of the UK] to approve. There's always a bit of hassle with that bit, but we can guide you through this.


Licence plate section showing comparison between Business Reply Standard and Business Reply Plus Envelope artworkWhat's the DIFFERENCE between Business REPLY STANDARD envelopes and Business REPLY PLUS?


The quick answer is Plus licence envelopes can be automatically read by their sorting machinery and thus they give you an extra postage discount, as the Standard licence envelopes

The Business Reply Plus envelope type is the most popular pre-paid variant as it will give your company an extra postage cost discount (currently 6p OFF per item) over the 'Business Reply Standard' envelope type but they must be pre-printed with the 'Plus' artwork and indicia barcode. The 'Plus' pre-paid licence though can only be used with DL and C5 sizes, as C4 size envelopes are excluded because they're hand sorted - you must use a 'Standard' pre-paid licence with the latter [see below].

Business Reply Standard prepaid envelopes are the less popular of the two however they give the most scope to UK businesses for envelope size [i.e. it allows for C4 envelopes unlike Business Reply Plus which doesn't] and 1st or 2nd Class services etc.

The real difference between the two types (Standard and Plus) is that the Plus envelopes can be automatically read (DL and C5 size only) by their sorting machines, the Standard envelopes are allowed to be customised a little more and are read by human beings and they allow C4 envelopes to be utilised (C4 envelopes are too big for the automated sorting machinery at present).

Licence plate section showing comparison between Business Reply Standard and Business Reply Plus Envelope artwork

Why choose a BUSINESS REPLY prepaid envelope over a FREEPOST Envelope?

Good question! The straight answer is, there is NO difference! NONE whatsover. THEY DO THE SAME THING! Seriously. It's all down to personal choice.

Freepost is seen as LESS formal [yet exhibits the same features of a Business Reply prepaid licence number and 1st or 2nd class indicia, and are delivered in the same time] and more consumer-focused.

Business Reply is [allegedly] seen as a MORE formal and professional look for a prepaid service. However, again, there is NO difference in the actual service or what it actually does. We wish they'd just standardise everything into one pre-paid licence product, but wishful thinking.


Out-dated Business Reply Reponse Service from Royal MailBut I have an old-style alphanumeric prepaid envelope licence - can I use that?

No. The old Response Service Licence No. type (e.g. LON123) is now considered obsolete in 2014 and you'll definitely need to contact your Royal Mail Account Manager [see below] to update it to the new generation 'Business Reply Standard' or 'Plus' prepaid licence.

To CONTACT the Royal Mail licensing team in their Glasgow office

You can contact the Royal Mail licensing team in their Glasgow office Phone: 08457 950950 - then Press '1', then hold, then Press '4', then Press '2' - this will get you speaking to an actual person! (Lines are open 8.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday.)


Royal Mail's own on-line Artwork Generator is massively flawed. Use our Templates instead!

When you apply for your prepaid reponse services' licence you will see that the Royal Mail have their own Artwork Generator on their website, however this has contained a few very serious programming flaws for a long time in that the artwork produced has been low-resolution (plus a technical colour problem) and NOT suitable for commercial printing without manual fixes. This is why we've developed our own professional artwork Envelope templates to give perfect control of your envelope's professional artwork to Royal Mail guidelines and standards.

We've produced thousands of these successfully for our clients over the years.

The "Royal Mail Artwork Generator" gives you the option to add your company logo to the professional artwork but the problem there is that also doesn't handle any other graphic formats but GIF (which is ridiculous as that's only intended for website use), Jpeg, or Tiff (in a very limited way). Files have to be limited to 500k as well.

The Royal Mail Artwork Generator takes no account whatsoever to understand the difference between Grayscale, RGB, CMYK, Pantone, spot colour inks or any other important printing industry colour gamuts; a massive fundamental flaw that Royal Mail has made no attempt to fix, nor understand the needs of commercial printing companies. It has frustrated us and others in the industry for a long time and basically.

If you supply us your own artwork from the Royal Mail Artwork Generator, please supply it as either "EPS vector" or "PDF".

Reponse Services Barcode updated 2014 artwork graphic stripAlready got a licence? You'll need the NEW 2014 "Response Services Barcode" added to your existing artwork.

As of April 2014, the Royal Mail introduced an additional font-based barcode to the licence plate area in the top left of envelopes, which must be added to your additional artwork (if you've got Business Reply envelopes before). You can supply it by entering the 12-digit licence numbering into their Response Services Artwork Generator and pick the "Response Services Barcode" only, remembering that DL and C5 are classed as "Letter" size, and C5 is classed as "Large Letter" size. Then choose either "EPS vector' or "PDF" format from the final radio button choice.

TradePrintingUK can add that for you. Just phone 028 9084 1234 or E-mail us today and we can update your existing prepaid envelope artwork for you.


What type of flap can I use? Self-Seal or Peel & Seal?

From an over-printing perspective, we can produce your business reply envelopes from either our standard-spec self-seal flap or premium upgrade from our peel & seal product ranges, and for either the 'Business Reply Standard' or 'Business Reply Plus' prepaid licence formats.


  • Which Size of Royal Mail Prepaid Envelope do you require?
    DL prepaid envelope, C5 prepaid envelope or C4 prepaid envelope?
  • Is it Royal Mail's 'Business Reply Standard' or 'Business Reply Plus' service you have the licence for?
  • Do you want 1st Class or 2nd Class indicia printed on your custom-printed
    Prepaid Envelopes?
  • We will then create your envelope's professional PDF artwork, and E-mail you a PDF proof that you send back to their response services team in Glasgow
  • Once approved by them (we'll talk you through that potential nightmare via E-mail), you E-mail us back their sign-off. They're usually only interested in the content e.g. that your address block and licence number are correct though.

  • Then phone us on 028 9084 1234 with your payment details
    (we accept Credit or Debit Cards / BACS via Proforma Invoice if you wish).
  • We will then proceed to production. Turnaround for any of our Business Reply envelope products is normally just 5-6 working days after that. We ship FREE via Parcelforce.


To CONTACT the Royal Mail licensing team in their Glasgow office

You can contact the Royal Mail licensing team in their Glasgow office Phone: 08457 950950 - then Press '1', then hold, then Press '4', then Press '2' - this will get you speaking to an actual person! (Lines are open 8.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday.) Email the Royal Mail response services licensing team in Glasgow: HERE


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