Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Area Codes

What is an area code?

In the North American telephone numbering plan, an area code is a three-digit code that is associated with one of the geographical areas in the United States and Canada. An area code also called an NPA (number plan area) is always used before the main phone number when you call someone who’s outside your city or area.

When did area codes first come into use?

The whole area code system was first developed by AT&T and Bell Laboratories in the early 1940s but didn’t come into effect until 1947. In the beginning, there were 86 area codes created which were assigned to different geographic areas in 1947 and the first direct distance dial call was made in 1951.

What is the North American Numbering Plan?

The North American Numbering Plan (NANP) is the telephone numbering plan for World Zone 1 which was developed in the 1940s by AT&T and Bell Laboratories. It consists of 25 regions in twenty countries mainly in North America, including the Caribbean. Mexico and a few other North American countries, do not participate in the NANP.

What areas in North America are covered with the NANP numbering system?

The North American Numbering Plan currently covers twenty North American countries: The United States and its territories, Canada, Anguilla, Bermuda, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, the British Virgin Islands, Grenada, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Sint Maarten, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks & Caicos, as well as Trinidad and Tobago.

Who is responsible for area codes?

The responsibility for area codes in the U.S. is shared by federal and state regulators. The North American Numbering Plan Administrator is actually responsible for the administration, assignment, and management of all area codes, while the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has power over the phone number administration and gives the countries the right to decide when and how to introduce new area codes.

What happens if we run out of available and usable area codes?

If all of the available area codes are used, our dialing pattern would probably need to be changed by expanding by one or more digits. But, changing the way we dial numbers would require a lot of time and money, so the FCC has suggested a few ways to slow down the use of available phone numbers and maintain the life of the current 10 digit dialing pattern for as long as possible.

Why are another area codes necessary for some areas?

Some areas might need new area codes because all possible numbers in the existing area code will be exhausted after some time. New area codes are then implemented in two ways, through a geographic split, or through an area code overlay.

Will you be affected by an area code change?

If you have a phone number with an area code that is running out of possible prefixes, you will most certainly be affected by the area code change. If an area code overlay is added then you will be able to keep your current phone number and area code, but you will need to dial 1 + the area code + the telephone number for all calls. But, if an area code split is implemented, then you might have to change your area code to the new overlaid code.

Will the way you dial your calls change?

So, as we already said, the way you dial your calls won’t change if an area code split is applied. However, if an area code overlay is added, you will have to dial 1+ the area code + the phone number for all calls. For all local phone calls, whether you will call someone who is living the same house or someone on the same block, you must dial 1+ the local area code + the phone number.

What is an area code split?

An area code split is when geographic regions with existing area code are split into new and smaller geographic regions, in order to be able to offer more prefixes for their customers. Thus, some customers will continue to use the existing area code while others will have to change to the new area code.

What is an area code overlay?

An area code overlay is a type of area code change that adds a second area code to the same geographic region. This means that several area codes can co-exist within the same geographic area and people with phone numbers within the exhausting area code will retain their current numbers. However, new customers in that region will be assigned to the new overlaid area code.

How many area codes are available?

There are 317 geographic area codes in the United States and 18 non-geographic area codes, which means a total of 335 US area codes. Canada on the other hand, has 40 geographic area codes and two non-geographic area codes, bringing the total number of area codes in Canada to 42.

What can individuals do to prepare, if The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adds an overlay code?

If the CPUC decides to add an overlay area code, individuals can prepare for the change by contacting their security companies to update dial-up numbers in order to avoid break-in security routines and contacts. They should reprogram some features like speed-dial, automatic dial, call forwarding as well as modems to computers to dial 1 + area code + telephone number. Individuals can inform their friends and family to dial 1 + the area code + telephone number for all calls. But most importantly, they need to keep in mind that the previous area code and the new overlay area code will now co-exist within the same geographic area.

What can businesses do to prepare, if The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adds an overlay code?

If there’s a new overlay area code added to a geographic region, businesses can prepare for the change in a few ways. They should ensure that security door and gate systems are reprogrammed to dial 1 + area code + telephone number. They will have to inform their alarm service providers about the new area code and telephone numbers so that alarm service records can be updated on time. Businesses should also reprogram call-forwarding, speed-dial, and automatic dial features to dial 1 + area code + telephone number. They should update their checks, advertisements, business cards, promotional items, internet web pages, brochures, as well as all catalogs to include their area code and phone number, and provide their area code and number to their business contacts.

What are the most popular area codes?

Since the area code says a lot about a person and can do wonders for businesses, people across the country are willing to pay a crazy amount of money just to obtain one of the most popular area codes. With the right area code they’ll be sending a powerful message to their business partners and potential customers. These are the most popular or prestigious area codes today:

202 – Washington D.C.

310 – Los Angeles, California

212 – New York City

702 – Las Vegas, Nevada

650 – South San Francisco Bay area, Silicon Valley, California

305 – Miami, Florida

415 – San Francisco, California

312: Chicago, Illinois

512 – Austin, Texas

404- Atlanta, Georgia

What are the richest area codes?

These are some of the wealthiest area codes with household incomes bigger than $300,000:

301 – Western Maryland

305 – Miami, Florida

425- Seattle, Washington

516- Nassau County of Long Island, New York

561 – Palm Beach County, Florida

650 – Silicon Vallery, California

631 – Suffolk County of Long Island, New York

713 – Houston, Texas

817 – Fort Worth, Texas

914 – Westchester County, New York

What area codes should you not answer?

It goes without saying that you should never answer a call or reply to a text message from an unknown number and unfamiliar area code. However, these days scammers are getting more clever and trickier, so to play it safe, here is a list of a few area codes that are usually the biggest culprits of phone scams:

473 – the island of Grenada

809, 829, and 849 – the Dominican Republic

900 – “pay per call” area code

242 – Bahamas

246 – Barbados

268 – Antigua

284 – British Virgin Islands

345 – Cayman Islands

441 – Bermuda

649 – Turks and Caicos

664 – Montserrat

721 – Sint Maarten

758 – St. Lucia

767 – Dominica

784 – St. Vincent and Grenadines

868 – Trinidad and Tobago

869 – St. Kitts and Nevis

876 – Jamaica