Q:

How are Canadian postal codes formatted?

A:

Quick Answer

Canadian postal codes use three numerals and three letters ordered as ANA NAN, where A is a letter and N is a number. The first group of three characters is the regional indicator, whereas the second group is the local indicator.

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Full Answer

Canadian senders place postal codes after the municipality and province, but on the same line. For convenience, Canada Post provides an online postal code lookup tool.

The Canadian postal code system allows for approximately 7.2 million combinations, making for very precise postal code locations. Many postal codes point to specific city blocks or large buildings. The first letter in a postal code refers to a large area, usually a significant part of a province. The second two characters refer to an urban area or a group of villages. Many cities use multiple first groupings. For instance, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, uses codes S7H through S7W.

Due to the many combinations available, Canadian postal codes point to much more accurate locations than American ZIP codes, which are roughly equivalent in accuracy to the first three characters of Canadian postal codes. Canadian postal codes are similar to British postal codes, which also use an alphanumeric system. Postal code accuracy allows for many other uses, such as finding business locations and electoral ridings.

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