Ultimate Guide to Amazon Barcodes: UPC, GTIN, EAN, ASIN, FNSKU

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If you are new to selling on Amazon, then you might be confused about when to use the different Amazon UPC Codes, FNKSU Codes, ASINS, EANs, and GTINS.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! All these different Amazon barcodes can even trip up experienced FBA sellers with Amazon constantly changing the rules. We recommend you read our article on Amazon barcode requirements to make sure you use the right type of product code in the right place.

This is what we will be covering in our Amazon Barcodes guide;

Different Types of Amazon Barcodes

Firstly let’s be clear about the different type of barcodes you will have to deal with.

What is a GTIN

A GTIN is the ‘Global Trade Item Number’ and is also referred to as a ‘Barcode’. It is the umbrella term for UPCs and EANs and is usually a numerical code between 12 and 14 digits. Each unique product should have its own unique GTIN.

What is a UPC Code

A UPC barcode number is a 12 digit Universal Product Code predominantly used in North America. When you register for a UPC number, you typically receive a scannable barcode.
You need a UPC barcode number so you can list a product on Amazon! This is mandatory. Amazon will not let you list an item without a valid Amazon UPC code (unless you successfully apply for GTIN exemption – please see below)!

UPC Code
UPC Code Example

What is an EAN Code

The EAN code is a 12 or 13 digit European Article Number
It’s basically the European equivalent of the UPC code. Similarly, with the UPC codes, we strongly recommend you only obtain an EAN through the official GS1 authority for issuing EAN codes – GS1 UK website: www.gs1uk.org

EAN Code
EAN Code Example

What is an ISBN Code

The ISBN Code is the ‘International Standard Book Number’ and is either 10 or 13 digits in length depending on when the book was published. All books published after January 1, 2007, have 13 digit ISBN codes.

ISBN Code Example

What is an Amazon FNSKU Code

This is AMAZON’s own “UPC barcode” – the ‘Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit’. They are Amazon’s way of tracking your products inside their warehouses and this is what they scan and match to your listing ID.

This is what you will ultimately print out on labels and apply to each product unit. If your product also has a scannable UPC barcode, you will need to affix the FNSKU barcode label OVER the UPC barcode so that it is covered entirely.

The FNSKU is unique to you as a seller and will always remain the same for a particular ASIN. So you can print excess FNSKU labels for inventory not yet sent to Amazon and they will remain valid until you delete the SKU from your inventory.

Amazon FNSKU Barcode
Amazon FNSKU Barcode Example

What is an Amazon ASIN Code

This is Amazon’s internal catalog number. Amazon Standard Identification Numbers (ASINs) are unique blocks of 10 letters and/or numbers that identify items. You can find the ASIN on the item’s product information page on Amazon and in the URL.

For books, the ASIN is the same as the ISBN number, but for all other products, a new ASIN is created when the item is uploaded to the Amazon catalog.

You will find an item’s ASIN on the product detail page alongside further details relating to the item, which may include information such as size, number of pages (if it’s a book) or number of discs (if it’s a CD).

For example, the ASIN for Hasbro’s “Monopoly” game is B01MU9K3XU.

Amazon ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) Example

Buying UPC Codes for Amazon Private Label Sellers

With the changes made to the Amazon Terms of Service and the introduction of Brand Registry 2.0, we strongly recommend that you obtain an official GS1 UPC code. You need to purchase directly from the US GS1 authority website here: www.gs1us.org or the UK GS1 site here: www.gs1uk.org

This will ensure that your brand name and company are directly associated with the UPC code purchased for your product.

GS1 Barcode Pricing
GS1 Barcode Pricing

Registering a GS1 code through GS1 is a cost of doing business. If you are not prepared to purchase a valid GS1 code for your branded products, consider NOT selling FBA Private Label until you can.

Can I Buy Cheap UPC Codes?

There are resellers of valid GS1 codes that are in effect, “recycled” codes. These include companies such as ‘Nationwide Barcode’ or ‘Speedy Barcodes’.

Many Amazon sellers and (even those teaching courses about how to sell on Amazon!) have used these and continue to list products using these “recycled” UPC barcodes.

This is what Amazon themselves say;

“We verify the authenticity of product UPCs by checking the GS1 database. UPCs that do not match the information provided by GS1 will be considered invalid. We recommend obtaining your UPCs directly from GS1 (and not from other third parties selling UPC licenses) to ensure the appropriate information is reflected in the GS1 database.

Important: All invalid product UPC listings will be removed and may result in your ASIN creation or selling privileges being temporarily or permanently removed. For more information on licensing UPCs from GS1, see the GSI standard website.”

These UPC codes from resellers such as Speed Barcodes are GS1 registered, but the problem is that they are NOT linked to your brand or company. When you go to apply for Brand Registry for your FBA product, you will likely be rejected due to the fact that the code owner does not match your seller name.

This could also create problems with Amazon. They might close your listing down because of invalid GS1 codes, which is why we do not recommend doing it this way.

Warning Proceed with caution and understand the risks involved in your business if you decide to purchase a resold or recycled GS1 code from a third party!

“All invalid product UPC listings will be removed and may result in your ASIN creation or selling privileges being temporarily or permanently removed – Amazon”

Make Sure You Are the Registered Owner of the Barcode

You can check ownership of barcodes here – http://gepir.gs1.org

Here is an example of the Barcode for ASIN B003BFU4TI the ‘HP CE285A 85A Black Original LaserJet Toner Cartridge’

HP Toner Amazon GS1 Barcode Check
HP Toner Amazon GS1 Barcode Check

This shows that the barcode for this product (0884420588689) is correctly registered to the owner – Hewlett Packard. They would have no problems getting brand registered as it is directly linked to their company.

We have tested many private label products and the registered owner in the GS1 database is usually completely different from the owner of the private label product. These barcodes are most likely purchased on eBay and could lead to problems with Amazon in future.

Amazon GTIN Exemption for Bundles or Private Label

Yes, Amazon will allow you to list without a GTIN/UPC if you successfully apply for an exemption. If the product is not already in the Amazon catalog and does not already have a GTIN you can apply. This can be a handmade product, wholesale product, your own private label or a new bundle you have created.

If granted the exemption will apply to a particular Amazon category and be open for between 30 – 90 days. If this lapses before you list your product you will simply need to reapply.

Amazon Categories Eligible for GTIN Exemption
Amazon Categories Eligible for GTIN Exemption

Amazon Will Require the Following Information for GTIN Exemption

✅ A letter from the brand owner or manufacturer to confirm that the products do not have a GTIN. Or supply a list of sample products Amazon can review.

✅ Either a link to a website showing the products or you can upload a photo of the product.

Reasons Not to Apply for Amazon GTIN Exemption?

If you are ever planning on selling outside of the Amazon platform then we recommend you get a GS1 barcode. Even if you start on Amazon if your product is successful then you may well want to sell on eBay or other platforms, different websites or even in retail stores.

If you only have an FNSKU you are locked into Amazon. Also, not all categories are eligible for exemption.

Barcode Options for Amazon FBA Arbitrage and Wholesale Sellers

If you are doing arbitrage or wholesale the products you are selling will most likely already have a barcode on the packaging. You have to use this barcode when listing the product on Amazon and most products will already exist in the Amazon catalog. You simply have to match against the existing ASIN. If the product is definitely not in the catalog then you will need to create a new listing with the barcode on the packaging.

If there is no Barcode then you should contact the wholesaler or manufacturer to get one.

Remember you need to print the FNSKU label and stick it over the Barcode before sending your products to Amazon FBA. You can pay Amazon to attach the FNSKU labels.

Amazon FNSKU Label covering the Barcode
Amazon FNSKU Label covering the Barcode

Amazon Barcode Printing and Shipping Guide

Printing Labels and Guidelines for Amazon FBA

For Private Label, you don’t actually need to print the UPC barcode on your packaging. But we recommend you do, so you can provide further protection against listing hijacking and counterfeiting.

You will need the FNSKU on your product packaging. We recommend you get your supplier to print it onto the packaging which will save time and money labelling. If this is not an option then you need to print a label and attach it. If there is a UPC barcode then this will need to be covered. You can pay Amazon to label them using their labelling service: FBA Label Service.

The FNSKU is automatically generated by Amazon and is DIFFERENT from the product SKU. The seller can either let Amazon create the SKU automatically, or enter a custom SKU code. The SKU is used for internal tracking and doesn’t really have much purpose other than for your own inventory management.

Be sure that your FNSKU labels are printed using the guidelines outlined by Amazon – they have rules! Read them here: Use an Amazon barcode to track inventory

Amazon FBA Shipping Guidelines

The absolute BEST resource for this is Amazon themselves! They will tell you all you need to know. You can watch a series of useful videos here: FBA packing video tutorials

And also download the FBA shipping and labelling guidelines document here: Packaging and Shipping Inventory to Amazon

There is also more great information on starting with Amazon FBA here – How To Sell On Amazon: A Beginners Guide

Amazon Barcodes FAQS

Question -I have seen cheap UPC codes on eBay – can I use these?

AnswerNo. Never purchase barcodes from eBay as they will definitely get rejected by Amazon. You also risk getting your Amazon account closed. They will show a totally different company as the registered owner. Why spend thousands of dollars on launching a Private Label product and then only be willing to spend $10 on a UPC?

Question -Where do I buy Amazon compliant UPC codes for my Private Label product?

Answer – We recommend you purchase from the US GS1 authority website here: www.gs1us.org or the UK GS1 site here: www.gs1uk.org

Question -Do I need a UPC to list in the Handmade category?

Answer -No – you can apply for GTIN exemption for handmade products.

Question -What is the difference between UPC and EAN?

Answer – Both are GTINs. UPC Codes are used mainly in North America and EAN codes are used in Europe.

Question  – What is the difference between an FNSKU and a regular SKU?

Answer – An FNSKU is unique to each seller for each FBA product and is created by Amazon. The SKU is your own internal reference for your own benefit and is created by you.

Question -The product I am selling already has a barcode – do I need to purchase my own?

Answer -No. If this is an existing product you have not manufactured yourself then you need to check the Amazon catalog to see if the product already exists. Simply go to Inventory> Add a Product and enter the barcode. It should find a match. If it does not then you will have to create a new listing using the existing barcode found on the product.

Question -If I am creating a bundle do I need to buy a UPC code?

Answer -Yes, you will need a UPC just like with a private label product unless you apply for an exemption.

Question -I already have Private Label products launched using barcodes purchased on eBay. What should I do?

Answer -Eventually, Amazon might get around to investigating existing listings. Although it will be painful you should probably create a new listing with a legitimate UPC purchased from GS1.

Question -If I am brand registered do I need to apply for GTIN exemption or purchase a UPC?

Answer -No. If you are brand registered you can use a unique identifier instead.

Question -Do I need to use a different barcode for each colour or size variation?

Answer -Yes. Every unique product will need a unique barcode.

How many barcodes do I need?
How many barcodes do I need?

Question – How do I get free UPC codes for Amazon?

Answer -Free UPC Codes for Amazon sellers do not exist.

Do you have any more questions about Amazon Barcodes?

Please be sure to join our Amazon Facebook Groups and get help from our friendly community of Amazon Sellers!

Amazon Selling for Beginners – for those starting their Amazon selling journey.

Amazon FBA Masters – for the more experienced sellers and those looking at starting in Private Label selling.

Confused about starting to sell on Amazon? Then read this guide –  How To Sell On Amazon: A Beginners Guide

About the Author

Kindra Martinenko created her own successful Private Label brand and is now a 6-Figure seller on Amazon and other platforms. She is the CEO of Active Action Brands, LLC – a Digital Marketing company specializing in eCommerce marketing, Amazon listing management, and Business Coaching.

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One Response

  1. By john Posted on January 24, 2018

    excellent intro

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