The humble stamp is going digital

By | November 14, 2022
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Back in March, I wrote about the changes that Royal Mail were making to the humble postage stamp.  If you buy an ordinary stamp from the Post Office today, next to the main stamp you’ll find a fancy barcode – it looks a bit like a long, thin QR code.

They’ve added these barcodes to stamps to make the post easier to track and the stamps harder to forge.  They’ve even linked them to little videos in the Royal Mail app (gimmicky, but quite cute).

These new stamps have been around since March, but you’ve still been able to use the old-style ones as well – but you won’t be able to use them forever.  The initial plan (up until this weekend, actually) was that you’d only be able to use them until the 31st January. But they got so many complaints about it that Royal Mail have extended the deadline until 31st July. After that, standard 1st and 2nd class stamps without a barcode won’t be accepted as postage any more (your letter will be treated as though you didn’t put a stamp on it) – so now’s the time to dig out any you’ve got hanging around.

The easiest thing to do is just use up your old stamps before the deadline.  If you’ve got any commemorative stamps or Christmas stamps with pretty pictures on, they’re fine to use after the deadline – barcode or no barcode.  It’s just the plain coloured ones with the Late Queen’s head on that are being replaced.

But if you don’t think you’ll be able to use them up before the deadline, you can use a “Stamp Swap Out” form to send your old ones back to Royal Mail and get shiny new ones in return.  Here’s how to get your form:

  • If you have a printer, print out the form from this page on the Royal Mail website.  Fill it in and send your form together with your old stamps to “Freepost SWAP OUT”.
  • If you don’t have a printer, you can order a form to be posted to you by filling out this Swap Out request form.
  • Or (another change to Royal Mail policy after lots of complaints) you can pick one up along with a freepost envelope from your local Post Office.

Don’t worry if you find old-style stamps after the deadline, though.  Although you won’t be able to use them on a letter, you should still be able to swap them for new ones after the 31st July.  I don’t know for how long after, though – Royal Mail say, “there is currently no end date as to when you need to swap out your non-barcoded stamps by.”  So your guess is as good as mine!

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