Canadian ZIP Code for Credit Cards: How to use them in the U.S.

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Canadians travelling to the United States or purchasing items online from U.S. retailers may encounter situations requiring a ZIP code for their credit card transactions. The most common example is pre-paying at U.S. gas stations.

The problem is that Canadians have alphanumeric postal codes, whereas Americans use digit ZIP codes. This presents a problem for Canadian credit cardholders as their postal code won’t be accepted.

Fortunately, you can use a simple trick to get around this problem. All you need to do is convert your Canadian postal code into a format that mimics the U.S. ZIP code system. You’d take the numbers from your Canadian postal code and add two zeros at the end. This modified number often allows Canadian credit cards to be accepted where a ZIP code is required. 

What is a Canadian Postal Code?

A Canadian Postal Code is an essential part of your mailing address, ensuring the accurate delivery of your mail. It consists of six characters in the alternating format of Letter, Number, Letter, Number, Letter, Number, such as A1B 2C3. 

In case you’re curious, the following is how Canadian postal codes are broken down: 

  • First Segment: The initial three characters, A1B, represent the Forward Sortation Area (FSA), indicating the specific geographic region. For example, Toronto or Vancouver.
  • Second Segment: The remaining three characters, 2C3, are for the Local Delivery Unit (LDU), which points to an exact location within the regional area, such as North York or Granville.

Not only is your postal code used for delivering mail, but it’s also often required for online purchases. That’s because postal/ZIP code is used as a form of identification. Oddly enough, some American websites only allow you to input a 5-digit ZIP code, even though your Canadian credit card is accepted. That’s where the Canadian ZIP code trick for credit cards comes into play.

Keep in mind that when entering your “ZIP code,” it must match the address that’s listed on your credit card. For most people, this will be their home address, but some people with a business credit card may use their business address.

What is a Canadian ZIP Code?

In Canada, ZIP codes do not exist. Instead, they use a postal code system, a string of six characters comprising three letters and three digits. 

When using your Canadian credit card in the United States, you may be asked for a ZIP code, the American equivalent of a postal code. To address this, you can follow a common practice: take the numbers from your Canadian postal code and add two zeros. So, if your postal code is A1B 2C3, you’ll enter 12300 as your ZIP code when prompted.

This is a known workaround that Visa, Mastercard, and American Express encourage, but it’s not foolproof. If the ZIP code trick doesn’t work, you’ll must pay at the cashier or contact customer service to process your payment.

Zip Code for Canadian Credit Cards

When using a Canadian credit card in the United States, providing e a ZIP code is sometimes required, particularly at gas stations and online purchases. As mentioned above, you can create a ZIP code using your Canadian postal code. 

Using a Canadian postal code at U.S. gas stations

At U.S. gas stations, when paying in advance at the pump, you’ll almost always be required to insert your credit card and enter your ZIP code for verification. When using a Canadian credit card, you’ll take the numbers from your postal code and add two zeros. For example, if your postal code is T3B 4M1, your ZIP code becomes 34100. This method allows you to use your credit card without many issues.

E-Commerce and Online Payments

Have you ever noticed that online merchants always ask you for your postal code when making purchases? This is known as the Address Verification System (AVS) in the United States, and retailers use it to prevent fraudulent transactions. When you make a purchase, AVS checks the address provided against what’s on file with your credit card company. 

Not every U.S. merchant allows you to select Canada as your country, so you may be forced to enter a five-digit number for the postal code. That’s where you would just use the digits of your postal code followed by two zeroes.

Final thoughts

For most Canadians, knowing your Canadian ZIP code would only matter when pumping gas in the United States. In the U.S., TAP payments at the gas station are not standard. You must insert your card and enter your ZIP code to process the payment. If you forget the trick or it’s not working, don’t worry. You can always pay inside at the cashier, where you can TAP or insert your card and PIN.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I locate my Canadian postal code for credit card verification purposes?

The Canadian postal code used for credit card verification is the same postal code you have on your credit card account.

What should I enter as a ZIP code when using a Canadian credit card on American websites?

When shopping on American websites or at U.S. gas stations, you can convert your Canadian postal code to a U.S. ZIP Code. You would take the numbers from your postal code and add two zeros at the end. For example, M5V 3L9 becomes 53900.

Does Canada use 5-digit postal codes like the United States?

Canada does not use 5-digit postal codes. Instead, Canadian postal codes are a mix of six characters, including letters and numbers, that form a unique code for addresses.

What is the difference between credit card ZIP code and CVV?

A credit card ZIP code refers to the postal code associated with the billing address of the credit card in the United States, whereas the CVV (Card Verification Value) is a three or four-digit number on the front or back of the card itself, which provides added security against credit card fraud.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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