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Zip Codes vs Postal Codes on a Credit Card - Canada

3 min read

reading a zipcode on a credit card

Written By

Jane Switzer
Jane Switzer

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.

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.

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.

Decoding the Structure of a Postal Code for Canada

In Canada, a postal code is an essential element of a complete mailing address. Understanding the structure of a postal code can help simplify the process of sending and receiving mail. A Canadian postal code is composed of six characters, with a space separating the third and fourth characters. The format is A1A 1A1, where A represents a letter and 1 represents a digit.

Forward Sortation Area (FSA)

The first three characters of a postal code are known as the Forward Sortation Area (FSA). Each FSA represents a specific "postal district" that typically corresponds to an entire province or territory. For instance, the FSA "M5" refers to a location in Toronto, Ontario, while "V6" represents a location in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Local Delivery Unit (LDU)

The last three characters of a postal code are the Local Delivery Unit (LDU). It pinpoints a precise address or a range of addresses within the FSA. An LDU may refer to a small town, a specific city block, a large building, or even a notable institution like a university or hospital.

Crucial Distinctions: ZIP Codes vs. Postal Codes for Credit Card Transactions

When it comes to making online purchases with a credit card, you may encounter the term "ZIP code" in the United States or "postal code" in Canada. While both serve similar purposes of identifying and categorizing geographical areas for mail delivery, there are important distinctions between them.

A ZIP code is the American equivalent of a Canadian postal code. It consists of five digits, sometimes followed by an additional four digits for more precise location identification. In Canada, the postal code format includes both letters and digits, with a space separating the third and fourth characters.

Understanding and providing the correct ZIP code or postal code is crucial during credit card transactions. Merchants often use this information to verify the cardholder's identity and prevent fraudulent activities. By requiring the ZIP code or postal code linked to the credit card, they can confirm that the person making the purchase is the authorized cardholder.

Understanding Credit Card Postal Codes

When using your credit card for online transactions in Canada, it's common to be asked to provide the postal code associated with your credit card. This is part of the verification process employed by merchants to ensure the transaction's legitimacy.

By entering the correct credit card postal code, you help confirm your identity and protect against unauthorized use of your card. It adds an extra layer of security to safeguard your financial information and provides reassurance that the transaction is being authorized by the rightful cardholder.

Remember, the credit card postal code refers to the postal code linked to your credit card account, which may differ from your residential or mailing address. Being familiar with this distinction can help ensure a smooth and secure online shopping experience.

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

Jane Switzer

Jane Switzer is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience producing content for major Canadian newspapers, magazines, fintech companies and banks. Jane got her start working in journalism as a reporter and copy editor before transitioning to content writing, editing and SEO.

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