Use up your stamps by next year - or face a surcharge

Barcode stamps Royal Mail

Barcode stamps are to be introduced by Royal Mail - Credit: Royal Mail

Stamps as we know them will no longer be usable when posting letters from next year, Royal Mail has confirmed.

From January 31 2023, current stamps will no longer be accepted when posting mail, as the company intends to rollout new barcoded replacements.

As a result, any stamp that has the Queen's head on and says '1st' or '2nd' class, or any other price – or they're Christmas-themed – will not be accepted.

Anyone who does try to use the current stamps after January 31, 2023, will have to pay a surcharge.

The only exceptions to the new rules are 'special' commemorative stamps, which not being phased out.

Royal Mail has urged people to use their stamps before then, or swap them under a new scheme.

"Non-barcoded stamps can be exchanged for the new barcoded version through Royal Mail's 'Swap Out' scheme," a spokesperson said. 

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The 'Swap Out' scheme will open from March 31 2022. Forms will be available via a variety of channels, including local Customer Service Points and the Royal Mail website, they added.

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said the change would affect people who bulk-buy stamps ahead of price increases.

"For years, every time stamps go up in price I've suggested people stock up and bulk-buy in advance, as provided the stamp doesn't have a price on it and instead just says the postage class, it's still valid after the hike," he said. 

"This has been an effective tactic, as a first-class letter stamp is now 85p – a decade ago it was just 60p. 

"So this change will come as a shock to the many stamp-hoarders out there. 

"It's the first time I can remember you've not been able to just lick it and stick it. And we don't yet know if you'll still be able to swap the stamps after March 2023, so this is a call to arms (or tongues) to ensure you either use 'em or swap 'em."