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In the USA, many pay-at-the-pump fuel dispensers that accept credit cards require a 5-digit numeric zip code that corresponds to the billing address of the credit card. In Canada, for instance, we have 6-digit alphanumeric postal codes, so it's not obvious what you're supposed to type in since the gas dispensers have only numeric keypads. Entering '00000' or '90210' seems to always result in failed authorization.

Is there a zip code that works for credit cards with foreign billing addresses?

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Would you consider broadening the question to 'foreign credit card'? I think that would make it more useful to others. – Andrew Ferrier Jan 8 '13 at 9:16
    
@AndrewFerrier: I concur, though the Canadian credit card seems to be an exception, AFAIK. – Jonas Jan 8 '13 at 17:54
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@AndrewFerrier - Edited to 'foreign' rather than 'canadian' credit card. – alx9r Jan 8 '13 at 21:17
    
Some US gas stations are card-only during the night. Both cash and foreign cards are useless in that situation. – user8145 Aug 27 '13 at 13:32

Canadian Credit Cards

Many fuel dispensers in the USA (for sure in Hawaii, apparently elsewhere in the USA as well) accept the numbers-only from the postal code of a Canadian billing address followed by two zeros.

So, if your Canadian billing address is right beside Schwartz's Deli in Montreal where the postal code is H2W 1L2, you would enter '21200'. Where the '212' are the numbers from the postal code, and the '00' is padding to get to 5 digits.

Interestingly, if your billing address is in Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta where the postal code is T0L 0Z0, you actually would enter '00000'.

Edit: I just tested this on January 23rd, 2014. It still works.

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Interesting. How did you learn this? – Nate Eldredge Jan 8 '13 at 7:27
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While Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo Jump is one of the more colourful place names in Canada, the 0s are easy to find. Small rural places that all share the same postal code have them to allow expansion later. – Kate Gregory Jan 8 '13 at 14:33
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@NateEldredge: Although I'm American and can't test this, this makes sense. Software implementing AVS (the mechanism of credit card verification that verifies addresses) is expected to send only the numeric parts of the address and/or zip code. (Eg, if your billing address is "42 Anystreet Ln", your address is only verified as "42".) – Edward Thomson Jan 8 '13 at 15:07
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I wonder whether this scheme works for other countries as well as Edward Thompson's comment would suggest. – oefe Jan 27 '13 at 12:54
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@EdwardThomson american here. does this mean i may not need to provide my full address when paying with a credit card online—just the numbers? that would be great. – sgroves May 21 '15 at 19:58

UK Credit Cards

I have a UK credit card and have had mixed results using my card at the pump. Sometimes no ZIP code is asked for and it works fine. Also, sometimes entering 00000 does work (I'm guessing because it's not subsequently using the ZIP code entered). In about 80% of cases, though (and it does seem to vary as to where in the US you are), I've had to go into the gas station - although they generally seem well equipped to handle the exception process (by which I mean, at that point it doesn't seem to matter that it's foreign - I just ask for X$ of gas and they charge it - the difference being refunded if it's unused).

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In my experiences with using a UK card in the states, 00000 doesn't work, and the staff in the gas station are able to handle the exception, but I wouldn't say "well equipped to handle"... – Gagravarr Mar 4 '13 at 17:39
    
Incidentally, I have also found that 00000 works at some other automated machines (such as the Metrocard top-up machines in New York City). – Andrew Ferrier Aug 16 '15 at 18:49
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The trick for Canada has worked for me with a UK credit card, too: use all the digits in your postcode then pad with zeroes. So for example, if your postcode is SW1A 2AA, your "zipcode" would be 12000. – Simon Whitaker May 23 at 16:26
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At unsocial hours the gas station may be unmanned, so the only option is to use a card at the pump. As it happens I have a US credit and debit cards, but have yet to memorise the zip code associated with those cards, I therefore have to remember to use the Debit card and its PIN. Have yet to try my UK Debit card. – djna Jul 8 at 14:14

German Credit Cards

I've had mixed results with German credit cards. Since we also have 5 digits ZIP codes, the match should be fairly easy. However, on some occasions it worked perfectly, while on others it didn't and I had to see the cashier. All in all, there doesn't seem to be any kind of rule or system - at least not to me.

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probably different handling agents use different mechanisms. The smart ones notice it's a foreign card and just ignore the number, stupid ones assume all numbers are US numbers and can't match the resulting US zip to the card (doh!), and still others try to do a foreign lookup and fail because non-US credit card agencies don't do such things, again causing a fail. – jwenting Aug 29 '13 at 6:27
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No, you definitely need to enter your German billing addresses ZIP code. On my first encounters with a US pump I tried my hotel's ZIP code, because I didn't know that the ZIP code is used to validate the card and not for market research. Only when I started entering my home's ZIP code it worked almost every time. The success rate also seems to depend on the card itself. In my experience, American Express causes the least amount of trouble in the US. It's almost always accepted, even in vending machines. – Tim Jansen Mar 27 '14 at 17:21

Swedish Credit Cards

Swedish credit cards work fine. You can type in your Swedish zipcode (also 5 digit) but I honestly doubt the system checks for foreign cards.

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I have UK and Italian credit cards. Italy also has 5 digit postal codes and I've sometimes been able to use the postal code at the pump with an Italian card.

I've also called my credit card company and asked if I could put a temporary address on a credit card so that I could have a zip code associated. In my case they said I would have to have that as my only address but could change it back later. In the end I decided not to do that, but might be worth asking if your credit card company can do it. Perhaps just put the address of the hotel you're staying at.

As other people have said, I've also had luck using just the digits of my UK postal code padded with zeroes. I've never been able to use all zeroes.

The mechanism that the gas station uses, is the credit card Address Verification Service. It's worth noting that there seem to be restrictions on this in various US states as noted in this cpn site:

There are some controversies and legal issues when requesting AVS information. For example, in California and Massachusetts it may be illegal to ask for ZIP code information, as this is seen as a privacy violation.

This may explain why all zeroes are accepted in some places and not others.

AVS works differently with different card suppliers, so it may be possible that a Mastercard works with a foreign 5 digit postal code, or zero-padded postal code, whereas an Amex doesn't, or vice versa.

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protected by Karlson Feb 11 '14 at 2:30

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