Canadian postal codes and abbreviations for provinces and territories

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You may be familiar with the abbreviation “MB” for Manitoba by now. But do you know what YT, AB or QC stand for? Learning the abbreviation for Canadian provinces and territories is one way of familiarizing yourself with the various provinces of your new country. Knowing them also comes in handy especially when formatting address labels.

Internationally approved alpha code/Postal abbreviation
Alberta (AB)
British Columbia (BC)
Manitoba (MB)
New Brunswick (NB)
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)
Nova Scotia (NS)
Northwest Territories (NT)
Nunavut (NU)
Ontario (ON)
Prince Edward Island (PE)
Quebec (QC)
Saskatchewan (SK)
Yukon (YT)

Postal codes

Have you noticed those six-digit combinations of numbers and letters at the end of addresses? Have you ever wondered what they are for? This string of alphanumeric characters is called a postal code. It is also known as a zip code in the US or postcode in the UK. Postal codes are assigned to specific geographical areas, as well as some individual addresses or institutions that receive large amounts of mail. Its purpose is mainly to make sorting mail more accurate and efficient for the postal service.

The Canadian postal code uses six alphanumeric characters (two groups of three). The first three characters (one letter/one number/one letter) are regional indicators, such as the province/territory and then urban area or village. The second set (one number/one letter/one number) are local indicators determining the street, building, or a post office. Space separates the two sets of characters.

When you need to send out a letter or package, the address label’s proper format should be: the name of the person or institution you are sending the mail to/the number of the house or building/street/the name of the city/an abbreviation of the name of the province (see table above)/then the postal code. If you are sending mail within Canada, you don’t need to write “Canada” at the end of the address label. Otherwise, include it in your return address. For example:

English Online
610-294 Portage Avenue,
Winnipeg, MB R3C 0B9

Fun facts

  • Manitoba was the second province in Canada to be fully coded. Ottawa was chosen for the pilot coding, so it was the first city to be coded. The use of postal codes was introduced in 1971.
  • You can use a postal code to find the nearest services (using their websites). Try this when looking for a postal outlet, Service Canada office, major stores, bank branches, ABMs and bank machines. You can also find your federal riding and Member of Parliament using your postal code.
  • All members of parliament have the same postal code – K1A 0A6.
  • Santa Claus has his own personal postal code. His mailing address is:
  • Santa Claus
    North Pole H0H 0H0

No postage is required when you send Santa a letter!
Article updated July 15, 2020.
Sources: Explore Canada, Postal Codes for Canada, About News; Canadian Museum of History (A Chronology of Canadian Postal History)

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Community Resources

If you need to know the exact postal code of an address, go to Canada Post’s Find a Postal Code. If you need to do the reverse and look up an address when you have the postal code, go to Find an Address.

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