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There's just ONE DAY left to use non-barcoded Royal Mail 1st and 2nd class stamps – here's what's happening

Today (31 July) is the last day you can 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.

In February last year, Royal Mail announced that from 31 January 2023 it would scrap everyday stamps that feature a profile of the Queen's head, in favour of barcoded versions. But it later extended the deadline by six months to 31 July 2023 in recognition of customers needing more time to adjust to the change.

Royal Mail initially continued to use the 31 January 2023 deadline in its communications and on its website, causing confusion, but it has since updated its website with the extended 31 July 2023 deadline.

Here's what you need to know.

Recipients will be charged if they're sent a letter with an everyday non-barcoded stamp on it from 1 August 

You've got until the last collection today (31 July) to use non-barcoded everyday stamps. Most collections from postboxes are carried out between 9am and 3pm, while at Post Offices and Royal Mail offices there is a later collection starting from 4pm, so make sure you keep this in mind when posting your letter or parcel.

You can't use non-barcoded everyday stamps on post from 1 August 2023 onwards. If you do, the person you're sending the letter or parcel to will have to pay £1.10 to receive it. This fee is the same regardless of the original cost of postage.

The person receiving the letter or parcel will be left a grey 'Fee to Pay' card letting them know that they need to pay this charge before they can receive their mail. This charge can't be paid on the doorstep to the postal worker and will instead need to be paid:

  • Online. The recipient can pay using a credit or debit card, or a PayPal account. Once it's paid, the recipient can choose a date to have the item delivered on.
  • In person. There will be a 'Customer Service Point' listed on the Fee to Pay card. The recipient needs to bring the card and a form of ID when they go to pay. The item will then be handed to them.
  • By post. There will be instructions on how to do this on the Fee to Pay card. Royal Mail will then send the item once it's received payment.

Alternatively, to stop stamps becoming worthless, you can exchange them via 'Swap Out'

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

There's currently no deadline on when you need to complete the swap by, and you'll continue to be able to use the scheme after 31 July 2023, though it might be best to do so sooner rather than later in case the scheme closes.

You don't, however, need to use or exchange Christmas stamps or 'special' stamps with pictures on, as they will continue to be valid after the 31 July 2023 deadline.

Royal Mail has also confirmed that all King Charles III stamps in circulation have barcodes on them, so it's only the non-barcoded ones with the Queen's profile on that you need to use or swap. For more info on which stamps you can exchange, see Royal Mail's FAQs.

How to request a Swap Out form

There are four ways to get a standard form:

  1. 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 request for a form to be posted to you by giving some details online.

  2. 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.

  3. Visit your local post office OR delivery office where you can pick up a form and envelope in person. ALL delivery and post offices stock them. 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.

  4. Keep an eye out for a Swap Out form dropping through your letterbox. Royal Mail has confirmed it is sending out leaflets (see the image below) which include a Swap Out form on the back to 31 million addresses across the UK to remind people of the upcoming deadline.

If you need a bulk stamp Swap Out form, you can print this out from the Royal Mail website (link opens a PDF), request one online or call 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 or had it put through your letterbox, 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.

We've spotted some complaints from customers on social media who say they've had trouble getting proof of postage for Freepost Swap Out letters due to there being no postcode in the address. However, Royal Mail has confirmed that you can ask the member of staff at your local post office to enter the address as 'Freepost Swap Out' to provide you with proof of postage.

Those sending bulk Swap Out forms should send them via special delivery, Royal Mail has advised. Royal Mail will refund the additional cost to do this with barcoded stamps worth the same amount.

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.

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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