GS1 UPC Barcodes: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a UPC and a Barcode?

GS1 barcode
Technically, UPC stands for Universal Product Code and is a 12-digit numerical string. The characters of a UPC are made up of a GS1 Company Prefix, item reference number, and calculated check digit. A barcode is a symbol made up of linear bars and spaces. Data characters are represented by specific bar and space patterns. It is very common for people to use the term UPC to automatically reflect both the data and barcode.

What is the difference between discount UPCs online and UPCs from GS1?

By having a GS1 Company Prefix uniquely assigned to your company/brand, you can be assured that you will be able to sell your products around the globe. Every single retailer and online marketplace will accept your UPC barcodes if your company has a licensed GS1 Company Prefix. Many online marketplaces and retailers (i.e. Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart, Kroger) validate their suppliers’ prefixes to ensure that the UPCs are licensed to the specific brand. The discounted UPCs from a “reseller” share a common prefix and can only be used in limited situations (despite what might be stated on their website). To learn more, please visit

What happens if I run out of assignments available with my GS1 Company Prefix?

To obtain more UPC codes, additional company prefixes may be licensed. The GS1 account structure is robust to enable companies to manage multiple Prefixes and even single GTIN assignments.

GS1 company prefixes vary in length, so the prefix lengths assigned are determined by the amount of UPC codes a company will need. A 10-digit prefix can create 10 UPCs; 9-digit prefix can create 100 UPCs; 8-digit prefix can create 1,000 UPCs; 7-digit prefix can create 10,000 UPCs, and a 6-digit prefix can create 100,000 UPC codes.

Due to yearly renewal fees, we recommend companies only license Company Prefixes to satisfy their short-term and intermediate needs. During the application processing, companies are asked to denote any previous active GS1 Company Prefix. It is very common for companies to have multiple Company Prefixes as they grow. For additional information, please visit

What is the difference between digital barcode files and printed labels?

Items or labels which have not yet been printed require precise digital barcode files (.eps). In order for a barcode symbol to be accurately printed, a precise digital image, with a print compensation factor, needs to be used. Bar Code Graphics has been creating barcode artwork since the inception of the UPC and we are largest supplier of digital barcodes. Items that already have printed packaging or labels typically require an additional printed label that contains a UPC barcode. Printed labels can either be provided on sheets or rolls.

Why does the GS1 Barcode Service consist of two payments?

Bar Code Graphics is the US authority on barcodes and we create the barcodes, manage the UPC product data, and provide comprehensive personal support enabling companies to properly obtain a UPC Company Prefix and identify their products. GS1 is a separate entity that is the global standards identification organization that licenses GS1 Company Prefixes. GS1 does not provide barcodes nor personal assistance with UPC implementation. Every country has a local GS1 office, which manages the prefix assignments for their residents. The payment structure and tools vary amongst country offices. For further information about GS1 and implementation, please visit .

Can UPCs be reused or re-assigned?

The GS1 Global Standards recently made changes that eliminated reusing UPCs (GTINs). Previously, companies were allowed to reuse a UPC (GTIN) after a set period of time when the product was off the market. As of January 2019, UPCs can never be reassigned to another product. To learn more, please visit .For this reason, we highly recommend your GS1 barcode consultant validate your UPCs before publishing.

What is GTIN.Cloud? is the global online repository for brand-managed UPC product data.  Included with GS1 Barcode Service/Support subscriptions, this portal is where companies will manage their GTIN (UPC assignments, enter UPC product data and download .eps barcode files. All data entered in the global repository is validated by one of our GS1 barcode consultants prior to publishing.

Included in the licensing of a GS1 Company Prefix is limited access to an online tool, called Data Hub. Data Hub is actually a suite of tools provided by GS1 US to help improve identification in the marketplace. One function allows companies, such as retailers, to look up Company Prefixes. The other function allows companies the ability to upload their GTINs (UPCs) in a basic online database. This database is not actually shared with trading partners and GS1 hopes to expand on product validation by retailers in the future.  To learn more about the Data Hub, please visit  Since the DataHub cannot export out GTIN-12 and GTIN-14 data from the limited basic access, the GTIN.Cloud enables companies to export all of their data to Data Hub, Google, Amazon, and others.

What is the process for companies which provide drug and health products (including hand sanitizers)?

Certain product categories (i.e. pharmaceutical) require companies to have a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigned NDC (National Drug Code) or NHRIC (National Health Related Items Code) Labeler Code’s as assigned as their GS1 Company Prefix. During the application process, there is a question specifically directed at these types of companies. This GS1 Company Prefix exception ONLY applies to companies who do have an FDA NDC or NHRIC Labeler Code. The GS1 license fee for companies with an NDC/NHRIC is a $2100. The annual renewal for this exception is also $2100 every year.

Buy GS1 UPC Barcodes Now

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If you have an NDC, please select the number of items your company requires and select the NDC/NHRIC checkbox on the form after checkout. To speak with a UPC support representative please call 800-662-0701 x250 or click on the Chat button below.

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