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Zip Codes vs Postal Codes on a Credit Card - Canada

3 min read

Jane Switzer
Jane Switzer
#credit card
reading a zipcode on a credit card

What is a credit card ZIP code?

Thanks to a little TV show called Beverly Hills, 90210, many Canadians are at least familiar with the concept of a ZIP code. In Canada, the equivalent is called a postal code. Both are used to identify and group addresses by geographical area to sort and deliver mail. But postal codes are used for more than just mailing letters. When you make an online purchase with a credit card, you might be asked to enter the postal code or ZIP code linked to your credit card to verify your identity. And if you’re travelling and using your credit card in the United States, there’s a handy trick you can use if you’re asked to provide a ZIP code to pay with a credit card at U.S. gas stations. Read on to learn more.

What is a credit card postal code?

A credit card postal code is just the postal code of the billing address associated with your credit card. Your billing address is typically the address where you live, but it could be your parents’ house, your office, a post office box or wherever you receive mail. In Canada, a postal code has six characters alternating between letters and numbers. For example, A1B 2C3 (fun fact: this one might sound fake, but it’s a real postal code for a neighbourhood in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador).

What is a credit card ZIP code?

If you live in the U.S., a credit card ZIP code is the ZIP code of the billing address associated with your credit card. The U.S. ZIP code system has a five-digit format: for example, the infamous 90210 in Beverly Hills, California.

Why credit card postal codes and ZIP codes matter

When you use your credit card to make an online purchase – whether it’s Friday night food delivery, new clothing or groceries – you may be asked to enter the billing address linked to the credit card, or at least the postal code. This is a way for merchants to confirm it’s really you making the purchase, because your address is considered private information and is not printed

on your credit card. Basically, it’s an extra layer of security against random scammers being able to make fraudulent purchases if they obtain your name and credit card number. If you’re asked to enter your billing address and credit card postal code and it doesn’t work, make sure you’ve entered the information exactly as it appears on your credit card statement. For example, the postal code “A1B 2C3” may not work if it’s missing the space and formatted as “A1B2C3.” If you move or want to change your billing address, updating that information with your bank or credit card company as soon as possible is important.

Here’s how to use your Canadian credit card at a U.S. gas station

For Canadian snowbirds, road-trippers or anyone travelling to the U.S., the postal code vs. ZIP code issue tends to come up most frequently at gas stations. That’s because as a security measure, most gas stations in the U.S. require you to enter a valid ZIP code to pay at the pump using a credit card. Unfortunately, entering your Canadian postal code won’t work in this situation. However, there is a method to bypass it that is recommended by Mastercard:

  1. Take the Canadian postal code associated with your credit card billing address (for example, A1B 2C3)

  2. Take the numbers from your postal code and add two zeros (123 + 00)

  3. If you’re asked for a U.S. ZIP code, enter this five-digit number (12300) This method may not work with every type of credit card at every gas station, but it’s worth a try. If it doesn’t work, that’s ok – you can still use your Canadian credit card to pay for gas in the U.S. by going inside to the cashier. Ultimately, the difference between a credit card postal code and a credit card ZIP code boils down to whether you live in Canada or the U.S. Either way, the postal code linked to your credit card billing address is an important piece of verifying your identity when making purchases. Whether you’re using your credit card at home or abroad, make sure your billing address is always up to date with your bank or credit card company.

Note: KOHO product information and/or features may have been updated since this blog post was published. Please refer to our Subscription Plans page for our most up to date account information!

Jane Switzer

Jane Switzer is a writer and editor who covers personal finance and investing from a millennial perspective. Living in an expensive (but fun!) city, she writes about trying to save money while still living well.

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