What is an M-Bag?

An M-Bag is a cheap means of moving printed materials internationally. M-Bags attract special rates for the movement of printed materials, and are often the cheapest means of moving qualifying materials internationally. Physically the M-Bag is a sack, into which the printed materials are placed. Customs declarations and the address label go around the neck of the sack. The entire contents of the sack are delivered to a single destination.

What can go into an M-Bag?

M-Bags are restricted to carrying printed matter, which may be accompanied by a very limited amount of additional material. It is not permitted to place materials into M-Bags that do not meet the criteria for eligibility.

The eligibility criteria defined below are offered for guidance, and you should always check with your carrier that your mailing complies with their requirements prior to making any mailing.

Printed materials

M-Bags are designed to carry printed matter. Typically this is any material that is printed en mass (with many identical copies), ie magazines, newspapers, books, journals, catalogues, directories, commercial advertising or similar promotional materials.

Bulk Invoices or statements may not be sent in an M-Bag. An individual invoice covering the qualifying materials is however permissible.

Personal correspondence, a collection of letters for re-mailing for instance, may not be sent in an M-Bag.

Additional Articles permitted in M-Bags

Providing that all of the following conditions are met, additional articles are allowed to travel in an M-Bag:

  1. The articles are included in the following list:
    • discs, tapes or cassettes (optical or magnetic storage media)
    • commercial samples not for resale
    • other informational or non dutiable commercial articles that are not for resale
  2. The articles are related to and physically combined with the printed matter being mailed

Why would I want to use an M-Bag service?

For qualifying materials the M-Bag is often the cheapest way to send internationally.

As an example from this Royal Mail rates table, sending 10Kg to Austria would cost £41.05 using an economy packet service, but just £20.89 using an M-Bag service. The economy packet service may be a little faster, but it is a lot more expensive.

How do I use an M-Bag?

You should always confirm with your carrier prior to using an M-Bag service for the first time, but  typically the goods and any required commercial invoices for the destination country are placed within the M-Bag.

An address label and customs documentation (CN22 /CN23) is prepared for the outside of the M-Bag. How this is done depends on the scale and type of the operation using the service.

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  • If you are an individual occasionally mailing using this service, address and customs documentation is typically done by hand.
  • A small business using this service will normally modify their internal systems in order to provide the required format of address and customs documentation for the consolidated shipments that will travel within each single mail bag
  • A Mail Consolidator using M-Bag services will often have to copy the international addresses from the labels affixed to the goods that they have received from their clients in order to generate the address label. Pinesoft’s MBagger system is designed to reproduce these address labels quickly and accurately, regardless of the quality of the print received. Address labels may be reproduced in 2 seconds with no waste using this system.

The physical mail bag is then sealed around the neck with a tie which carries the address and customs information.

The completed international mail bag is then ready for the carrier.

Is there anything else I should know about M-Bags?

An M-Bag may be opened for inspection regardless of the physical closures applied to it. This inspection capability is an inherent part of the service, and the mailer has explicitely consented to it when mailing by this service.

The maximum weight of an M-Bag is 66 lbs.

Who can handle M-Bag mailings for me?

Many mail consolidators are able to offer M-Bag mailings as part of their services.

The national posts can normally take M-Bags directly and there are links to a few carriers M-Bag services below for convenience:

Royal Mail

United States (USPS)