Ever wonder why the cashier asks for your zip code? Maybe you thought they needed it for credit card approval (like a gas station). Maybe you thought they were looking to open a new store closer to the people who actually shop there.
Most of the time, they’re collecting zip codes so they can target you with marketing or to sell your contact information.
When you pay with a credit card, they can keep your full name in their records – add the zip, and they can find your exact address. They’re determining who their customers are, where they come from, what types of products they purchase, etc. They can develop a whole file of information about you with those two pieces of information which they can use themselves or sell to retail partners.
You may have noticed that some retailers will ask for your zip code no matter how you pay. They’ve asked for my zip code when I pay with cash. They might not know my exact address, but they may choose to target my neighborhood with flyers.
You can choose to be a part of this by giving the cashier your zip code – you’ll most likely get more mail and/or coupons. Or, you can decline to give your zip code to the cashier. I am vigilant about my mail (and privacy), so I personally choose not to give out my zip code. The choice is yours to make.
Note – this is not the case with unmanned transactions, such as self-service gas stations. In an unmanned transaction, you may be required to enter your zip code on the key pad to authorize the credit card transaction. In this case, the credit card company itself is attempting to verify your identity. This is NOT zip code harvesting because the gas station isn’t keeping your information.
Remember the choice is yours.