What is Wildcards ? Using wildcards in IP Addressing Explained with Examples

By | 9th November 2015

What is Wildcards?

Wildcards also known as inverse masks are mostly used when configuring mask for IP ACL (Access Control List) ,Enhanced Interior Gateway Protocol (EIGRP) and OSPF.

 And quite simply, Wilcards means wherever there’s a 1 in a normal netmask, you’ll use a 0 in a wildcard mask.

Subnet Mask for  IP address with a mask will be This is sometimes called an inverse mask or a wildcard mask. When the value of the mask is written out into binary (0s and 1s), the results determine which address bits are to be considered in processing the traffic.

Mask Example:

The values for subnet mask can be 128,192,224,240,248,252,254 and 255

Take network address / 24 (class C)

Network Address (binary) 11000000.10101000.0001100.00000000

Subnet mask  (decimal)

mask 11111111.11111111.11111111.00000000 (binary)

Subtract the normal mask from in order to determine the ACL inverse mask or wilcard. In this example, the inverse mask is determined for network address with a normal mask of

e.g #1


        = 0.    0.   0.   255  – this is the wild card or inverse mask

e.g #2

Subnet mask of



     = 0.     0.     0.      63  (this is the wildcard)

Calculating wilcards is fun if you could understand that is just simple subtraction of the net mask of a given ip address from

Wildcard for class B IP addresses

The following table should help in seeing a pattern between the number of bits used for the mask in a particular octet, the subnet mask in decimal and the equivalent wildcard mask:


The binary for the wildcard mask is the exact reverse, bit for bit, of the subnet mask. You then calculate the decimal from the reversed binary bits to obtain the dotted decimal wildcard mask.

Wildcard Configuration Example

IP addressing

Access Control Lists (ACLs)

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