Postal Codes Explained

What is a 'postal code'?

Canadian postal codes are comprised of six characters and allow for mail to be mechanically, and manually, sorted for easier mail delivery to specific geographic locations. Currently there are approximately 850,000 postal codes in Canada with an average of 14 households in each.

Structure of a postal code

All Canadian postal codes follow the same format and are divided into two three-character segments:

A#A #A#
(letter-number-letter-space-number-letter-number)

The first segment is called the 'forward sortation area' (FSA) and is used to identify the geographic location of the address. The first character of the FSA represents the 'postal district', which splits the country into major geographic regions – for example, 'N' is used for all of South-Western Ontario and 'V' is used for all of British Columbia.

The second character is used to separate rural and urban regions. The number '0' denotes a rural region with numbers 1 through 9 representing urban areas. It's common for rural regions to be 'urbanized', which involves the changing of the '0' to another number. The third character is used to more precisely describe the geographic area of the address.

The second segment is called the 'location delivery unit' (LDU) and represents either a specific address or group of addresses. Sometimes an LDU covers an entire city block, all (or part) of a high-rise, a small rural community or even a single house.