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You now have until 31 July 2023 to use 1st and 2nd class stamps without barcodes after a Royal Mail U-turn – here's what you need to know

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

In February, Royal Mail announced it would 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 would only be able to use barcoded stamps with the Queen's profile on, or non-barcoded Christmas or 'special collection' stamps.

However, in a U-turn following discontent from customers, Royal Mail has extended the deadline for a further six months, meaning you now have until 31 July 2023 to use these stamps. Royal Mail said it recognised that customers needed more time to use up their remaining non-barcoded stamps.

For more 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.

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

How to request a Swap Out form

There are three ways to get a standard form: 

  • 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 you may want to check with your phone network how much it'll cost beforehand.

  • Visit your local post office OR delivery office where you can pick up a form and envelope in person. ALL delivery and post offices will stock them. Until now, you couldn't pick up a form at your local post office, however, the Royal Mail has now agreed with the Post Office to allow forms to be stocked in post office branches. This means you'll be able to fill in a form, pop it into a Freepost envelope with any remaining non-barcoded stamps and hand it over at the post office.

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 post 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 the 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 got 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 but, as mentioned above, you can pick up a form and post it from your local branch.

You should 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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