Difference Between Zip Code And Postal Code

Communication is an essential aspect of everyone’s life. Communicating with others allows us to talk about our thoughts and make us feel whole.

It is as if communication completes every species. Over centuries, men have developed different ways of communicating.

Common ways of communication are the Internet, letters, verbal communication, etc.

Zip Code vs Postal Code

The main difference between Zip Code and Postal Code is that Zip Code is a numeric code used to sort mails. On the other hand, Postal Code includes numbers, letters, or both to identify different locations. Moreover, the US and Philippines use Zip Codes, whereas all the other countries use Postal Codes. 

Zip Code vs Postal Code

Zip Codes are specific codes registered to different areas to better identify them and make the mail system more efficient.

Zip Codes were introduced by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to strengthen the US mailing system.

Other than the US, Zip Codes are used in the Philippines.

Postal Codes are assigned to defined areas to differentiate them from other locations so that they are easy to locate.

If the locating process becomes fast, the efficiency of the whole mailing system increases, and the mechanism is more robust.

Typically, countries use numeric Postal Codes, but some countries use alphanumeric codes.

Comparison Table Between Zip Code And Postal Code

Parameters of ComparisonZip CodePostal Code
Used inUnited States of America and PhilippinesOther countries except for US and Philippines
Introduced in19631857
ObjectiveTo locate different areas without hasslesLocation identification, census, demographical information identification
Type of codeNumeric CodeNumeric, alphanumeric, and sometimes contains punctuation marks 
Full formZone Improvement Plan (ZIP)No full form
Number of characters5 (ZIP), 9 (ZIP+4)4-6 characters long

What is Zip Code?

Zip Codes are numeric codes given to areas in the United States and the Philippines to easily identify the specified location.

In a country, no two Zip Codes are the same, and therefore it is easy to differentiate between two areas based on their Zip Codes.

As the identification becomes fast, the whole mailing system becomes more efficient.

Zip Codes were launched by the United States Postal Service (USPS) on July 1, 1963, to facilitate the existing mailing system and make it effective.

Robert Moon is regarded as the Father of Zip Code as it was his idea to identify areas using numbers.

Initially, ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) codes contained five digits and were not mandatory.

However, in 1983, the USPS introduced a nine-digit code called ZIP+4 to cover apartments, post offices, and other locations with specific details. ZIP+4 code contained the original five digits and four digits after a hyphen.

Since Zip Codes were initially non-mandatory, people were unwilling to use them.

To counter this issue, the USPS started to advertise the benefits and importance of Zip Codes.

A cartoon character named Mr. ZIP and the musical group “The Swingin’ Six” promoted the advantages and use of Zip Codes.  

What is Postal Code?

Postal Codes create a coding mechanism that accelerates location identification.

A unique code that contains letters, numbers, or both and sometimes punctuation is registered to a specific area such that no two locations have the same code.

Due to this uniqueness, finding exact addresses is effortless, and therefore the mail system is fastened.

As the population grew and more geographical development took place, it became complex to deliver a post using the address.

Since only large cities faced this issue in early times, Postal Codes were first implemented there. In 1857, London was divided into ten districts using two-letter codes.

After that, in 1864, Liverpool introduced similar codes, and in 1867, Manchester was distributed into eight numbered areas.

Later, countries like Germany, Argentina, the United States, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Singapore introduced their Postal Codes system.

Postal Codes are also known as postcodes and PIN codes in some countries. According to data from 2005, 117 countries out of 190 members of the Universal Postal Union used the Postal Codes system to empower mail deliveries in their nation.

For international post-delivery, people have to use country codes defined by the ISO 3166 standard as suffixes before the Postal Code of that place. 

Main Differences Between Zip Code And Postal Code

  1. Zip Codes are used in the United States and the Philippines. On the other hand, Postal Codes are used in other countries except for the US and the Philippines.
  2. Zip Codes were introduced in 1963 by the United States Postal Service (USPS). On the other hand, Postal Codes were introduced in 1857 in London.
  3. The objective of Zip Codes is to identify or locate areas. On the other hand, the motive of Postal Codes is to generate demographical information, help in the census, and location identification.
  4. Zip Codes are numeric codes, i.e., they contain numbers. On the other hand, Postal Codes contain letters, numbers, or both, or sometimes punctuation marks.
  5. The full form of Zip Codes is Zone Improvement Plan Codes. On the other hand, there is no full form of Postal Codes.
  6. Zip Codes contain five digits and sometimes nine (ZIP+4). On the other hand, Postal Codes use 4-6 characters.


The reason why people get confused between Zip Codes and Postal Codes is that they are constantly interchangeably used.

Both are similar as they empower mail delivery, but they are dissimilar in many ways.

This sentence better describes this difference: All Zip Codes are Postal Codes, but not all Postal Codes are Zip Codes. 

To summarize, Zip Codes are used in the United States and the Philippines to easily identify a location and make mail delivery fast.

On the other hand, Postal Codes are used in other countries except for the Philippines and the US to divide areas and assign them unique numbers to that location identification isn’t complex.

Other than the main motive of fastening postal services, Postal Codes are used for demographics and census.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0038012106000516
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-8306.2005.00481.x
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