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You've six months left to use 1st and 2nd class stamps without barcodes – or you can swap them for free

You've six months left to use 1st and 2nd class stamps without barcodes – or you can swap them for free

You've now got less than six months to use any non-barcoded everyday stamps – those with the Queen's profile on – before they become worthless on 31 January 2023. Alternatively, you can swap them for barcoded versions for free through Royal Mail's scheme. We take you through what you need to know below.

In February, Royal Mail announced that it will scrap so-called 'definitive' stamps – 'everyday' stamps featuring the profile of the Queen against a plain coloured background – from 31 January 2023. After this date you can only use barcoded stamps with the Queen's profile on, or non-barcoded Christmas or special collection stamps.

From 1 February 2023, Royal Mail will treat any post sent with non-barcoded 'everyday' stamps on as having insufficient postage, so you may incur a surcharge. For example, according to the Royal Mail website, sending a letter or large letter currently incurs a £2 fee where no postage has been paid at all.

You don't, however, need to exchange Christmas stamps and 'special' stamps with pictures on, as they will continue to be valid after the January deadline. For more info on which stamps you can exchange, see Royal Mail's FAQs.

Nick Landon, Royal Mail chief commercial officer, said earlier this year: "As we move to this exciting new era of barcoded stamps, please check your kitchen drawers, wallets and purses for older non-barcoded stamps and make sure you use them up by 31 January 2023."

For further tips and ways to cut the cost of sending parcels via Royal Mail and more, see our Cheap parcel delivery guide.

To stop stamps becoming worthless, you can exchange them NOW via 'Swap Out'

Don't think you'll use your old stamps in time? Royal Mail's 'Swap Out' scheme lets you exchange these stamps for free.  

You'll need to complete a standard 'Swap Out' form for stamps worth up to £200, or a Bulk Stamp 'Swap Out' form for stamps worth more than £200.

Examples of stamps you can swap out: First class stamp with plain red background, Second class stamp with plain blue background, £1.35 value stamp with plain lilac background, £2.80 value stamp with plain green background (all with the Queen’s profile as the main focus). Examples of stamps you don’t need to swap out: First class stamp showing the Eastbourne Bandstand music venue, £1.33 value stamp showing a manicured Stowe garden, First class stamp showing Mary and the baby Jesus, £1.70 value stamp showing a strapping Sir Galahad kneeling before the Holy Grail.

How to request a Swap Out form

There are three ways to get a standard form: 

  • Print out the form from Royal Mail's website (link opens a PDF). If you don't have access to a printer, you can instead complete a web form and request for it to be posted to you.

  • Phone Royal Mail's customer services team on 03457 740740 and ask for a form to be posted for free. Calls to this number are capped at your standard geographical rate, so check with your phone network how much it'll cost beforehand.

  • Visit your local delivery office where you can pick up a form and envelope in person. ALL delivery offices will stock them. Note that you can't, however, collect forms from post office branches. 

If you need a Bulk Stamp Swap Out form, you can print this out from the Royal Mail website (link opens a PDF) or request one online or by calling the Royal Mail customer services number above. 

There's no limit on the number of forms you can request. 

It's free to post your form and stamps back to Royal Mail 

How you return your stamps to Royal Mail depends on how you picked up your Swap Out form: 

  • If you collected your form from a local delivery office or requested one to be sent to you, you'll have been given a freepost envelope. Send this off with your stamps once you're ready.

  • If you printed your form yourself, you'll need to send your own envelope to 'Freepost SWAP OUT'. It'll be free to post, and no other address details are needed.

Unfortunately, there's no way to get proof of postage when you send the freepost envelope. But if you think your stamps have gotten lost along the way, or you haven't received your new stamps after two weeks, then phone Royal Mail customer services on 03457 740740. 

However, Royal Mail advises that those sending Bulk Swap Out forms send them via special delivery. Royal Mail will refund the additional cost to do this with barcoded stamps worth the same amount.

You can't take stamps to the post office to be swapped.

You'll get your new stamps within seven working days

Royal Mail says it will try to ensure all stamps are swapped within seven working days.

If you accidentally send stamps that aren't part of the Swap Out scheme to Royal Mail, it's said it will swap them for barcoded stamps – although it encourages people to use those stamps up first if they can.

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