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
3.1 Character sets
3.1.1 Reserved characters
3.1.2 Alphanumeric postal codes
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
4.6.3 United Kingdom
4.6.4 United States
4.7 States and overseas territories sharing a postal code system
5 Non-geographic codes
7 Non-postal uses and economic aspects
8 See also
9 Notes and references
10 External links
There are a number of synonyms for postal code; some are
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 (numéro postal d'acheminement) and
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 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.
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
London was first subdivided into 10 districts in 1857, and
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,) 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, but the system was
abandoned in 1939. The next country to introduce postal codes was
Germany in 1941, followed by
Argentina in 1958, the United States
in 1963 and
Switzerland in 1964. The
United Kingdom began
introducing its current system in Norwich in 1959, but they were not
used nationwide until 1974.
Postal codes by country:
Postal codes not in use
The characters used in postal codes are
Arabic numerals "0" to "9"
Letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet
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
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
Alphanumeric postal codes
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 (see table)
Brunei (see table)
Canada (see table)
Ireland (see table)
Jamaica (see postal codes in Jamaica) (suspended in 2007)
Kazakhstan (since 2015)
Malta (see table)
Netherlands (see table)
Peru (The postal code format in
Peru was updated in February 2011 to
be of the format NNNNN (five digits)) .
United Kingdom (see table)
Countries which prefix their postal codes with a fixed group of
letters, indicating a country code, include Andorra, Azerbaijan,
Ecuador and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Country code prefixes
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, but
they have not become widely used.
Andorra, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Ecuador,
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
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
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
When it follows the city it may be on the same line or on a new line.
In Belarus, China, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia,
Turkmenistan it is
written at the beginning of an address.
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
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 postal district
numbers, for example.
Ireland still uses postal district numbers in
Dublin. In New Zealand, Auckland,
divided into postal zones, but these fell into disuse, and have now
become redundant as a result of a new postcode system being
Codes defined along administrative borders
Some postal code systems, like those of
Ecuador and Costa Rica, show
an exact agreement with the hierarchy of administrative country
Format of 6 digit numeric (8 digit alphanumeric) postal codes in
Ecuador, introduced in December 2007: ECAABBCC
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code
AA - one of the 24 provinces of
Ecuador (24 of 100 possible codes used
BB - one of the 226 cantons of
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
A - one of the 7 provinces of
Costa Rica (7 of 10 used, i.e. 70%)
BB - one of the 81 cantons of
Costa Rica (81 of 100 used, i.e. 81%)
CC - one of the districts of 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.
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
Codes defined close to administrative boundaries
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 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
Codes defined indirectly to administrative borders
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
Ontario are divided
into several lettered sub-regions (e.g. H for
Montreal and Laval), and
Northwest Territories and
Nunavut share the letter X.
Codes defined independently from administrative areas
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
Mail designed the postal codes in the
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.
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
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
Brazil only the suffixes 900-959, that designate large
post-receivers, can be assigned to lots.
In Ireland, the new postal code system launched in 2015, known as
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 would locate any Irish delivery
For example, the Irish Parliament
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
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
Eircode specifications : 
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 / postal code by using
the search tool on the
Eircode website : 
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).
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:
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 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 to ZE for Shetland.
Postcode areas may also cross national boundaries, such as SY which
covers a large, predominantly rural area from
Shropshire, England, through to the seaside town of Aberystwyth,
Ceredigion on Wales' west coast.
In the United States, the basic
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 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
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 has promulgated the Intelligent
Mail barcode standard, which is a
barcode containing the
ZIP+4 code plus a two digit delivery point.
This 11-digit number theoretically is unique identifier for every
address in the country.
Postal codes are also known as PIN codes in India, PIN being the short
form of Postal Index Number. 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,
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
Post office (APO) and Field
Post office (FPO)
States and overseas territories sharing a postal code system
French overseas departments and territories use the five-digit French
postal code system, each code starting with the three-digit department
Monaco is also integrated in the French system and has no
system of its own.
Crown dependencies of Guernsey,
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
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 in the UK,
and charged at international rather than UK inland rates.The four
other Overseas Territories Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands have their own separate systems and formats.
The Pacific island states of Palau,
Marshall Islands and the Federated
States of Micronesia remain part of the US
ZIP code system, despite
having become independent states.
San Marino and the
Vatican City are part of the Italian postcode
Liechtenstein similarly uses the Swiss system, as do the
Italian enclave of
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 and
Slovakia still uses the codes of the former Czechoslovakia, their
ranges not overlapping.
In the United Kingdom, the non-conforming postal code GIR 0AA was used
for the National
Girobank until its closure in 2003. 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
A fictional address is also used by Royal
Mail for letters to Santa
Claus, more commonly known as Santa or Father Christmas:
Reindeerland XM4 5HQ
Previously, the postcode SAN TA1 was used.
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
Canada the amount of mail sent to Santa Claus increased every
Christmas, up to the point that
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.
Canada Post introduced a
special address for mail to Santa Claus, complete with its own postal
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 is celebrated (6 December),
although a fictional town, street and house number are also used. In
Dutch, the address is
This translates as "1 Spain Street, 0612 Heaven". In French, the
street is called "Paradise Street":
Rue du Paradis 1
Main article: List of postal codes
Non-postal uses and economic aspects
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December
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
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.
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 Government is consulting on whether to waive licensing
fees for some geographical data sets (to be determined) related to UK
List of postal codes
Category:Lists of postal codes
Address (geography)#Mailing address format by country
Postcode Address File
Notes and references
^ 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
^ "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
^ "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 Post data)". Retrieved 8
^ "Post Code Project Suspended Indefinitely". Press Release 07
published in Daily Gleaner.
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
^ 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
^ Not For Parents Travel Book, Lonely Planet, 2012, page 84
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,
^ Charles Arthur. "Guardian newspaper article on postcodes".
Theguardian.com. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
Wikidata has the property: postal code (P281) (see talk; uses)
Postal codes at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Universal Postal Union
Reference on World Postcodes
Canadian Postal Code Lookup web page from
Mail and postal systems
Timeline of postal history
Post box / Mailbox
Surface Air Lifted (SAL)
Mail Isolation Control and Tracking
Multiline Optical Character Reader
Postal systems by country
List of entities that have
issued postage stamps
MARC country codes
SGC codes (Canada)
UN M.49 (UN)
IATA airport code
ICAO airport code
IANA country code
IOC country code
FIFA country code
Military Grid Reference System
Munich Orientation Convention
Natural Area Code
Open Location Code
FIPS country code (FIPS 10-4)
FIPS place code (FIPS 55)
FIPS county code (FIPS 6-4)
FIPS state code (FIPS 5-2)
Natural Area Code
Postal Index Number
Postal Index Number (India)
ZIP Code (United States)
ITU-R country codes
ITU-T country calling codes
ITU-T mobile calling codes
Maidenhead Locator System
Historical : QRA locator
IOC country codes
FIFA country codes