When do stamps expire? Plus, how to swap out old stamps

Wondering when stamps expire? Here’s everything you need to know, plus how to swap your old ones for new

A pile of old stamps cut out from envelopes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’ve been wondering, when do stamps expire, the deadline has now passed. That means that non-barcoded stamps can’t be used, but we’re here to tell you exactly how to swap out your old stamps for new ones.

There have been a lot of changes at Royal Mail recently, with the service increasing the price of first class stamps and then issuing a further warning in May that prices could rise again to try and combat rising stuff and running costs, as well as a reduction in deliveries post-pandemic. This led to Martin Lewis urging shoppers to stock up before the price hike.

The new stamps in circulation now have barcodes - a move designed to modernise the Royal Mail and make it easier for each stamp to be traceable through the postal system. If you were curious, when do stamps expire, the last date to use them was 31 July, 2023. Read on to find out more and how you can swap out old fashioned stamps.

When do stamps expire?

Old stamps without a barcode are now obsolete. Royal Mail said on its website: “Regular stamps without a barcode are no longer valid for postage. This follows the introduction of a six-month grace period from the initial 31 January deadline. Swap them for the new barcoded ones.”

However, Royal Mail is not barcoding special issue stamps – created to commemorate a person or event – so these will remain valid and cannot be swapped.

Christmas stamps also will remain valid, even without a barcode.

Can you still use stamps without barcodes?

Now the deadline has passed you will only be able to send post with the new barcoded stamps.

Any post sent with non-barcoded stamps after the expiry date will be treated as if there is insufficient postage on the item, which usually means the recipient will have to pay a fee to receive the item. Current insufficient postage fees stand at £1.50 for letters and large letters.

However, any stamps with a picture on, or a Christmas theme, can still be used even without a barcode.

When can you use new stamps?

The new barcoded stamps are already in circulation, after being introduced on 1 February 2022, but now they will be the only stamps that can be used. So you can use new stamps now.

What do the new stamps look like?

The new stamps look largely the same as the non-barcoded stamps and will feature the Queen's profile, but the colours will differ. 

First-class stamps will become purple, second-class stamps will be green, large first-class stamps will be blue, and large second-class stamps will be dark blue/teal. The barcodes match the stamp colour and are positioned alongside the Queen’s head, separated by a perforation line.

Barcoded stamps with the image of King Charles, along with new coins and King Charles banknotes, are now on sale.

How to swap out old stamps

Any old stamps can be swapped for the new barcoded stamps through the Royal Mail's Stamp Swap Out scheme but they can’t be swapped at post offices. You will need to complete the Stamp Swap Out form if you have up to £200 worth of stamps to swap, or the Bulk Stamps Swap Out Form for more that £200 worth of stamps.

There are three ways you can get the Stamp Swap Out form:

  • Via the Royal Mail website
  • By phoning Royal Mail's customer services team on 03457 740740 and asking one to be posted to you for free
  • By visiting your local post office where you can pick up a form and envelope in person

If you've printed your own form, you will need to use your own envelope to send the form with your old stamps. If sending less that £200 worth, write on the envelope Freepost SWAP OUT. No other address details or postcode are needed. 

However, if you are sending over £200 worth of stamps, Royal Mail recommends sending them via a secure service with suitable cover to:

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

Royal Mail will then send your new stamps back to you, and says it aims to process each application within seven working days - so you should receive your barcoded stamps in just over a week.

There is currently no end date as to when you need to swap out your non-barcoded stamps by, so you can continue swapping them now the expiry date has passed.

How do the new barcoded stamps work?

The move to replace regular stamps with barcoded stamps is part of the Royal Mail's modernisation drive. The company says that the unique barcodes will "facilitate operational efficiencies, enable the introduction of added security features and pave the way for innovative services for customers."

Sheets of first class stamps with barcodes

(Image credit: Alamy)

Royal Mail has said: "The new postage stamps with barcodes will enable exciting new services by connecting physical stamps to the digital world through the Royal Mail app."

They added: "The 2D barcodes on our postage stamps can be scanned via the Royal Mail app to access digital messaging or information. They also make it easier to track and trace your items from point of postage to their final destination...In the future, we will use these new stamps with individually unique barcodes to send digital information and improve and innovate better security and operational services for our customers."

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Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.