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A postal code (also known locally in various English-speaking countries throughout the world as a postcode, post code, Eircode, PIN Code or ZIP Code) is a series of letters or digits or both, sometimes including spaces or punctuation, included in a postal address for the purpose of sorting mail. In February 2005, 117 of the 190 member countries of the Universal Postal Union had postal code systems. Although postal codes are usually assigned to geographical areas, special codes are sometimes assigned to individual addresses or to institutions that receive large volumes of mail, such as government agencies and large commercial companies. One example is the French CEDEX system.

Contents

1 Terms 2 History 3 Presentation

3.1 Character sets

3.1.1 Reserved characters 3.1.2 Alphanumeric postal codes

3.2 Country code
Country code
prefixes 3.3 Placement of the code

4 Geographic coverage

4.1 Postal zone numbers 4.2 Codes defined along administrative borders 4.3 Codes defined close to administrative boundaries 4.4 Codes defined indirectly to administrative borders 4.5 Codes defined independently from administrative areas 4.6 Precision

4.6.1 Ireland 4.6.2 Netherlands 4.6.3 United Kingdom 4.6.4 United States 4.6.5 India

4.7 States and overseas territories sharing a postal code system

5 Non-geographic codes 6 Formats 7 Non-postal uses and economic aspects

7.1 Availability

8 See also 9 Notes and references 10 External links

Terms[edit] There are a number of synonyms for postal code; some are country-specific.

Postal code: The general term is used in Canada. Postcode: This solid compound is popular in many English-speaking countries and is also the standard term in the Netherlands. Eircode: The standard term in Ireland. CAP: The standard term in Italy; CAP is an acronym for codice di avviamento postale (postal expedition code). CEP:The standard term in Brazil; CEP is an acronym for código de endereçamento postal (postal addressing code). NPA in French-speaking Switzerland
Switzerland
(numéro postal d'acheminement) and Italian-speaking Switzerland
Switzerland
(numero postale di avviamento). PIN code / Pincode: The standard term in India; PIN is an acronym for postal index number. PLZ: The standard term in Germany, Austria, German-speaking Switzerland
Switzerland
and Liechtenstein; PLZ is an abbreviation of Postleitzahl (postal routing number). ZIP code: The standard term in the United States and the Philippines; ZIP is an acronym for zone improvement plan.

History[edit]

1970s Soviet stamp promoting the use of postal codes

The development of postal codes reflects the increasing complexity of postal delivery as populations grew and the built environment became more complex. This happened first in large cities. Postal codes began with postal district numbers (or postal zone numbers) within large cities. London
London
was first subdivided into 10 districts in 1857, and Liverpool
Liverpool
in 1864. By World War I, such postal district or zone numbers existed in various large European cities. They existed in the United States at least as early as the 1920s, possibly implemented at the local post office level only (for example, instances of "Boston 9, Mass" in 1920 are attested,[1][2]) although they were evidently not used throughout all major US cities (implemented USPOD-wide) until World War II. By 1930 or earlier the idea of extending postal district or zone numbering plans beyond large cities to cover even small towns and rural locales was in the air. These developed into postal codes as we define them today. (The name of US postal codes, "ZIP codes", reflects this evolutionary growth from a zone plan to a zone improvement plan [ZIP].) Modern postal codes were first introduced in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in December 1932,[3] but the system was abandoned in 1939. The next country to introduce postal codes was Germany in 1941,[4] followed by Argentina
Argentina
in 1958, the United States in 1963[5] and Switzerland
Switzerland
in 1964.[6] The United Kingdom
United Kingdom
began introducing its current system in Norwich in 1959, but they were not used nationwide until 1974.[7] Presentation[edit]

Postal codes by country: Numeric:   3-digit   4-digit   5-digit   6-digit   7-digit   8-digit   9-digit   10-digit Alphanumeric:   6-digit   7-digit   8-digit   Postal codes not in use

Character sets[edit] The characters used in postal codes are

The Hindu– Arabic numerals
Arabic numerals
"0" to "9" Letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet Spaces, hyphens

Reserved characters[edit] Postal codes in the Netherlands
Postal codes in the Netherlands
originally did not use the letters 'F', 'I', 'O', 'Q', 'U' and 'Y' for technical reasons. But as almost all existing combinations are now used, these letters were allowed for new locations starting 2005. The letter combinations SS, SD, and SA are not used for historical reasons. Postal codes in Canada
Postal codes in Canada
do not include the letters D, F, I, O, Q, or U, as the OCR equipment used in automated sorting could easily confuse them with other letters and digits. The letters W and Z are used, but are not currently used as the first letter. The Canadian Postal Codes use alternate letters and numbers (with a space after the 3rd character) in this format: A9A 9A9[8] In Ireland
Ireland
the eircode system uses the following letters only: A, C, D, E, F, H, K, N, P, R, T, V, W, X, Y. This serves two purposes:

to avoid confusion in OCR, and it also helps to avoid accidental doubles-entendres by avoiding the creation of word look-alikes, as Eircode's last 4 characters are random.

Alphanumeric postal codes[edit] Most of the postal code systems are numeric; only a few are alphanumeric (i.e., use both letters and digits). Alphanumeric systems can, given the same number of characters, encode many more locations. For example, while a 2 digit numeric code can represent 100 locations, a 2 character alphanumeric code using ten numbers and twenty letters can represent 900 locations. The independent nations using alphanumeric postal code systems are:

Argentina
Argentina
(see table) Brunei
Brunei
(see table) Canada
Canada
(see table) Ireland
Ireland
(see table) Jamaica
Jamaica
(see postal codes in Jamaica) (suspended in 2007[9]) Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
(since 2015) Malta
Malta
(see table) Netherlands
Netherlands
(see table) Peru
Peru
(The postal code format in Peru
Peru
was updated in February 2011 to be of the format NNNNN (five digits)[10]) [1]. Somalia Swaziland United Kingdom
United Kingdom
(see table)

Countries which prefix their postal codes with a fixed group of letters, indicating a country code, include Andorra, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Ecuador
Ecuador
and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Country code
Country code
prefixes[edit] ISO 3166-1 alpha-2
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2
country codes were recommended by the European Committee for Standardization as well as the Universal Postal Union
Universal Postal Union
to be used in conjunction with postal codes starting in 1994,[11][12] but they have not become widely used. Andorra, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Ecuador, Latvia
Latvia
and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines use the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2
as a prefix in their postal codes. In some countries (such as in continental Europe, where a numeric postcode format of four or five digits is commonly used) the numeric postal code is sometimes prefixed with a country code when sending international mail to that country. Placement of the code[edit] Postal services have their own formats and placement rules for postal codes. In most English-speaking countries, the postal code forms the last item of the address, following the city or town name, whereas in most continental European countries it precedes the name of the city or town. When it follows the city it may be on the same line or on a new line. In Belarus, China, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
it is written at the beginning of an address.[citation needed] Geographic coverage[edit] Postal codes are usually assigned to geographical areas. Sometimes codes are assigned to individual addresses or to institutions that receive large volumes of mail, e.g. government agencies or large commercial companies. One example is the French Cedex system. Postal zone numbers[edit] Before postal codes as described here were used, large cities were often divided into postal zones or postal districts, usually numbered from 1 upwards within each city. The newer postal code systems often incorporate the old zone numbers, as with London
London
postal district numbers, for example. Ireland
Ireland
still uses postal district numbers in Dublin. In New Zealand, Auckland, Wellington
Wellington
and Christchurch
Christchurch
were divided into postal zones, but these fell into disuse, and have now become redundant as a result of a new postcode system being introduced. Codes defined along administrative borders[edit] Some postal code systems, like those of Ecuador
Ecuador
and Costa Rica, show an exact agreement with the hierarchy of administrative country subdivisions. Format of 6 digit numeric (8 digit alphanumeric) postal codes in Ecuador, introduced in December 2007: ECAABBCC

EC - ISO 3166-1 alpha-2
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2
country code AA - one of the 24 provinces of Ecuador
Ecuador
(24 of 100 possible codes used = 24%) BB - one of the 226 cantons of Ecuador
Ecuador
(for AABB 226 of 10000 codes used, i.e. 2.26%. Three cantons are not in any province) CC - one of the parishes of Ecuador.

Format of 5 digit numeric Postal codes in Costa Rica, introduced in 2007: ABBCC

A - one of the 7 provinces of Costa Rica
Costa Rica
(7 of 10 used, i.e. 70%) BB - one of the 81 cantons of Costa Rica
Costa Rica
(81 of 100 used, i.e. 81%) CC - one of the districts of Costa Rica.

In Costa Rica
Costa Rica
these codes are also used by the National Institute for Statistics and Census (INSEC). The first two digits of the postal codes in Turkey correspond to the provinces and each province has assigned only one number. They are the same for them as in ISO 3166-2:TR.[13] The first two digits of the postal codes in Vietnam indicate a province. Some provinces have one, other have several two digit numbers assigned. The numbers differ from the number used in ISO 3166-2:VN. Codes defined close to administrative boundaries[edit]

Map of Brazilian 5-digit postalcodes of São Paulo state. Each color shows a set of administrative areas, and the hierarchy of codes relating indirectly to them.

In France the numeric code for the departments is used as the first two digits of the postal code, except for the two departments in Corsica
Corsica
that have codes 2A and 2B and use 20 as postal code. Furthermore, the codes are only the codes for the department in charge of delivery of the post, so it can be that a location in one department has a postal code starting with the number of a neighbouring department. Codes defined indirectly to administrative borders[edit] The first digit of the postal codes in the United States defines an area including several states. From the first three digits (with some exceptions), one can deduce the state. Similarly, in Canada, the first letter indicates the province or territory, although the provinces of Quebec
Quebec
and Ontario
Ontario
are divided into several lettered sub-regions (e.g. H for Montreal
Montreal
and Laval), and the Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories
and Nunavut
Nunavut
share the letter X. Codes defined independently from administrative areas[edit] The first two digits of the postal codes in Germany define areas independently of administrative regions. The coding space of the first digit is fully used (0-9); that of the first two combined is utilized to 89%, i.e. there are 89 postal zones defined. Zone 11 is non-geographic. Royal Mail
Mail
designed the postal codes in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
mostly for efficient distribution. Nevertheless, people associated codes with certain areas, leading to some people wanting or not wanting to have a certain code. See also postcode lottery. In Brazil
Brazil
the 8-digit postcodes are an evolution of the 5-digit area postal codes. In the 1990s the Brazilian 5-digit postal code (illustrated), DDDDD, received a 3-digit suffix DDDDD-SSS, but this suffix is not directly related to the administrative district hierarchy. The suffix was created only for logistic reasons.

Brazilian 8-digit postal codes - A city block and its faces

City blocks surrounded by streets, some streets with a different 8-digit postal code (suffixes 001 to 899).

Faces of a city block and their extension into its interior. Each color is a 8-digit postal code, usually assigned to a side (odd or even numbered) of a street.

Faces of a city block and their extension between city blocks. The same colors (polygons) indicate the same postal codes.

The postal code assignment can be related to a land lot in the case of special codes assigned to individual land lots (of large receivers). In any other case it is an error to associate the postal code with the whole land lot area: a lot may have no or more than one delivery point.

A postal code is often related to a land lot, but this is not always the case. Postal codes are usually related to access points on streets. Small or middle-sized houses, in general, only have a single main gate which is the delivery point. Parks, large businesses such as shopping centres, and big houses, may have more than one entrance and more than one delivery point. So the semantic of an address and its postal code can vary, and one land lot may have more than one postal code. In Brazil
Brazil
only the suffixes 900-959, that designate large post-receivers, can be assigned to lots. Precision[edit] Ireland[edit] In Ireland, the new postal code system launched in 2015, known as Eircode
Eircode
provides a unique code for each individual address. These 7-character alphanumerical codes are in the format: A99 XXXX While it is not intended to replace addresses, in theory simply providing a 7-character Eircode
Eircode
would locate any Irish delivery address. For example, the Irish Parliament Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann
is: D02 A272 The first three digits are the routing key, which is a postal district and the last four characters are a unique identifier which relates to an individual address (business, house or apartment). Allowed letters for positions: 123 4567 Routing Key: Position 1: A, C, D, E, F, H, K, N, P, R, T, V, W, X, Y Position 2: 0 to 9 Position 3: 0 to 9 with the exception of W for historical Dublin postal district D6W Unique Identifier (positions 4,5,6 & 7): 0–9 and A, C, D, E, F, H, K, N, P, R, T, V, W, X, Y Defined in Eircode
Eircode
specifications : [2] A fully developed API is also available for integrating the Eircode database into business database and logistics systems. You can search for any Irish address' Eircode
Eircode
/ postal code by using the search tool on the Eircode
Eircode
website : [3] Netherlands[edit] Postal codes in the Netherlands, known as postcodes, are alphanumeric, consisting of four digits followed by a space and two letters (NNNN AA). Adding the house number to the postcode will identify the address, making the street name and town name redundant. For example: 2597 GV 75 will direct a postal delivery to Theo Mann-Bouwmeesterlaan 75, 's-Gravenhage (the International School of The Hague). United Kingdom[edit] Further information: Postcodes in the United Kingdom For domestic properties, an individual postcode may cover up to 100 properties in contiguous proximity (e.g. a short section of a populous road, or a group of less populous neighbouring roads). The postcode together with the number or name of a property is not always unique, particularly in rural areas. For example, GL20 8NX/1 might refer to either 1 Frampton Cottages or 1 Frampton Farm Cottages, roughly a quarter of a mile (400 metres) apart. The structure is alphanumeric, with the following six valid formats, as defined by BS 7666:[14]

A9 9AA A9A 9AA A99 9AA AA9 9AA AA9A 9AA AA99 9AA

There are always two halves: the separation between outward and inward postcodes is indicated by one space. The outward postcode covers a unique area and has two parts which may in total be two, three or four characters in length. A postcode area of one or two letters, followed by one or two numbers, followed in some parts of London
London
by a letter. The outward postcode and the leading numeric of the inward postcode in combination forms a postal sector, and this usually corresponds to a couple of thousand properties. Larger businesses and isolated properties such as farms may have a unique postcode. Extremely large organisations such as larger government offices or bank headquarters may have multiple postcodes for different departments. There are about 100 postcode areas, ranging widely in size from BT which covers the whole of Northern Ireland
Ireland
to ZE for Shetland. Postcode areas may also cross national boundaries, such as SY which covers a large, predominantly rural area from Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury
and Ludlow
Ludlow
in Shropshire, England, through to the seaside town of Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
Ceredigion
on Wales' west coast. United States[edit] In the United States, the basic ZIP Code
ZIP Code
is composed of five numbers. The first three numbers identify a specific sectional center facility—or central sorting facility—that serves a geographic region (typically a large part of a state). The next two numbers identify either an area of a city (if in an urban area) or a village/town (if in a suburban/rural area). There is an extended format of the ZIP Code
ZIP Code
known as the ZIP+4, which contains the basic five-digit ZIP Code, followed by a hyphen and four additional digits. These digits identify a specific delivery route, such as one side of a building, a group of apartments, or several floors of a large office building. Although using the ZIP+4
ZIP+4
offers higher accuracy, addressing redundancy, and sorting efficiency within the USPS, it is optional and not widely used by the general public. It is primarily only used by business mailers. For high volume business mailers using automated mailing machines, the USPS
USPS
has promulgated the Intelligent Mail
Mail
barcode standard, which is a barcode containing the ZIP+4
ZIP+4
code plus a two digit delivery point. This 11-digit number theoretically is unique identifier for every address in the country. India[edit] Postal codes are also known as PIN codes in India, PIN being the short form of Postal Index Number.[15] The Pin Code was introduced on 15 August, 1972 by India Post. India uses a unique 6 digit code as a geographical number to identify locations in India. There are 9 postal zones in India:

Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand Rajasthan, Gujarat, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli Maharashtra, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Lakshadweep West Bengal, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Sikkim Bihar, Jharkhand Army Post office
Post office
(APO) and Field Post office
Post office
(FPO)

States and overseas territories sharing a postal code system[edit] French overseas departments and territories use the five-digit French postal code system, each code starting with the three-digit department identifier. Monaco
Monaco
is also integrated in the French system and has no system of its own. The British Crown dependencies
Crown dependencies
of Guernsey, Jersey
Jersey
and the Isle of Man are part of the UK postcode system. They use the schemes AAN NAA and AANN NAA, in which the first two letters are a unique code (GY, JE and IM respectively). Most of the Overseas Territories have UK-style postcodes, with a single postcode for each territory or dependency, although they are still treated as international destinations by Royal Mail
Mail
in the UK, and charged at international rather than UK inland rates.The four other Overseas Territories Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands
Cayman Islands
have their own separate systems and formats. The Pacific island states of Palau, Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
and the Federated States of Micronesia remain part of the US ZIP code
ZIP code
system, despite having become independent states. San Marino
San Marino
and the Vatican City
Vatican City
are part of the Italian postcode system, while Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
similarly uses the Swiss system, as do the Italian enclave of Campione d'Italia
Campione d'Italia
and the German enclave of Büsingen am Hochrhein, although they also form part of their respective countries' postcode systems. The Czech Republic
Czech Republic
and Slovakia
Slovakia
still uses the codes of the former Czechoslovakia, their ranges not overlapping. Non-geographic codes[edit] In the United Kingdom, the non-conforming postal code GIR 0AA was used for the National Girobank
Girobank
until its closure in 2003.[16] A non-geographic series of postcodes, starting with BX, is used by some banks and government departments.

HM Revenue and Customs - VAT Controller VAT Central Unit BX5 5AT[17]

A fictional address is also used by Royal Mail
Mail
for letters to Santa Claus, more commonly known as Santa or Father Christmas:

Santa’s Grotto Reindeerland XM4 5HQ[18]

Previously, the postcode SAN TA1 was used.[19] In Finland
Finland
the special postal code 99999 is for Korvatunturi, the place where Santa Claus (Joulupukki in Finnish) is said to live, although mail is delivered to the Santa Claus Village
Santa Claus Village
in Rovaniemi.[20] In Canada
Canada
the amount of mail sent to Santa Claus increased every Christmas, up to the point that Canada
Canada
Post decided to start an official Santa Claus letter-response program in 1983. Approximately one million letters come in to Santa Claus each Christmas, including from outside of Canada, and all of them are answered in the same languages in which they are written.[21] Canada
Canada
Post introduced a special address for mail to Santa Claus, complete with its own postal code:

SANTA CLAUS NORTH POLE  H0H 0H0

In Belgium bpost sends a small present to children who have written a letter to Sinterklaas. They can use the non-geographic postal code 0612, which refers to the date Sinterklaas
Sinterklaas
is celebrated (6 December), although a fictional town, street and house number are also used. In Dutch, the address is

Sinterklaas Spanjestraat 1 0612 Hemel[22]

This translates as "1 Spain Street, 0612 Heaven". In French, the street is called "Paradise Street":

Saint-Nicolas Rue du Paradis 1 0612 Ciel[23]

Formats[edit] Main article: List of postal codes Non-postal uses and economic aspects[edit]

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2009)

While postal codes were introduced to expedite the delivery of mail, they are very useful tools for several other purposes, particularly in countries where codes are very fine-grained and identify just a few addresses. Among uses are:

Finding the nearest branch of an organisation to a given address. A computer program uses the postal codes of the target address and the branches to list the closest branches in order of distance as the crow flies (or, if used in conjunction with streetmap software, road distance). This can be used by companies to inform potential customers where to go, by job centres to find jobs for job-seekers, to alert people of town planning applications in their area, and a great many other applications.[24] Fine-grained postal codes can be used with satellite navigation systems to navigate to an address by street number and postcode. Geographical sales territories for representatives in the pharmaceutical industry are allocated based on a workload index that is based upon postcode.

Availability[edit] The availability of postal code information has significant economic advantages. In some countries, the postal authorities charge for access to the code database. As of January 2010[update], the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
Government is consulting on whether to waive licensing fees for some geographical data sets (to be determined) related to UK postcodes. See also[edit]

List of postal codes Category:Lists of postal codes Address (geography)#Mailing address format by country Postcode Address File

Notes and references[edit]

^ Lynd-Farquhar Co (1920). "Advertisement for machine tools, 1920". American Machinist: 388.  ^ Hill, Clarke & Co, Inc (1920). "Advertisement for a drill press, 1920". American Machinist: 389.  ^ "The First Postal (ZIP) Code in the World". Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society. 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2010-03-04.  ^ "The history of the postcode". Deutsche Post. Retrieved 2010-10-10.  ^ "ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) Code". International Paper Company. Archived from the original on 2009-11-19. Retrieved 2010-10-10.  ^ "Company History: Schweizerische Post-Telefon-und-Telegrafen-Betriebe". Funding Universe. Retrieved 2010-10-10.  ^ "A short history of the postcode". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2011-02-25. Retrieved 2014-06-25.  ^ "GreatData.com (a licensee of Canada
Canada
Post data)". Retrieved 8 February 2013.  ^ "Post Code Project Suspended Indefinitely". Press Release 07 published in Daily Gleaner. Jamaica
Jamaica
Post. 2007-02-12. Archived from the original on 2010-02-26. Retrieved 2010-03-04.  ^ " List of postal codes in Peru".. 2016-12-19.  ^ da Cruz, Frank (2008-05-17). "Frank's Compulsive Guide to Postal Addresses". Columbia University. Retrieved 2008-06-04.  ^ Formatting an international address (PDF), Universal Postal Union, January 2010, p. 13, retrieved 2010-09-26  ^ http://www.postakodumne.com Archived 2011-04-04 at the Wayback Machine. Posta Kodum Ne - Postal Code Reference for Turkey ^ "BS7666 Address". Data Standards Catalogue. UK National Archives. 2 October 2009. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2015.  ^ "Indian Pin Code Tool bskud.com". bskud.com. Retrieved 2018-01-13.  ^ 40 facts about the postcode to mark 40th anniversary as vital part of daily life, Daily Mirror, 26 August 2014 ^ VAT: insolvency, GOV.UK ^ Who answers all the letters sent to Father Christmas?, Daily Telegraph, 5 December 2013 ^ Santa: 'I'm not a Superman, but I do exist', BBC News Online, 11 December 2002 ^ Not For Parents Travel Book, Lonely Planet, 2012, page 84 ^ Canada
Canada
Post (27 January 2007). "Over one million children write letters to Santa". Retrieved 27 April 2009.  ^ Ook dit jaar, helpt bpost de Sint, bpost ^ Cette année également, bpost apporte son aide à Saint-Nicolas, bpost ^ Charles Arthur. "Guardian newspaper article on postcodes". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 2018-02-26. 

External links[edit]

Wikidata
Wikidata
has the property: postal code (P281) (see talk; uses)

Postal codes at Curlie (based on DMOZ) Universal Postal Union

Addressing Postcodes

Reference on World Postcodes Canadian Postal Code Lookup web page from Canada
Canada
Post Pakistan Postcodes

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