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The amount of total digits in a credit card is usually either 15 or 16. However, some credit cards have as much as 19 digits and some have as few as 13.
What’s interesting is the fact that each number of a credit card has meaning. Why is that important?
Well, knowing what each number means can make it easier to spot fraud, that’s always a good thing. It will also show you how credit card numbers work.
There’s 4 core parts to a credit card number. Let’s break each one of those down.
The 1st credit card number is known as the (MII), which is the Major Industry Identifier. The 1st digit of a credit card tells you what type of company the specific credit card is affiliated with.
This could be a bank, airline, retailer or other. This 1st digit also helps indicate which major credit card network the card belongs to.
(3) American Express
Credit Card Numbers 2-6
Along with the first number, the (2-6) numbers on your credit card make up the (IIN), which is the Issuer Identification Number.
Now, this may also be referred to as the (BIN), Bank Identification Number. These numbers verify which credit card company a card originates from.
Credit Card Numbers 7-18
The 7th number and all remaining numbers on a credit card are used to identify the individual account for the credit card holder.
Final Credit Card Number
The last credit card number serves as a final checkpoint for payment processors to determine if the credit card is genuine or not. If the card is genuine, the payment will processed accordingly.
Now that you have an overview of how your credit card digits work, let’s get into the details about each one a little more.
The First Number
The first digit of your credit card number is known as the Major Industry Identifier (MII). It indicates whether your card is affiliated with an airline, another type of travel provider or certain other special interests.
It can also give you a sense of how the funds might be used and what network the card belongs to.
With the exception of store-specific credit cards, which don’t conform to the same rules, most consumers will only ever encounter cards that begin with 3, 4, 5 and 6.
These numbers generally correspond with the four major card networks: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover.
But as you can see below, American Express and Discover are unique from their more-widely-accepted counterparts.
In particular, it takes multiple digits to identify their cards.
This first digit and the five that follow it make up a card’s Issuer Identification Number. You can learn more about that in the next section.
Digits 2-6: Issuer Identification Numbers
The credit card 2-6 digits is called an IIN or BIN. A card’s Issuer Identification Number or Bank Identification Number represents the credit card company the card originates from.
This number can also identify the card network it belongs to also. This combo of numbers can tell you what type of benefits the card offers as well.
Digits 7-18: Account Numbers
The digits 7-18 represent the account of the individual card holder. It’s important to note that the number can have as many as 12-digits, the last 3 digits would be included on your monthly statements, along with the final digit of the card number.
What would happen if you lose your card? Would your account number change?
Even though your account number would change when you get a replacement credit card, you wouldn’t be opening a new account. Since it’s the same account, it wouldn’t affect your credit score.
The Final Digit: The Validator
The last number helps protect the account from unauthorized use by catching common transcription errors made by either humans or machines when inputting series of numbers.
How and why this works are matters too complex to cover in the course of this discussion, but feel free to read up on the topics if you wish!
Don’t Make These Mistakes
Before we close out this article, there’s a few things you need to always be aware of as it pertains to your credit card number.
Never Write Your Full Account Number Down: Look, we know this is obvious but people do it all the time.
If someone has your full account number, they can use your credit card at will and I’m sure you don’t want that. If you’re going to write your credit card numbers down, please make sure it’s stored inside a safe where others can’t matter.
Using Your Card In Public: Card readers are becoming a problem, have been for a few years. Just be mindful of your surrounding when you’re paying for items.
If you’re in a retailer or gas station, just be weary who’s watching and hide your card as best as possible. The technology thieves have today is impressive, so you have to be mindful of where you place your card, how you hold it in public and other scenarios.
Lost And Stolen Cards: If you lose your credit card or if it’s stolen, make sure you turn it in immediately. You don’t want to take any chances, report the card lost or stolen immediately.
Credit Shout is a community of personal finance experts dedicated to helping you save money and make smart financial decisions. Learn how to master your credit card rewards, improve your credit score and start eliminating your debt.