The U.S. Postal Service's board of governors Tuesday approved a 4-cent increase for first-class postage stamps, effective Feb. 3.

Postal patrons will begin paying 29 cents for each first-class stamp, a penny less than the 30 cents recommended to the postal service's independent rate commission last month.Tuesday's decision also raises the price of mailing a post card from 15 to 19 cents.

In addition, the commission recommended that a new 27-cent rate be provided for customers using specially prepared reply envelopes. That rate takes effect at a later date.

The results of the board of governors vote was announced via a satellite press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Just what effect the anticipated increase will have on postal use isn't clear.

The operator of a Sandy-based mail service company, who asked that her name not be used, said she doesn't expect any impact.

"As far as customers are concerned, they are always unhappy with rate increases," she said. "Unfortunately, there aren't any real alternatives available. How else are they going to send a letter?"

The Sandy company handles both individual mailings and bulk mailings for local firms, especially doctor's offices. While there is a small cover charge for the service -- about 2 cents per letter -- customers appear willing to spend the extra money to avoid standing in long lines at area post offices when they can purchase stamps, mail parcels and even have mail delivered to the independent mail-service offices.

Since most of the mail-service companies are integrated with parcel delivery companies such as United Parcel Service, Federal Express and others, they are also in a position to suggest options that can provide customers the lowest price and fastest delivery.

The one area that is expected to be heavily affected is third-class mail. Rates for this will jump between 25 and 40 percent. this is the rate most used by so-called "junk mail" companies. The increases are expected to force many marginal companies out of business.

For those who believe they already receive too much junk mail, this is seen as good news.