Canadian Postal Code Demystified

The Postal Code is an essential part of every postal address in Canada. The code was designed to aid in sorting mail by both mechanized and manual methods. It enables you to presort your mail, thereby bypassing a number of sorting processes within Canada Post and reducing your costs.

Because of nature of physically sorting mail, the postal code also lends itself to geographical analysis and segmentation, with certain limitations.

Structure of the Postal Code

The postal code is a six-character alpha-numeric code in the format “ANA NAN”, where “A” represents an alphabetic character and “N” represents a numeric character.

A postal code is made up of two segments:

  1. “Forward Sortation Area” (FSA)
  2. “Local Delivery Unit” (LDU)

Example: for the postal code “V3H 1Z7”, the FSA & LDU segments are shown in the table below.

V3H 1Z7

FSA – Forward Sortation Area

Referred to as the “Forward Sortation Area” or “FSA”, this alpha-numeric-alpha sequence represents a specific area within a major geographic region or province. The FSA provides the basis for the primary sorting of forward mail.

The FSA is used extensively for geocoding and analysis, because each urban FSA represents an area and population that is convenient for analysis. For example, Canada Post indicates that the “V3H” FSA contains approximately 9,400 residences.


1st Character of the FSA Segment

The first character of the FSA segment splits the country in to 18 major geographic areas, provinces or districts:

A Newfoundland and Labrador
B Nova Scotia
C Prince Edward Island
E New Brunswick
G Eastern Quebec
H Metropolitan Montreal
J Western Quebec
K Eastern Ontario
L Central Ontario
M Metropolitan Toronto
N Southwestern Ontario
P Northern Ontario
R Manitoba
S Saskatchewan
T Alberta
V British Columbia
X Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Y Yukon Territory

2nd Character of the FSA Segment

This character is an important component for mail preparation and data processing as it identifies either:

  • an urban postal code: numerals 1 to 9 in the second position e.g. V3H. Urban postal codes are generally serviced by Letter Carrier or community mail boxes.
  • a rural postal code: numeral 0 (zero) in the second position e.g.. T0B Rural postal codes are serviced by rural route drivers and/or postal outlets.

3rd Character of the FSA Segment

For urban postal codes, the third character of the FSA segment (V3H) in conjunction with the first two characters, describes an exact area of a city or town or other geographic area.

For rural areas, the full postal code is required to fully describe the town or area.


LDU – Local Delivery Unit

The Local Delivery Unit (LDU), identified by the last three characters of the postal code accommodates a more final sort within an FSA.

In urban areas, the last three digits may indicate a specific city block (one side of a street between two intersecting streets), a single building or, in some cases a large volume mail receiver.

In rural areas, the last three digits together with the FSA, identify a specific rural community.

Placement of the Postal Code

The postal code is placed on the same line as the municipality and the province and is separated from the province by two spaces. If municipality, province and postal code exceed 40 characters, the postal code is placed on the bottom line (left justified).

Published in: on February 2, 2012 at 9:27 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

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