Frequently Asked Questions


GS1 Company Prefix, Barcodes, and Identification

What is a GTIN?

A GTIN (pronounced Gee-Tin) is the acronym for Global Trade Item Number. It’s a number that uniquely identifies a product and can be found below a U.P.C. barcode symbol. GTINs are used as the global standard to identify products.

What is a U.P.C.?
U.P.C. is the acronym for Universal Product Code. It is the most used barcode in the world and is seen on just about every product in physical stores and online. You may find that your customers will ask you to place a U.P.C. barcode on your products or packages.

What’s the difference between a U.P.C. and a GTIN?
GTINs, U.P.C.s and other types of barcodes are often confused as the same thing – but they are different. A GTIN is a number that identifies the product itself and the U.P.C. is the barcode that allows the GTIN to be scanned by a barcode reader, like the ones at the checkout counter of a physical store or the distribution center of online retailers. GTINs by themselves are typically used in online retail, in databases, and in electronic transactions, such as EDI.

For more about GTINs and barcoding your products, click the links below to view our educational videos.

GS1 Standards – Global Trade Item Number
GS1 Standards – Barcoding Your Products

When I sign up with GS1 US, do I get barcodes?
No. GS1 US does not provide barcodes to you. When you make your decision to become member of GS1 US, you will receive a GS1 Company Prefix that can be used to assign identification numbers to your products, locations, shipping units, and more.

How can I create my own barcodes?
Visit our Get Started Roadmap to learn more.

What is a GS1 Company Prefix?

A GS1 Company Prefix is a unique identification number that is assigned to just your company by GS1 US. It’s the foundation of GS1 Standards and can be found in all of the GS1 Identification Numbers. The most common examples are GTINs (Global Trade Item Numbers) and GLNs (Global Location Numbers).

Why should I get a Company Prefix from GS1 US?
Licensing a GS1 Company Prefix provides proof that your company, and only your company, is authorized to use a particular GS1 Company Prefix. Your customers can view the GS1 Company Database (GEPIR) to verify this.

Learn more about and apply for a GS1 Company Prefix.

I need help understanding how much I will be paying for my GS1 Company Prefix

The first-year cost of licensing a GS1 Company Prefix ranges from $250 for 10 products to $10,500 for 100,000 products. Each year after that, there is an annual license renewal fee which allows continued use of the unique prefix number. Annual license renewal fees range from $50 to $2100. Learn more about pricing.

I see that GS1 Company Prefixes are available at different levels of cost. How do I know which price I should choose?

The cost of a GS1 Company Prefix is determined by the number of digits in the prefix. You should carefully consider the number of products you are currently producing. Keep in mind that each variation of a product needs a unique Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) that will then be placed in your U.P.C. barcodes. For example, if a style/model of a product is produced in 4 colors and 4 sizes, you would need to assign 16 unique numbers (GTINs) to that particular style. You should also consider the amount of products your company is planning to produce in the near future (about 3 years). That way, you will have enough numbering capacity and can avoid need for additional prefixes too frequently. Use our estimator to help you determine the length of prefix you will need.

Learn more about Company Prefix Capacity.

What happens if I run out of numbers?

If you exhaust the numbering capacity of your GS1 Company Prefix, you should license an additional one. As your business grows, it may be worth investigating if the additional prefix that you are planning to acquire should have greater numbering capacity. This way, you won’t have to come back as frequently and may be able to save money over time.

I’ve signed up and now I see that my GS1 Company Prefix Certificate says I have both a GS1 Company Prefix and a U.P.C. Company Prefix. What’s the difference and which one should I use?

Yes, you can build a sample U.P.C. barcode number (GTIN-12) using our GS1 Company Prefixes and U.P.C. Company Prefixes are actually one and the same. The only difference that you will see on your certificate is that a GS1 Company Prefix begins with a zero. You should plan to use the U.P.C. Company Prefix to assign GTINs that will be used in your U.P.C. barcodes.

How do I print a copy of my GS1 Company Prefix Certificate?

Once you’ve applied for a GS1 Company prefix you’ll receive a welcome email that includes a copy of your GS1 Company Prefix Certificate. You can also log in to myGS1US, our online member center, click the Prefix Certificate button, and download a copy of your certificate(s).

How can I find out what my GS1 Company Prefix is?
You can find out what your GS1 Company Prefix is by visiting the GS1 Company Database (GEPIR). You can search the database by Company Name, GTIN, GLN or SSCC.

Can my customers verify my GS1 Company Prefix?
Yes. Your customers can verify your GS1 Company Prefix by visiting the GS1 Company Database (GEPIR). They can search the database by Company Name, GTIN, GLN or SSCC.

Why do I need to keep my prefix license current, even after I have numbered my products?
If you allow your Prefix License Agreement to expire, your prefix will be terminated. You will not be authorized to use the U.P.C. barcodes created from this prefix on your current or future products (including products you may have in the market today using barcode numbers). Your access to GS1 US tools and resources will be terminated; you will NOT be able to use these for your barcodes. GS1 US has the right to re-assign this GS1 Company Prefix to another company. Your company would no longer appear in the GS1 Company Database, so customers wouldn’t be able to verify your U.P.C.s , which may cause a delay in selling your products. Be sure and keep your GS1 Company Prefix license current by paying your annual renewal fee on time.

Do I still need my GS1 Company Prefix if my product did not launch?
Maybe. Even though your product may not have launched, you may want to maintain your GS1 Company Prefix License because it allows you to sell new products to retailers and distributors in the future.

What is a GLN?

GLN is an acronym for “Global Location Number”. A GLN is a GS1 Identification Number and is used primarily in electronic messages to identify legal and physical locations.

What should I provide to my customers who are asking for a GLN? (Global Location Number)

Your GS1 Company Prefix Certificate is the best place to find your GLN. You will see it listed as an “Entity GLN.” It will show the location of the company you enter in your GS1 Company prefix application. Once you locate your “Entity GLN,” you can communicate it to your customers.

Do I need a separate GS1 Company Prefix for my Global Location Numbers?

No. You can use your existing GS1 Company Prefix to assign GLNs, just as you do for your GTINs/U.P.C.s. For more information on GLNs, click here.

What can I do if I discover that I need to identify more products than I initially thought?

If you find yourself needing to identify more products than your prefix allows, you should license an additional GS1 Company Prefix. You can do this by clicking here or by logging in to myGS1 US and clicking the Get More Prefixes button.

When licensing a GS1 Company Prefix, refer to the pricing schedule and select the prefix that best suits your business needs. Consider both your current and future needs when making your prefix license selection.

How much do GS1 US barcodes cost?

GS1 US does not sell barcodes. However, you can license a GS1 Company Prefix that gives you the ability to create identification numbers for barcodes that you use for your products, locations, and more. When licensing a GS1 Company Prefix, refer to the pricing schedule and select the GS1 Company Prefix capacity that best suits your needs.

Can I alter my barcode or GTIN number?

In no instance should you alter barcodes or add/delete any of the numbers below a barcode. These numbers make up your GTINs (Global Trade Item Numbers). To ensure proper identification, you will want to include all digits of your GTIN with the proper barcode size when communicating information about your product. If you randomly add or remove any of the digits, you may inadvertently use another company’s number and you will not be identified as the license holder of that prefix.

Be careful not to cut off or shrink the barcodes as you run the risk that scanners will not correctly read them at checkout. Review Step 4 of the Get Started Roadmap for industry standards related to the size, shape, and colors of barcodes.

Can I use the same GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) for all of my products?

No. In order to properly track and price products, a new product identification number should be assigned for each product and variation of the product such as size, color, and package counts. For more information on how to manage GTINs, review Step 2 of the Get Started Roadmap.

How do I create a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) for a U.P.C. barcode?

The first step is to license a GS1 Company Prefix. The second step is to create an item reference number. The third step is to calculate the check digit. Visit the Get Started Roadmap for help with these steps.

To learn more about how to create UPC-A barcodes, view our educational videos below:

- Getting Started with your GS1 Company Prefix
- GS1 Standards – Global Trade Item Number
- GS1 Standards – Barcoding Your Product

Do I need a UPC-A barcode if I only sell my products online?

The short answer is “maybe.” More and more online companies are requiring GTINs and U.P.C.s for unique product identification so it is always a good idea to check the vendor requirements documents that are generally published by retailers.

Why don’t I see any data when I scan my product barcodes using a smartphone?

The GTIN in a U.P.C. barcode is not automatically linked to barcode scanning applications on the internet. They are simply used to identify your products at various points in the supply chain. There are numerous internet apps you can explore for smart phone purposes but that does not exist through GS1 US.


My Account

How do I update my company information?

Please fill out our Company Profile Form to update your company’s information.

Our company had ownership changes, how do I update this information?
Please visit our Update Prefix Registration page.

How do I pay the license renewal fee for my GS1 Company Prefix?
Click here for payment options.

How long does it take to process my payment?
Normal processing time, after we receive your payment, is one business day.

How do I download a copy of the GS1 US W-9 form and get the Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)?
Download a copy of our W-9 form. It lists the GS1 US Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). Use this to set up GS1 US as a vendor in your system.


Helpful Tools & Resources

Where can I find the membership tools available to my company?

Log in to myGS1US to access your account information, tools and resources such as GS1 US Data Hub, your GS1 Company Prefix Certificate, a list of Solution Partners, standards guidelines, education and training material, latest news and information, and more.

Who can help me print my barcodes?
GS1 US Solution Partners offer guidance and support to companies implementing GS1 Standards by providing in-depth knowledge, expert resources and tools in a variety of areas including barcode services. Click here to learn more about how GS1 US Solution Partners can help you.

Is there a tool that provides information about a company’s GTIN, GLN or Company Prefix?
Yes, the GS1 Company Database (GEPIR) will help you find a company’s GS1 Company Prefix.