Do Stamps Expire? Avoid Wasting Your Money

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    As we mail fewer letters thanks to online activities, we often end up with rolls and piles of old stamps laying around for months (Or even years). Looking at the pile of stamps on my desk, I wondered, do stamps expire? And what do I do if the price of postage changes?

    The cost of stamps can be expensive, so the idea of wasting money on something that expires is offputting. I decided to dig to find out how to avoid losing money when buying stamps and the best approach to stretching my cash when paying for postage (hint: check out Forever stamps ASAP).

    Are Stamps Good Forever?

    vector image of stamps from around the world

    The good news is, yes – stamps are good forever, and no, stamps do not have an expiry date, ever. As long as the stamps are in good condition, that stamp from 2017 will never expire and will work for any standard letter. 

    The U.S. postal service states:

    All postage stamps issued by the United States since 1860 are valid for postage from any point in the United States or from any other place where U.S. Mail service operates. You may use any Denomination stamp(s) to equal the total postage affixed. Total postage affixed must equal at least the postage charge for the class of the mail.,where%20U.S.%20Mail%20service%20operates.

    Some standard stamps might have a year printed on them. This is the year they were produced and are not an expiration date. 

    What if postage rates go up?

    Postage rates increase due to inflation, just like everything else. So, it’s very likely that the cost to send mail will continue to reflect price increases to match. If you purchased first-class stamps with the current postage rate on them for a one-ounce letter, they will eventually not be enough to send mail. So what do you do?

    There’s no need to ditch the stamps you have now. Luckily, the post office sells additional stamps in denominations of 1¢, 2¢, 3¢, 5¢ and 10¢ to cover the gap. You’ll need to grab some of these additional postage to make up the difference as postal costs rise, and the current rates change

    You can also use these supplemental stamps if you have a large envelope or additional ounce(s). If you’re not sure how much you need, visit the post office where they can use a postage meter to tell if you have enough postage for large letters. They can also print out a shipping label for your cost of postage to save your stamps for later.

    Another option is to always purchase Forever stamps, which will always cover current rate first class stamp rates.

    Do forever stamps expire?

    No, forever stamps do not expire either. The first Forever stamp was sold in April 2007 for $0.41 each (they had an image of the Liberty Bell on them!). Forever stamps are stamps with no price on them, and they say “Forever” on them as well.

    These Forever stamps are now up to $0.55 each. However, if you have purchased these stamps in previous years, they’ll still be acceptable as the same monetary value for first-class mail under one ounce – which essentially a standard envelope.

    The lovely thing about Forever stamps is that they have no denominal value. This means that they are equal to the current rate of first-class postage. That means that 2018 Forever stamps are still good in 2020, 2021, and so on.

    So if you purchased them at 41 cents each and didn’t use them until first-class postage went up to $1, they’d work and cover the cost of first-class postage! 

    While it’s not a huge savings, it can be a great way to save money, especially if you purchase them before postal rates are due to increase. You can keep an eye on postal rate increases here on the USPS website. You can also purchase stamps at current postage prices at any of these other locations:

    • Grocery stores
    • Amazon
    • Walgreens
    • Banks
    • Walmart
    • CVS
    • Staples
    • Office supply stores
    • Some gas stations

    Do Global Forever stamps expire?

    No, Global Forever stamps do not expire either! Even outside of the U.S., the Global Forever® stamp for international mail will never expire. These are stamps from the USPS’ First-Class Mail International® (FCMI) service used to send a 1-ounce letter or postcards anywhere in the world for one flat rate.

    Global Forever® stamps work for over 180 countries, including Canada, Australia, and more.

    How do I know if my stamps are still good? 

    While stamps never expire, they can be rejected if they don’t appear to be legitimate postage. The post office can choose to decline stamps that aren’t in decent condition, including:

    • Don’t use stamps if the price is illegible. This means it’s been smeared, torn, blurred, or covered up. They can’t tell it’s the correct postage amount if the price is messed up, so they can’t send it.
    • Don’t use stamps if the border is damaged. If the edge gets torn or is missing pieces, just scrap the stamp and get another.
    • Don’t use tape or glue to adhere the stamps. The post office will not accept any stamps with tape over them (or technically, glue under them either). Stamps must be able to adhere on their own. Thankfully, they’re all self-adhering now, so no more licking and fighting to get them to stick!
    • Don’t reuse stamps. Once a stamp has been postmarked, you cannot reuse it. Also, if it’s stained or worn, it could be mistaken as having already been used and can possibly get rejected.

    If you’re not sure if your stamps are acceptable, drop by your local post office and ask a mail clerk to take a look. They can help you determine if your stamps are still sufficient or just get new ones. 

    One other note – if you have to throw away damaged stamps, it’s a waste of good money. To avoid wasting your money (and time, since you’ll have to get more), make sure to keep your stamps in a protected place.

    Consider using a folder, binder, or wallet to keep them in so that they are not exposed to moisture, humidity, dirt, or hair that can ruin the adhesive on the back. The price of stamps isn’t going to get cheaper, so stocking up on Forever stamps now – and keeping them in a dry, safe place – is a good way to make sure you’re not wasting money.

    Now that you know more about how stamps work and how to make the most of your money when purchasing stamps, why not learn more about saving money in other ways?

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    A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More

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