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If 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.

Even Cheaper 

USPS offers even cheaper rates if you go online, print your own label and request a pickup online. Cheapism.com’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 USPS.com, $34.08

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

4 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. We compared free shipping deals recently.
  • Mail your stuff now. Avoid the rush and the cost of overnight shipping by mailing gifts as soon as possible.

This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.

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