You can no longer use stamps without a barcode

As stamps without barcodes are no longer valid from August, here’s how you can exchange them for free.

You can no longer use first and second class stamps without a barcode. But the good news is you can exchange them for new ones, thanks to Royal Mail’s free Stamp Swap Out scheme.

New barcoded stamps were introduced in February 2022 to add extra security and new features, with innovations such as video messaging promised. Shaun the Sheep messages for special occasions such as Christmas and Mother’s Day are already available through the Royal Mail App.

collection british postage stamps with great britain queen portraitCredit: Shutterstock / Oleksandr Kulichenko

If you have a stamp featuring the late Queen’s head, there’s a chance it could be one of those without a barcode. (Each barcode is the same colour as the stamp and looks like a QR code.)

After a period of grace from January 31 this year, during which the old stamps were valid, a surcharge will apply if you use one of the old stamps to post something from August 1 onwards. This extra charge will need to be paid by the person who receives the post – and it’ll usually be the price of a first-class stamp, which is currently £1.10.

The price of a first-class stamp broke the £1 barrier in April and savvy savers who’ve been stockpiling stamps to beat the rising cost of postage will now have to trade in their old collection.


How to swap your old stamps for new stamps

Swap your stamps now

Exchange your non-barcoded stamps for new ones with the Stamp Swap Out scheme. All you need to do is:

  1. Print this form out
    Don’t have a printer? You can fill it in on online instead
  2. Complete your form
    Pop it in an envelope with the stamps you’d like to swap
  3. Send it free of charge
    along with your old stamps, to ‘Freepost SWAP OUT’

Allow up to 15 working days to receive your new, barcoded stamps.

Find out more about the Stamp Swap Out scheme.

Customers can swap up to £200 of stamps using the Royal Mail scheme, but that doesn’t mean you can just hand them over at the Post Office. Instead, you need to fill in a form and post them off to a Freepost address.

New stamps featuring the King’s profile went on sale in April, so if you’ve got a drawer full of those it’s safe to say they’ll definitely have barcodes.

If you’re particularly organised and have kept Christmas stamps or special commemorative stamps, there’s no need to worry about those either: they don’t have barcodes and they won’t need them. This year’s Christmas stamps will, however, have the barcode added.

There’s currently no end date on the Stamp Swap Out scheme, with a spokesperson from the Royal Mail telling Saga Exceptional: “Customers who cannot use up their stock of non-barcoded stamps will still be able to swap them for barcoded stamps through Royal Mail’s simple and free Swap Out scheme.

“The Swap Out scheme opened on March 31 2022, and there is currently no deadline for customers to swap their non-barcoded stamps.”

Royal Mail's new barcode stampsCredit: Royal Mail
Going forward you will need stamps with barcodes when posting items

Making mail more efficient

The scheme is designed to make sure no-one loses out. Laura Joseph, director of customer experience at the Post Office said: “The overhaul of Royal Mail stamps will make it much more efficient to send and receive mail and, at Post Office, our priority is to make sure that people are not left out of pocket due to the changes.

“We want to reassure customers that all of our 11,500 branches can help with this process. Customers can send off their old stamps free of charge in freepost envelopes and will then receive replacement new stamps at their chosen address.

“That way, we can help make sure that no-one is left with old stamps that no longer have any use or value, and that everyone in our communities is able to access the stamp swap-out process.”

Chris Taft, head of collections at the Postal Museum, which is running an exhibition, The King’s Stamp, which explores the history of UK stamps, told Saga Exceptional: “Today marks another chapter in the story of the evolution of the postage stamp.”

He added that, from their introduction in 1840, there have been many changes and innovations but that this was the first time that  stamps without a barcode would be no longer valid for postage.

Hannah Verdier

Written by Hannah Verdier


Hannah Verdier writes about fitness, health, relationships, podcasts, TV and the joy of reinventing yourself at 50 and beyond. She’s a graduate of teenage music bible Smash Hits and has a side hustle as a fitness trainer who shows people who hated PE at school how to love exercise.

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