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A postal code (also known locally in various English-speaking countries throughout the world as a postcode, post code, PIN 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.
As of August 2021, the Universal Postal Union lists 160 countries which require the use of a postal code.
Although postal codes are usually assigned lớn geographical areas, special codes are sometimes assigned lớn individual addresses or lớn institutions that receive large volumes of mail, such as government agencies and large commercial companies. One example is the French CEDEX system.
There are a number of synonyms for postal code; some are country-specific:
- 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).
- Eircode: The standard term in Ireland.
- NPA in French-speaking Switzerland (numéro postal d'acheminement) and Italian-speaking Switzerland (numero postale di avviamento).
- PIN: The standard term in India; PIN is an acronym for Postal Index Number. Sometimes called a PIN code.
- PLZ: The standard term in Germany, Austria, German-speaking Switzerland and Liechtenstein; PLZ is an abbreviation of Postleitzahl (postal routing number).
- 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.
- Postal index: This term is used in Eastern European countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus etc.
- PSČ: The standard term in Slovakia and the Czech Republic; PSČ is an acronym for Poštové smerovacie číslo (in Slovak) or Poštovní směrovací číslo (in Czech), both meaning postal routing number.
- ZIP Code: The standard term in the United States and the Philippines; ZIP is an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan.
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 was first subdivided into 10 districts in 1857 (EC (East Central), WC (West Central), N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, and NW), four were created lớn cover Liverpool in 1864 and Manchester/Salford was split into eight numbered districts in 1867/68. By World War I, such postal district or zone numbers also existed in various large European cities. They existed in the United States at least as late 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 lớn cover even small towns and rural locales was in the air. These developed into postal codes as they are defined today. The name of US postal codes, "ZIP codes", reflects this evolutionary growth from a zone plan lớn 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 lớn introduce postal codes was Germany in 1941, followed by Singapore in 1950, 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.
The characters used in postal codes are:
- The Western Arabic numerals "0" lớn "9"
- Letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet
- Spaces, hyphens
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" (Schutzstaffel), "SD" (Sicherheitsdienst), and "SA" (Sturmabteilung) are not used, due lớn links with the Nazi occupation in World War II.
Postal codes in Canada vì thế not include the letters D, F, I, O, Q, or U, as the optical character recognition (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 third character) in this format: A9A 9A9
In 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 lớn avoid accidental double-entendres by avoiding the creation of word look-alikes, as Eircode's last four characters are random.
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 two digit numeric code can represent 100 locations, a two 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 table) (suspended in 2007)
- Kazakhstan (since 2015)
- Malta (see table)
- Netherlands (see table)
- Peru (see table) The postal code format in Peru was updated in February 2011 lớn be of the format of 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, Barbados, Ecuador and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Country code prefixes
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country codes were recommended by the European Committee for Standardization as well as the Universal Postal Union lớn 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 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 lớn 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 thành phố or town name, whereas in most continental European countries it precedes the name of the thành phố or town.
When it follows the thành phố it may be on the same line or on a new line.
In Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan it is written at the beginning of an address. In nhật bản it is written at the start of the address when written in Japanese, but at the kết thúc when the address is written in the Latin alphabet.
Postal codes are usually assigned lớn geographical areas. Sometimes codes are assigned lớn individual addresses or lớn 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 thành phố. 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, Wellington and 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
Some postal code systems, lượt thích those of Ecuador and Costa Rica, show an exact agreement with the hierarchy of administrative country subdivisions.
Format of six digit numeric (eight digit alphanumeric) postal codes in Ecuador, introduced in December 2007: ECAABBCC
- EC - ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code
- AA - one of the 24 provinces of Ecuador (24 of 100 possible codes used = 24%)
- 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 five digit numeric Postal codes in Costa Rica, introduced in 2007: ABBCC
- A - one of the seven 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.
In Costa Rica these codes were originally used as district identifiers by the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Costa Rica and the Administrative Territorial Division, and continue lớn be equivalent.
The first two digits of the postal codes in Turkey correspond lớn 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 3166-2:VN.
Codes defined close lớn administrative boundaries
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 trăng tròn as postal code. Furthermore, the codes are only the codes for the department in charge of delivery of the post, ví it can be that a location in one department has a postal code starting with the number of a neighbouring department.
Codes defined indirectly lớn administrative borders
The first digit of the postal codes in the United States comprises discrete states. From the first three digits one can infer the state, with a few exceptions where an area is served by a central office in an adjacent state.
Similarly, in Canada, the first letter indicates the province or territory, although the provinces of Quebec and Ontario are divided into several lettered sub-regions (e.g. H for Montreal and Laval), and the 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 lớn 89%, i.e. there are 89 postal zones defined. Zone 11 is non-geographic.
Royal Mail designed the postal codes in the United Kingdom mostly for efficient distribution. Nevertheless, people associated codes with certain areas, leading lớn some people wanting or not wanting lớn have a certain code. See also postcode lottery.
In Brazil the 8-digit postcodes are an evolution of the five-digit area postal codes. In the 1990s the Brazilian five-digit postal code (illustrated),
DDDDD, received a three-digit suffix
DDDDD-SSS, but this suffix is not directly related lớn the administrative district hierarchy. The suffix was created only for logistic reasons.
- Brazilian eight-digit postal codes - A thành phố block and its faces
City blocks surrounded by streets, some streets with a different eight-digit postal code (suffixes 001 lớn 899).
Faces of a thành phố block and their extension into its interior. Each color is an eight-digit postal code, usually assigned lớn a side (odd or even numbered) of a street.
Faces of a thành phố block and their extension between thành phố blocks. The same colors (polygons) indicate the same postal codes.
The postal code assignment can be assigned lớn individual land lots in some special cases — in Brazil they are named "large receivers" and receive suffixes 900–959. In any other case it is an error lớn associate the postal code with the whole land lot area (illustrated).
A postal code is often related lớn a land lot, but this is not always the case. Postal codes are usually related lớn 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 centers, and big houses, may have more than vãn one entrance and more than vãn one delivery point. So the semantic of an address and its postal code can vary, and one land lot may have more than vãn one postal code.
Czechoslovakia introduced Postal Routing Numbers (PSČ - poštovní směrovací čísla) in 1973. The code consists of 5 digits formatted into two groups: NNN NN. Originally, the first group marked a district transport centre, the second group represented the order of post offices on the collection route. In the first group, the first digit corresponds partly with the region, the second digit meant a collection transport node (sběrný přepravní uzel, SPU) and the third digit a "district transport node" (okresní přepravní uzel). However, processing was later centralized and mechanized while codes remained the same. After separation Slovakia and the Czech Republic kept the system. Codes with an initial digit of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 are used in the Czech Republic, while codes with an initial digit of 8, 9, or 0 are used in Slovakia
A code corresponds lớn a local postal office. However, some larger companies or organizations have their own post codes. In 2004–2006 there were some efforts in Slovakia lớn reform the system, lớn get separate post codes for every district of single postmen, but the change was not realized.
Postal codes are known as Postal Index Numbers (PINs; sometimes as PIN codes) in India. The PIN system was introduced on 15 August 1972 by India Post. India uses a unique six-digit code as a geographical number lớn identify locations in India. The format of the PIN is ZSDPPP defined as follows:
- Z — Zone
- S — Sub-zone
- D — Sorting District
- P — Service Route
- PP — Post Office
There are nine total zones consisting of eight regional zones and a functional zone which are represented by the first digit.
In Ireland, the new postal code system launched in năm ngoái, known as Eircode provides a unique 7-character alphanumerical code for each individual address. The first three digits are the routing key, which is a postal district and the last four characters are a unique identifier that relates lớn an individual address (business, house or apartment). A fully developed API is also available for integrating the Eircode database into business databases and logistics systems.
With a single exception, these codes are in the format:
The single exception is the Dublin D6W postal district. It is the only routing key area in the country that takes the format ANA instead of ANN:
While it is not intended lớn replace addresses, in theory simply providing a seven-character Eircode would locate any Irish delivery address. For example, the Irish Parliament Dáil Éireann is: D02 A272
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 lớn the postcode will identify the address, making the street name and town name redundant. For example: 2597 GV 75 will direct a postal delivery lớn Theo Mann-Bouwmeesterlaan 75, 's-Gravenhage (the International School of The Hague).
Since 1 September 1995, every building in Singapore has been given a unique, six-digit postal code.
For domestic properties, an individual postcode may cover up lớn 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 lớn 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:
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 by a letter.
The outward postcode and the leading numeric of the inward postcode in combination forms a postal sector, and this usually corresponds lớn 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 ngân hàng 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 lớn WC for a small part of Central London. Postcode areas occasionally cross national boundaries, such as SY which covers a large, predominantly rural area from Shrewsbury and Ludlow in Shropshire, England, through lớn 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 a specific post office either serving an area of a thành phố (if in an urban area or large suburban area) or an entire village, town, or small thành phố and its surrounding area (if in a small suburban or 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 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 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 is theoretically a unique identifier for every address in the country.
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 identifier. Monaco is also integrated in the French system and has no system of its own.
The British 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 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 in the UK, and charged at international rather than vãn UK inland rates. The four other Overseas Territories Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and 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 system, while Liechtenstein similarly uses the Swiss system, as vì thế the Italian exclave of Campione d'Italia and the German exclave of Büsingen am Hochrhein, although they also khuông part of their respective countries' postal code systems.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia still use the codes of the former Czechoslovakia, their ranges not overlapping. In 2004–2006, Slovakia prepared a reform of the system but the plan was postponed and maybe abandoned. In the Czech Republic, there was no significant effort lớn modify the system.
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
- BX5 5AT
A fictional address is also used by Royal Mail for letters lớn Santa Claus, more commonly known as Santa or Father Christmas:
- Santa's Grotto
- Reindeerland XM4 5HQ
Previously, the postcode SAN TA1 was used.
In Finland, the special postal code 99999 is for Korvatunturi, the place where Santa Claus (Joulupukki in Finnish) is said lớn live, although mail is delivered lớn the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi.
In Canada, the amount of mail sent lớn Santa Claus increased every Christmas, up lớn the point that Canada Post decided lớn start an official Santa Claus letter-response program in 1983. Approximately one million letters come in lớn 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 lớn Santa Claus, complete with its own postal code:
- SANTA CLAUS
- NORTH POLE H0H 0H0
In Belgium bpost sends a small present lớn children who have written a letter lớn Sinterklaas. They can use the non-geographic postal code 0612, which refers lớn the date Sinterklaas is celebrated (6 December), although a fictional town, street and house number are also used. In Dutch, the address is
- Spanjestraat 1
- 0612 Hemel
This translates as "1 Spain Street, 0612 Heaven". In French, the street is called "Paradise Street":
- Rue du Paradis 1
- 0612 Ciel
Non-postal uses and economic aspects
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding lớn it. (December 2009)
While postal codes were introduced lớn 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 lớn a given address. A computer program uses the postal codes of the target address and the branches lớn list the closest branches in order of distance as the crow flies (or, if used in conjunction with street map software, road distance). This can be used by companies lớn inform potential customers where lớn go, by job centres lớn find jobs for job-seekers, lớn alert people of town planning applications in their area, and a great many other applications.
- Fine-grained postal codes can be used with satellite navigation systems lớn navigate lớn 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.
- Population data can be isolated, grouped and/or organized by postal code for statistical analysis
This section needs lớn be updated. Please help update this article lớn reflect recent events or newly available information.
The availability of postal code information has significant economic advantages. In some countries, the postal authorities charge for access lớn the code database. As of January 2010, the United Kingdom Government is consulting on whether lớn waive licensing fees for some geographical data sets (to be determined) related lớn UK postcodes.
- List of postal codes
- Category:Lists of postal codes
- Address#Format by country and area
- Postcode Address File
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- Postal codes at Curlie
- Universal Postal Union
- Addressing Archived 3 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Postcodes Archived 3 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Reference on World Postcodes