When it comes to sending mail in the UK, many people may wonder whether they can still use old stamps. With the introduction of the new barcoded stamp, it can be confusing to know whether your old stamps are still valid. In this article, we will explore how long old UK stamps are valid for, and how you can transition over to using newer stamps.
- Can you still use old, non-barcoded stamps?
- Why are non-barcoded stamps now getting barcodes?
- When do old stamps expire?
- Can you exchange new stamps for old stamps?
Can you still use old stamps?
Firstly, it is important to note that Royal Mail, the UK’s postal service, is still currently accepting valid UK postage stamps, regardless of their age. This means that even if you have a stamp that is several years old, it will remain valid. You can still use them at the Post Office and to send mail within the UK.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when using an old, non-barcoded stamp. Firstly, you need to ensure that the value of the stamp is sufficient to cover the cost of postage. The current Royal Mail prices can be found on the Royal Mail website, and it is important to check these rates before sending your mail. If the value of your old stamp only covers insufficient postage, you will need to add additional stamps to make up the difference.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you are using a particularly old, unbarcoded stamp, it may not be recognized by modern automated sorting machines. This means that your mail may take longer to be delivered.
Why are non-barcoded stamps being replaced by stamps with barcodes?
The Royal Mail have said that the old, non-barcoded stamps are being replaced with newer stamps with barcodes to “enable the introduction of added security features and pave the way for innovative services for customers”.
In terms of a security feature, these barcoded versions will help prevent cyber-attacks, which the Royal Mail have been victim to recently. They’ll keep their plain coloured background, but these barcodes will also be connecting physical stamps with the digital world, granting customers access to the Royal Mail app (yes, they have an app) and its range of exciting new services.
Essentially, the Royal Mail’s first- and second-class stamps will be replaced with new barcoded stamps to ensure stamps ‘keep up’ with the ever-changing, fast-paced modern world.
Will the new Royal Mail stamps also feature King Charles III?
The Royal Mail have released new special stamps featuring the head of King Charles, replacing the head of Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September 2022. They are commemorative and have flowers on to highlight the King’s love for gardening.
The former Queen’s head had previously featured on Royal Mail stamps for 55 years. February 2023 saw the final issue of stamps with Elizabeth II’s head on, and only once these are no longer valid or in circulation will King Charles feature on regular stamps.
It is expected that the first release of ordinary King Charles stamps will be in April 2023, prior to the coronation.
When do old stamps expire?
Old first and second-class stamps, which do not have a barcode, will no longer be valid after the 31st of July 2023. The original deadline to use existing stamps was the 31st of January 2023, but it was extended to give stamp owners more time to get rid of them before they become no longer valid.
The Royal Mail are calling it a “six-month grace period”, and it was brought it following considerable discontent from customers following the announcement of the original 31 January 2023 deadline.
Can you exchange old stamps for new stamps?
Yes, you can exchange old stamps for new stamps. Just as a reminder though, old, non-barcoded stamp will be no longer valid after July 31st 2023, so you must get them swapped for new, barcoded ones before the deadline.
So, to swap your old stamps out for new ones, you may be surprised to know that you won’t be able to do this in the Post Office – you need to refer to the ‘Stamp Swap Out’ scheme. We explain how below.
Taking advantage of the Royal Mail’s Stamp Swap Out scheme.
The Stamp Swap Out scheme was created to allow anyone to send off any stamps without a barcode they have to the Royal Mail who will, in return, send back the same number of barcoded stamps.
To do this, you will need to get a hold of the Stamp Swap Out Form. If you have a printer at home, all you need to do is print the form off, fill it in with all the requested details, and send it off with any existing stamps you wish to swap over. This is a free service, but just make sure you write Freepost SWAP OUT on the envelope. The Royal Mail’s address details are:
21 South Gyle Crescent
If you do not have access to a printer and are unable to print off the Stamp Swap Out form, you can complete an online form and the Royal Mail will get the Stamp Swap Out form to your address. You can also pick up forms from your local Post Office branch. It is important to note that you will not be able to swap stamps for barcoded ones at Post Offices, you can only do this through the scheme.
What about Christmas stamps?
It has been confirmed by the Royal Mail that old, non-barcoded Christmas stamps will remain valid beyond the 31 July 2023 deadline and will not be included in the batch of stamps that you can swap through the Royal Mail’s Swap Out scheme. Customers complained that they do not wish to lose their non barcoded Christmas stamps they use for their Christmas cards, so they will remain valid.
How about international tariff stamps and country definitive stamps?
Both non barcoded definitive stamps, used for regional postage across the UK, and non-barcoded international tariff stamps, obviously used for international postage and featuring the existing Machin design, will both become invalid after the July deadline.
These stamps already have barcoded versions though which can now be used as everyday stamps for mail posted through your local post box or via a Post Office.
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You could also read:
- Old pound coins: what do we do with them now?
- When is the King’s Coronation?
- Should you insure your King’s Coronation Street party?
- Royal Mail.com