Q: My friend from Los Angeles was recently visiting me in Chicago. While shopping, she was confused when a retailer asked for my zip code and phone number. Is this common practice for me illegal in some other states?

A: In some states, yes. In California, it is illegal to ask for a zip code, except for in certain situations. For example, gas stations can ask for a zip code, but they do not store this information after the transaction is processed. In Maryland, a retailer asking for a phone number or address is illegal. Of course, for online orders, asking for address and zip code is allowed, since zip codes are necessary for shipment.

According to this website, there are several states with similar laws prohibiting recording of personal information for credit card transactions. These states include California and Maryland as previously mentioned, as well as Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, plus Washington, D.C. If you live in one of these states and want to know the exact laws for your specific state, you can check with a site such as Legal Law Help.


Even if you live in a state that allows collection of your personal information when you swipe your card, you can still refuse to give your zip code. Most retailers will still allow you to make a purchase, since the payment networks (such as Visa) do not require it. Collecting of zip codes is done more to make it easier to send you junk mail than to protect you from credit card fraud. If you don’t feel comfortable giving out your zip code or phone number, just say no.