7 Free Geocoding APIs: Google, Bing, Yahoo and MapQuest

ProgrammableWeb recently published an analysis of the top free and paid Mapping APIs available in our directory. Please click here to read the full analysis.

Almost every app that uses a mapping API needs some latitude/longitude points. If you don't already have those "geocodes," you need to find them, which usually means converting an address to a point on the earth. That's where you'll need one of the 54 geocoding APIs in our directory. This post zooms in on seven free geocoders and compares them on features, speed and limits.


For geocoder timing, we checked each API every ten minutes for a week. The address we used was the same for all geocoders. Most had only a single instance of downtime in our week of testing. Google Geocoding API and Cloudmade Geocoding API were the only two with 100% uptime. In terms of speed, the fastest two were Bing Maps Geocode and Google Geocoding. The following is a run-down on the features and performance of all seven free geocoders.

Bing Maps GeocodeTrack this API from Microsoft performed well in our tests. The usage limits are unclear in the company's terms of use, but it appears developers get 10,000 geocodes per month for free. The service requires an API key and has both SOAP and REST (both JSON and XML) versions of the geocoder. There is also a batch API for converting multiple addresses at one time.

Cloudmade Geocoding Track this APIwas by far the slowest in our tests. On the plus side, it's based on crowdsourced OpenStreetMap data, so you know there's nobody paying licensing fees. The RESTful service returns data as JSON with no published rate limits.

Geocoding is one of the services within the Data Science Toolkit APITrack this API, which averaged about a half-second response time in our tests. However, the service is not really meant to be used directly for production. Instead, developers can install the entire unit for free on their own Amazon or VMWare instances. The resulting API is RESTful, with data returned as JSON.

The Google Geocoding was just a touch slower than Bing in our tests, putting it in second place. It's hard to believe that the original Google Maps APITrack this API launched without any sort of geocoder, which seems like such a necessary mapping tool. While the service requires no API key, it does limit geocodes to 2,500 per day and require that the resulting application show data with a Google Map. The REST API returns data as JSON or XML.

The MapQuest Geocoding APITrack this API is probably the most open among the fast geocoders. It's unclear whether there are limits for its geocoding API, but MapQuest wants to out-open Google on the maps side, providing unlimited maps for free. Previous statements from the company make it likely that the same is true of its geocoder. There is a batch option that allows up to 100 addresses to be geocoded at once. Like the other popular services, this is REST with JSON and XML.

OpenAddresses Geolocated Address Search API was just shy of averaging a half second per call, which makes it in the slower half of the geocoders. However, like Cloudmade, it uses crowdsourced data, which means it's the fastest of the geocoders based on free data. However, one downside to OpenAddressesTrack this API is that it requires you split up your query into city, street and even address number, which makes it harder to accept input from users. Data is returned as JSON or CSV.

Yahoo PlaceFinder API is the successor to the company's previous geocoder API. While it wasn't as fast as some of the other big names in our tests, it does come with by far the highest published rate limits: 50,000 requests per day. It requires an API key and, unfortunately, the willingness to press your luck. YahooTrack this API has not invested much in geo lately, even shutting down its Yahoo Maps. The Yahoo geocoder returns JSON, XML and serialized PHP.

Be sure to read the next Mapping article: Google Maps to Cost Much, Much Less For Heavy Users, Begin Enforcement


Comments (14)

[...] 7 Free Geocoding APIs: Google, Bing, Yahoo and MapQuest (programmableweb.com) 33.718151 73.060547 Zeeshan Akhter's world of Free HelpLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

[...] AJAX code that returns the latitude and longtitude results back to the server side for processing.I've been working on a project using the Google maps API recently. I've been using it to return the ...some things that you need to be aware of. The first thing is that Google does not want you to use [...]

True, if you've entered into a Volume Licensing Agreement. The developer accounts, with free access, have 10,000 calls per month. That's how I read it. API terms are notoriously difficult to decipher.


I suspect that when you were testing Bing Maps you used a basic account and had a couple responses cme back empty. If this is the case this is likely due to rate limiting. If you look at the response header there will be a flag that indicates this. Rate limiting occurs when either your account makes a lot of requests ina short period of time to the service or when the closest servers to where you are testing are under a lot of load and non-enterprise accounts are rate limited to give priority to enterprise accounts. Rate limiting does not occur on enterprise accounts, only free accounts.

As for the free terms of use for Bing Maps. The free usage is for transactions which could be geocoding, routing or one of the other service functions. There are two types of geocoding available, on-demand via a REST service (ms) and batch geocoding where you can upload a large set of addresses in a single request and have it return when completed (measure in minutes). The terms vary based on the type of application being created. Here is some clarity on the numbers.

Windows Store (win 8), or Windows Phone app

  • Public facing app (free or paid for)
    • 50,000 transactions in a 24 hour period.
  • Evaulation (trial) for commercial or Government app
    • 10,000 transactions in a 30 day period

Web site (JavaScript or Silverlight), Non-Windows platform (iOS, Android app)

  • 125,000 transactions a year

Batch geocoding

  • 50,000 addresses per year.

Internal apps (non-public facing) of any type require a license.



We at Texas A&M GeoServices (http://geoservices.tamu.edu/) offer a variety of services including geocoding and reverse geocoding.  Within the services we offer batch (upload a database of records), interactive (geocode single addresses), and webservice APIs (http, soap and rest).

When you register an account on our website, you are given 2500 credits (one credit = one transaction) to test out the service.  When you need more credits, you can either purchase them or join our partner program.  Our partners place public attribution of our services on their website and get free credits in increments of 2500 when their account balance drops below 2500.  They can get these partner credits in as many times in a day as their account balance drops below 2500.

Come check us out, we have a chat service with a representative available Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm CST. We'd love to answer any questions you may have!



So you not really free.  All service talked about here have a free tier.  You only have free test accounts.  When the extremely low rat eis reached then everyting is COMPLETELY pay afterwords.  That is not the focus of the article.


I highly recommend also trying out Geocode.Farm's API. It's fast, reliable, and works almost all the time. It has international coverage and covers over 80% of the planet. Best of all, it's a fraction of the price of most of these other services and is free to use without registration.


There is one more geocoding service - PickPoint.

Having trivial API it provides simple way of geocoding as well as reverse geocoding. The service uses OpenStreetMap data covering almost all the world.

It contains a set of plans being able to satisfy your needs in terms of calls per day. One of them is a Free plan you could use for testing and integration purposes, it supports of up to 2500 calls per day.


There is one more geocoding service - PickPoint.

Having trivial API it provides simple way of geocoding as well as reverse geocoding. The service uses OpenStreetMap data covering almost all the world.

It contains a set of plans being able to satisfy your needs in terms of calls per day. One of them is a Free plan you could use for testing and integration purposes, it supports of up to 2500 calls per day.


Here's my roundup of current geocoding services as of 2016. There are 3 categories of services, each with their own pros and cons.

Google, MapQuest, Bing, etc. - These services provide the best results and speed, and as a plus are also really great at figuring out what address you are asking for even if it is missing some data like zip code or has typos. The downside is that there are significant restrictions on how you can use the data. In some cases, you are only permitted to show the resulting lat/lon points on a map served by their mapping service and it must be freely available for anyone to see that map.

OpenStreetMap/Nominatim - Global coverage and free, Nominatim is a great choice (http://nominatim.openstreetmap.org/). They offer the API free of charge, but rate limit requests to 1 per second. In my experience, their address parser also has trouble with incomplete addresses, and in some cases even has trouble with complete addresses that other services handled without trouble.

Paid APIs with no restrictions (LatLon.io, Geocodio, Texas A&M) - These services offer paid plans, but come with no restrictions on how you present or store the resulting data. They are most likely based on the US census Tiger/Line data set which is why many only work for addresses in the US. These are a good choice if you only need to geocode US addresses and need complete control over how you use the data.


Howdy Mark, 

You are mostly correct in respects to Texas A&M's geocoder, there are a few missing points however.

  • We do offer free geocoding in the form of an initial 2500 lookups to everyone who registers, as well as a partners program that offers free geocoding with the only limitation being in batch processing of no more than 2500 per batch.
  • We do utilize Tiger/Line data, however we also have parcel data and are able to match to parcel level roughly 30% of the time. Thanks for including us in your comment!