Stamps could soon become a thing of the past if a free initiative from the Royal Mail catches on.

Under the scheme, customers will be able to pay for the postage of an item online rather than having to use a stamp. After paying with a credit card, the user can print off a unique barcode at home, then attach the barcode and pop the item in the nearest postbox.

The service is aimed at reducing queues in the post office, and offers the customer 'more choice and flexibility', according to Royal Mail marketing director Alex Batchelor. There is no subscription fee for the service and the tariffs are the same as the normal service.

"We have launched this service in response to demands from the general public who want to be able to buy and print their postage online, direct onto an envelope or a label," said Batchelor.