Is there a ZIP code I can enter when paying-at-the-pump in the USA with a foreign credit card?
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?
Would you consider broadening the question to 'foreign credit card'? I think that would make it more useful to others.
@AndrewFerrier: I concur, though the Canadian credit card seems to be an exception, AFAIK.
Some US gas stations are card-only during the night. Both cash and foreign cards are useless in that situation.
Interested to know how this process works with a Japanese credit card (and the 7-digit postcodes this country has. Do you cut the end 2 digits, or the first 2?
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.
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.
@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".)
I wonder whether this scheme works for other countries as well as Edward Thompson's comment would suggest.
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).
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"...
Incidentally, I have also found that 00000 works at some other automated machines (such as the Metrocard top-up machines in New York City).
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 SW**1**A **2**AA, your "zipcode" would be **12**000.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On a trip to the US this past summer I used my German credit card at gas stations. At every single station where I had to enter a ZIP code, I put in my German postal code. The authorization _always_ failed and I had to go inside.
@Kyralessa Yes, things seem to have changed in the last several years. Don't know if it’s because of the cards or the gas stations themselves but I also experience more and more stations where I have to go inside. But there are still some examples where paying at the pump still work, even with the postal code.
If I had to guess, I'd say that the pumps are designed not to fail if there's no zip-code checking service, because then _nobody_ could pump gas. So perhaps in the past a lot of these pumps weren't actually connected to anything that could verify the zip code, and any five digits would suffice. But by now they've mostly finally got their back ends hooked up, and the zip code checks are real (and, as usual in the US, completely unaware that there are any other countries in the world).
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.
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.
Australian credit cards
Australian credit cards don't seem to cause much of a problem here - I was able to use 90210 (which is always my go-to American zip code, probably like many!) on gas stations in both Florida and New York.
This was with an Australian Mastercard.
This wasn’t the case for my Australian MasterCard in California, I had to go in to the server.