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Royal Mail U-turn means Christmas stamps CAN still be used after 2023 despite shift to barcode system

If you have old Christmas stamps you CAN continue to use them after 31 January 2023 following a Royal Mail U-turn. The postal service had initially announced, as part of a wider shake-up, that Christmas stamps would be replaced by new barcoded versions from 31 January 2023. This would have rendered old festive stamps useless unless swapped.

But while Royal Mail says it will still add a barcode to new Christmas stamps, it's confirmed that "following discussions with key stakeholders, including feedback from our customers", non-barcoded Christmas stamps will remain valid.

The U-turn means you can continue to use Christmas and "special" commemorative stamps, such as the Doctor Who collection, after 31 January 2023 – and they don't need to be swapped for barcoded alternatives.  

Any other stamps, however, including all those with the Queen's head on them that say '1st' or '2nd' class, or any other price, will not be valid after 31 January 2023. You will need to swap them for a barcoded version (see below for more on this) or pay an as-yet-undisclosed surcharge to continue to use them.

Royal Mail first announced the shake-up to switch to using barcoded stamps on 1 February 2022. 

You'll be able to 'swap out' old stamps for free

It'll be possible to exchange current stamps for barcoded ones for free under Royal Mail's new 'Swap Out' scheme, which opens on 31 March 2022 and will run until 31 March 2023. 

To do this, you'll need to fill in a 'Swap Out' form from its website (the page isn't live yet), or call it, or get one from a delivery office (not a Post Office though).

You'll then have to post back the stamps you want to swap to a Freepost address. We're waiting to find out if there are any limits on the numbers you can swap and if you're covered for non-delivery.

Royal Mail said it will announce full details of the scheme, including what the surcharge will be and how it'll work in practice, soon.

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