What is a Credit Card Number? (2024)

What is a Credit Card Number? (1)

Last Updated: August 31, 2023

2 min read

Key points about: credit card numbers

  1. Though seemingly random, credit card number sequences can tell you a lot about the card’s use-cases.

  2. Considering card numbers means understanding what the first number, next set of 5 numbers, following set of 9-12 numbers, and the last number mean.

  3. The last number validates all of the card’s numbers during transactions.

A credit card number is the long set of digits displayed across the front or back of your plastic or metal credit card. It’s typically 16 digits in length, often appearing in sets of four, and it’s used to identify both the credit card issuer and the account holder.

Credit card numbers aren’t randomly assigned; they’re coded to identify the issuer, the network, the account, and also to validate the complete number, all in an effort to prevent theft and fraud. The credit card number must fit a complex pattern in order to work.

The first number

The first six numbers are used to identify the industry and/or credit card issuer. And the first digit is known as theMajor Industry Identifier(MII). Here are some popularMIIsand what they represent:

1: Airlines

2: Airlines and Financial

3: Travel and Entertainment (including American Express)

4: Banking and Financial (Visa)

5: Banking and Financial (MasterCard)

6: Merchandising and Banking (Discover)

7: Petroleum

8: Health Care and Communications

9: Government

What is a Credit Card Number? (2)

The next 5 numbers

These are referred to as the card’sIssuer Identification Number (IIN), or Bank Identification Number (BIN), and further indicate which credit card company it originates from and clarifies to which card network it belongs.

Following the numbers that identify the issuer are the numbers that identify the account holder. Each issuer has one trillion possible numerical configurations with which to create account numbers and differentcredit cardsuse slightly differentnumbering systems.

The next 9-12 numbers

The seventh and all remaining digits in a card number, except for the last, identify that card’s individual account. Your account number may have as few as nine or as many as 12 digits.

What is a Credit Card Number? (3)

The last number

The last digit of a credit card number is known as a check sum. It’s a key that shows whether a credit card is indeed valid. The “check number” or “key” is created by a formula known as theLuhn Algorithm.

TheLuhn algorithmwas developed by inventor Peter Luhn, an IBM engineer who played a role in the early development of the internet. This complex algorithm is able to immediately detect errors when people inaccurately transcribecredit card numbers. It can tell, for instance, when someone accidentally hits the 9 key instead of the 6 key, as well as many other common errors.

As you can see, credit card companies aren’t just throwing digits out randomly. EveryDiscover credit cardcomes with a unique set of numbers with a utilitarian purpose. Like a snowflake, every credit card number is unique.

Did you know?

You can compare Discover credit cards against other industry-leading cards to find the one that’s best suited for how you use it.

What is a Credit Card Number? (2024)


What card number is 4111 1111 1111 1111? ›

Only pre-approved 'test card' numbers provided by Windcave can be used for testing, within test environments. We recommend using the test card 4111 1111 1111 1111 for Visa, 5431 1111 1111 1111 for MasterCard, 3711 1111 1111 114 for Amex, and 3600 0000 0000 08 for Diners.

What is a credit card number example? ›

Credit card number

This is often referred to as the 'long number' on the front of your credit card, which is usually 16 digits, but can be up to 19 digits in some instances. More formally, it's known as a Permanent Account Number, or 'PAN'. It's not just a random number though.

Do credit cards have 15 or 16 numbers? ›

Credit cards in the Visa, Mastercard and Discover payment networks feature 16 digits, while those in the American Express network have just 15. While all the numbers on your credit card can appear to be random, there's actual meaning behind them.

What are the odds of guessing a CVV code? ›

Not easily. By randomly guessing, there's a 1-in-1,000 chance of guessing a three-digit code, and a 1-in-10,000 chance of guessing a four-digit code. Merchants generally won't allow too many guesses, locking out would-be scammers after a few tries. If a fraudster guesses correctly, alert your card issuer immediately.

Is there a dummy credit card number for testing? ›

5555 5555 5555 4444 is the simplest card number to use when testing APPROVED payments.

What card is 6011? ›

Credit Card Number (Discover) is a 16-digit number beginning with 6011, 644–649 or 65 and might have dashes (hyphens) or spaces as separators.

What card starts with 4? ›

Visa cards begin with the number 4. Mastercards start with the number 5. Discover Cards begin with the number 6.

How to decode credit card numbers? ›

Other credit card components
  1. Most credit cards have 15 or 16 digits displayed across the front, depending on the issuer.
  2. The first 6 digits indicate the issuer number, the next five refer to the specific issuing bank, and the final six equal the user's account number.

What card starts with 5? ›

The First Number

Visa starts with 4, a Mastercard is 5 and Discover is 6. Other numbers are used to identify the industry.

Is there a universal CVV code? ›

Most card issuers use a three-digit code on credit and debit cards, including VISA, Mastercard, and Discover. But American Express uses a four-digit CVV. Each CVV is unique to the card and account holder, meaning there's no universal CVV code.

What companies don t ask for CVV? ›

Most prominent examples are Apple Pay, Google Wallet and PayPal. When these platforms are used to make a purchase, the payment management system handles verification and processing, so the online retailer doesn't see or obtain your credit card information.

Is 999 a valid CVV code? ›

The same algorithm of CVV1 and CVV2 is used to generate the iCVV. However, instead of the real Card Service Code, '999' is used as the Card Service Code when generating the iCVV with a different Cryptographic Key named as iCard Verification Key (iCVK).

What type of card is this number? ›

To tell the type of credit card by the number, simply look at the first digit of the credit card number, either on the front or back of your card. The first digit of an American Express card is 3, while it's 4 for Visa cards, 5 for Mastercards, and 6 for Discover cards.

What is the 12 digit card number? ›

Your account number is a set of numbers up to 12 digits long that identifies you as the owner of the credit card account. It's assigned by the financial institution issuing the card. The account number on the card begins with the seventh digit and ends on the second to last digit.

Can you identify cards by first 4 digits? ›

The Bank Identification Number (BIN), also known as the Issuer Identification Number, is the first 4–8-digit sequence at the beginning of the card number. As you can see in the table above, the BIN contains the industry identifier and indicates the financial institution that issued the card.

What is number 11 in cards? ›

Aces hold a value of one and Jacks, Queens, and Kings equal eleven only when they are removed together. For example, if you have a Jack and King on your board you can't remove either until a Queen appears. Once all three cards are present on the board they can be removed together to make “11”.


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