Credit Card Numbers Explained – The Meaning of the Numbers
Credit cards are a great way to make purchases, but all the different numbers can be confusing. How long are credit card numbers? What do they mean? Can anyone use your credit card number to buy things or access your accounts? Most people don’t think about it, but those numbers represent your financial identity. They can also tell a lot about you and your spending habits. In this article, we’ll walk you through not only these questions but many more, such as how to get credit card numbers or how to keep your credit card numbers safe and secure.
When you take a look at your card, you will surely notice that there are a lot of numbers on both the front and back. But what do these numbers on a credit card actually mean? Here’s a quick breakdown of the different numbers and what they represent:
The first six digits of a credit card number are known as the Issuer Identification Number (IIN), and they identify the specific issuer of the card. Three digits (or four depending on the card type) that can be found at the back of your card are known as the “CVV number,” which stands for Card Verification Value. This value is used by merchants to verify that a customer has physical possession of the card they’re using when making purchases online or over the phone.
The last digit of your credit card number is called a “check digit”. This serves as an additional security measure against fraud, but it’s also used by merchants when processing transactions to ensure accuracy in their receipts.
Each time you use your credit card, this algorithm produces a new set of numbers. If all goes well, these will match up exactly with those found on either side of your physical plastic!
Now that you know the basics of these numbers, you can use them to your advantage to keep track of your spending and ensure accuracy when making payments.
What Do the Numbers on a Credit Card Mean?
The numbers on a credit card can seem like a random string of digits, but they actually have a lot of information encoded in them. First of all, there are no random credit card numbers or fake credit card numbers, they all have some meaning.
The first few digits indicate the type of card and the issuer, while the rest of the digits make up the account number.
Here’s a breakdown of each section of numbers:
The first digit indicates the card type. 3 = American Express, 4 = Visa, 5 = Mastercard 6 = Discover, and Maestro cards can start with either 5 or 6.
The first six digits are the Issuer Identification Number (IIN), which identifies the financial institution that issued the card.
The remaining digits make up the account number. The account number is unique to each individual cardholder and is used to identify their account when making transactions.
If you do not wish to charge an actual credit card when testing certain transactions, there are test credit card numbers that can be found online and used for those purposes instead of real credit card numbers found on your card.
How to Decode Your Credit Card Number
In order to be able to decode your credit card number, the first thing you need to do is understand how it’s generated. So, how many numbers are there on a credit card?
Every credit card has a unique 16-digit number, and this number is generated by the issuer of the card. As we already mentioned, the first six digits are known as the Issuer Identification Number (IIN), and these six digits identify the specific issuer of the card.
The next nine digits of the credit card number are known as the account number, and these nine digits identify your specific account with that particular issuer. The final digit of the credit card number is known as the check digit, and this digit is used to validate the accuracy of your credit card number.
Now, let’s go more in-depth about the specifics of each one.
First six digits
The first six digits of your credit card number, known as the Bank Identification Number (BIN) or issuer identification number (IIN), are used by the issuing bank to identify the brand and type of card. The BIN is often used to make it easier for retailers to process cards when making a payment at a physical store or online checkout.
We said that the first digit represents the card type, but the next five represent the specific issuing bank. These digits facilitate the exchange of information for the clearing of a transaction. The IIN for major networks:
- Visa uses numbers 2 through 6 as the BIN.
- Mastercard uses digits 2 and 3, or 2 through 4, 5, or 6.
- American Express uses numbers 3 and 4 to identify the brand of card (American Express Platinum card, Delta Card, etc.).
Your account number is there to identify you as the cardholder. It’s used to process transactions and keep track of your balance. When you make a purchase, the merchant will need your account number to know which account to charge. The account number can be found in the top-left corner of your card.
If you’re making an online purchase, you’ll also need to enter your account number when you checkout. The same goes for phone and mail order purchases.
Keep in mind that your account number is different from your credit card’s security code. The security code is a three or four-digit number that’s used to verify that you have possession of your credit card.
When a credit card number is generated, a mathematical algorithm is used to create a check digit.
This check digit is used to verify that the credit card numbers are valid. The algorithm used to generate the check digit is different for each credit card company, but all algorithms use the Luhn formula.
The Luhn formula is used to verify that an individual is entering a valid credit card number, as well as calculate the check digit.
This formula is used on all major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. If you have ever entered your credit card number into an online form or device and received an error message indicating that it was invalid because of incorrect digits or characters, this may be due to using an incorrect check digit. The Luhn formula can also be used in reverse.
If the last digit displayed on your screen does not match what should be there, then there has been some sort of error.
What is a CVV number?
A CVV number is a three-digit code printed on the back of a credit card, next to the signature strip. The code will contain 4 digits if you are using an American Express card.
This small piece of information is used as an added layer of security to verify the authenticity of the person using your card. When you purchase something with your credit card, it’s usually required that you enter your name and zip code along with a four-digit code on an automated telephone system or at point-of-sale (POS) terminals.
The CVV has been in use since 1990 but only became mandatory in 2005 when it was introduced by Visa International, MasterCard Worldwide, and Discover Network Corporation to help prevent fraud. Each transaction that involves a third-party card issuer who may not have regular access to your account will require this number for proof of identity, whether online or offline.
Credit Card Number vs. Account Number: What’s the Difference?
You may have heard the terms “credit card number” or “account number” used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing.
The credit card number is the long string of digits across the front or back of your card. This is the number that is used to identify your specific credit card. When you give a merchant your credit card number, they use it to run a transaction through your credit card issuer.
Your account number, on the other hand, is your unique identifier with that particular financial institution. Your account number is not printed on any receipts. And you only need to give out your account number when setting up direct deposit or automatic bill pay.
Account numbers are usually used for electronic transactions and ATM use, while credit card numbers are used for purchases in person or online. In some cases, like when paying by phone, you might insert both pieces of information into an automated form. In this case, you’d enter your full 16-digit number followed by either your PIN or signature verification code (depending on how secure a merchant wants their transaction systems).
So, when a merchant asks for your credit card number, they are asking for the long string of digits you can just go ahead and read from the front of your card. And when they ask for your account number, they are asking for your unique identifier with that particular financial institution.
How To Keep Your Credit Card Number Secure
There are a few things you can do to keep your credit card number secure.
First, you should never give your credit card number to anyone who calls you on the phone or emails you unsolicited. Second, use a credit card with a low limit and keep track of your spending. Third, only use your credit card at reputable businesses that you know and trust.
Additionally, don’t keep your credit card number in a file on your computer, and don’t write it on a piece of paper and leave it somewhere as this is extremely unsafe.
Finally, check your credit card statements regularly for unauthorized charges. If you see anything suspicious, report it to your credit card company immediately.
Here are some additional precautions you should know and take, just to be safe.
- Your credit card number is not a PIN. Don’t use your credit card number as a PIN. Keeping your PIN and credit card numbers in the same place can be dangerous, especially if you like to keep things at home in a place where anyone could find them.
- Your credit card number is not a password. The same goes for using your credit card number as a password—it’s too easy for someone else to find or guess, which would allow them access to all of your online banking accounts and services.
- Your credit card number is not a social security number: A social security number identifies an individual. It’s relatively easy for someone else with bad intentions to access one without permission from their owner if they have the opportunity (which includes taking it from another piece of mail before it gets delivered).
The numbers on your credit card are just as important as the CVV number, and they’re not just random digits. Each digit has a specific purpose that helps ensure that only authorized users can access their accounts. If you use a credit card regularly or have been considering getting one, it’s important for you to understand what all these numbers mean so that if anything happens, like losing your card or having it stolen, you know exactly how much money could be at risk.
Knowing the meaning of credit card numbers with CVV is key to credit card success. By taking the time to understand this, you can better manage your finances and avoid costly mistakes.