Time running out to use up non-barcoded stamps

Act now to use up old first and second class stamps by 31 July before they become invalid for postage

First and second class postage stamps
(Image credit: Matt Cardy / Getty images)

Customers have until 31 July to use up any non-barcoded first and second class stamps before they become worthless.

This is because Royal Mail is moving to a new barcode system for its first and second class stamps, which it says is more secure.

The July deadline affects “everyday” stamps featuring the late Queen’s profile. Themed, commemorative and Christmas stamps that don’t have a barcode can still be used after 31 July.

Customers are being urged to check their wallets and drawers for non-barcoded stamps and use them this month. However, if that isn’t possible, they can be swapped for barcoded stamps of the same value, free of charge. 

Here, we explain why the stamps are being phased out and how to swap them after the 31 July deadline.

Which Royal Mail stamps are being withdrawn?

The stamps that are becoming invalid at the end of July are known as “definitive” or “everyday” stamps. Usually sold in books of six or 12, the first and second class stamps feature the profile of the late Queen Elizabeth. 

They normally have “1st”, “2nd” or a price on them. They do not feature any other picture, and do not have a barcode. 

Themed stamps - such as Blackadder stamps and those with Aardman animated characters (like Wallace and Gromit) - as well as Christmas stamps are not affected and remain valid for use.

A 1st class barcoded stamp

A new barcoded first class stamp 

(Image credit: Royal Mail)

Why are they being withdrawn?

Royal Mail is withdrawing the non-barcoded stamps as it switches its focus onto stamps with barcodes, which it says makes deliveries more efficient and improves security.

Barcoded stamps were first trialled in March 2021. Royal Mail then announced in February 2022 that it would add unique barcodes to its definitive postage stamps and Christmas special stamps.

The barcodes also allow customers to watch videos and send birthday messages. People can currently watch and share exclusive videos featuring Shaun the Sheep by scanning stamps in the Royal Mail app

The barcode system is designed to better connect physical stamps and letters with the Royal Mail app. You can already track packages, buy postage and book a collection on the app, but you will soon be able to track letters through the new stamp system.

Future special stamps to commemorate anniversaries and events will not be barcoded, although upcoming Christmas stamps will include a barcode.

The call to use up existing stamps is not connected to the change of monarch. King Charles' portrait is now appearing on all standard Royal Mail stamps, but stock of those featuring the late Queen is being sold first. 

How do I swap the stamps?

Anyone unable to use their non-barcoded everyday stamps by 31 July will be able to exchange them for newer barcoded ones free of charge. 

You may have received a notice through your door giving you instructions on how to swap your stamps, but if not, here’s what you need to do.

To swap the stamps, customers need to complete a Stamp Swap Out form and send it to Royal Mail along with their non-barcoded stamps.

Forms and freepost envelopes can be picked up from the Post Office. Previously Royal Mail said that forms would not be available at the Post Office, however following a U-turn they now will be available there, as Royal Mail says it wants to make things easier for customers.

  • If you have a printer, you can also print the Stamp Swap Out form out at home. 
  • If you have more than £200 worth of stamps, print out the Bulk Stamp Swap Out form instead.
  • Alternatively, you can request a Stamp Swap Out form to be posted to you by completing an online form, call Royal Mail’s customer experience team on 03457 740740 to request one, or pick up the form at your local delivery office.

An image of the stamps which will not be valid after 31 January 2023 and stamps that will be valid after 31 January 2023

(Image credit: Royal Mail)

The form and the stamps should be sent to: 

Royal Mail
Swap Out
Tallents House
21 South Gyle Crescent
EH12 9PB

Stamps that are not being withdrawn, such as Christmas stamps, should not be sent in to be exchanged.

Royal Mail aims to process Swap Out applications within 15 working days, although this could take longer when there are high volumes of requests.

There is currently no end date for when the older stamps can be swapped.

What happens if I use a non-barcoded everyday stamp after 31 July?

Items that are posted with non-barcoded everyday stamps after 31 July 2023 will be treated as if there is insufficient postage. This means the item will be subject to a surcharge, which the recipient will be asked to pay.

The surcharge for a letter is £1.50, while for a small parcel it’s £3.50.

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Ruth Emery

Ruth Emery is contributing editor at The Money Edit. Ruth is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.

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