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Confused over Royal Mail stamp swap deadline? Don't be as you WILL still be able to use non-barcoded stamps until 31 July 2023

You will still be able to use non-barcoded 'everyday stamps' after 31 January for another six months, can confirm. The deadline to use these stamps is 31 July. This is despite a series of misleading adverts from Royal Mail saying otherwise. 

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

However, Royal Mail has continued to use the 31 January deadline in its communications, which has caused a lot of confusion. When we asked why it was doing this, Royal Mail told us it was because the 31 July is not an extension but a six-month "grace period" where non-barcoded stamps will continue to be accepted. But it also confirmed to us that the new deadline is 31 July 2023.

You've got until then 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 all you need to know below.

'Confusion central'

We've spotted lots of people complaining about the confusion caused by Royal Mail's messaging - here's a selection of what we've seen:

Here's what to do to stop your 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 - there is currently no deadline for swapping out stamps.

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.

Examples of stamps you can swap include those with the Queen's profile on a plain background. Examples of those you don't need to swap include 'special' stamps that feature images such as Eastbourne Bandstand, a Nativity scene, and Sir Galahad and the Holy Grail, shown here.

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.  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 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, 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. 

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.

Be warned: we've have spotted several complaints online and in our reader inbox from people who say they've experienced delays in receiving their stamps back, or that their stamps have gone missing in the post. If you have any issues you should contact Royal Mail on 03457 740740.

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