Store wants your ZIP code? Just say no
Retailers want that information for reasons that may not be apparent to you.
Updated May 30, 2012, 2:17 p.m. ET
Why does a store clerk ask for your ZIP code when you buy something with a credit card?
Here's one answer you might not like: Knowing your name and ZIP code allows a retailer to easily find your entire address so they can send you lots of junk mail and also sell your address to other marketers.
Not exactly the reason you thought, eh? It seems that many people think stores use ZIP codes to figure out where customers are coming from or to confirm that you and your credit card are a match.
In fact, there are several reasons why you should say no when a store clerk asks for your ZIP code or any other personal information. (Post continues below.)
The store's agreement with the credit card company does not require it. CreditCards.com said:
Visa and MasterCard state in their merchant rules that if the back of the card is signed, a merchant may not make giving personal information a condition of making the sale. If the card is not signed, they may ask for identifying information. American Express requires merchants to check only the signature on the back of the card and does not require any additional identification. Discover does not prohibit a merchant from asking for such information, a spokeswoman said.
Retailers can ask for ID if they have good reason to think you're using the card fraudulently.
It may be against state law. The little-known reason stores want credit card customers' ZIP codes came to light after a California woman sued Williams-Sonoma over the issue. The California Supreme Court agreed that asking for a ZIP code violates a state law prohibiting retailers from requesting personal identification information from credit card customers. (The ruling does not apply to credit card sales at the gas pump, where you might be required to punch in your ZIP code to process the payment. That info isn't kept by the station.)
You could be exposing yourself to possible identity theft. In fact, there are very few reasons to share any type of personal information with retailers. CreditCards.com said:
Consumer advocates advise just saying no when asked to give information beyond what is necessary for a transaction -- an address for shipping purposes or a Social Security number if you're opening a line of credit, for instance.
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If anything, write your congressman and tell the freaking corporations that are mandating these stupid policies to get with the damn times, so stuff like this doesn't keep happening.
Many fuel companies are using zip code verification at the fuel pumps as a fraud protection technique. If the billing zip code of the card is not entered or not entered correctly, the customer is prompted to complete the transaction inside where a cashier can confirm identity (signature match, ID check etc).
To answer a previous comment, yes, the transaction will be declined at the pump if you enter an erroneous zip code.
This is a misleading story in a way. Radio Shack asks for your personal information (zip code, phone number, etc.) whether you are paying with credit card or cash. The only reason stores ask for this is to get demographic information and/or be able to send you flyers. You are never required to give them any of this information...especially if you are only there to buy batteries. Just tell them you'd rather not divulge that information, if they give you a hard time, walk out. See how fast they change their tune when you put your wallet away...especially if there is a manager in the store.
Money changes everything.
To all you employees out there, this article states that it isn't neccesary, sometimes isn't legal, and is used to send us junkmail. If you ask and I tell you no, I'm not "hassling" you as someone says and just because your boss told you one thing, doesn't mean its the truth. I'm going to tell you no because its safest for ME, getting my money is all you need to do and if you don't like it, get a job somewhere else!
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