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updated 11/11/2010 6:47:49 PM ET 2010-11-11T23:47:49

Sticking stamps on all those holiday or birthday cards could become a thing of the past.

The Postal Service wants to test the idea of letting greeting card companies preprint postage on the envelopes they include with their cards.

Then people could buy the special cards, and just sign and address them and drop them in the mail.

The post office hopes that by making it easier to send cards it will win back some of the business it has been losing to the Internet.

Full details haven't been published yet, but the test is expected to last up to two years. Card makers presumably would add the cost of the postage to the price of the card.

The company would pay the post office half the cost of the postage when it sold the card and the balance when the card was mailed.

For example, in the test the post office plans to charge a premium price of 48 cents for the service.

Under the plan the post office would assign a special number to each company that took part and it would print a special marking on the envelope, including that number.

When the company sold a card it would pay the post office 24 cents, which the agency would keep whether the card is ever mailed or not.

If the card is mailed, postal scanners would read the special marking as postage and send the card on for delivery. The scanners also would record the number of the company that sold the card and the company would be charged the remaining 24 cents of postage.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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