What do the numbers on your credit card mean? - The Points Guy (2022)

Guide

Articles

Sept. 05, 2022

4 min read

What do the numbers on your credit card mean? - The Points Guy (1)

  • Email

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit

this page.

As you look for strategies to increase the number of your credit card rewards points, have you ever wondered about the numbers that form the foundation for all that earning potential? Each of those figures plays a role in each purchase you make. They help merchants know that your card is real, and they help banks process those transactions in a matter of seconds.

So what do all these numbers actually mean? Today, we're going to break down the parts of a credit card number.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The numbers

Let’s start with the first digit. This is called the Major Industry Identifier (MII) and helps identify the card's network:

  • 3 — American Express
  • 4 — Visa
  • 5 — Mastercard
  • 6 — Discover

The next four or five digits on the card indicate the bank that issued the card. Together with the MII, these make up the first five or six digits of your credit card number and are known as the BIN (Bank Identification Number) or the IIN (Issuer Identification Number).

The remaining digits are unique to you: they make up your actual individual account number.

The final digit of your credit card number, though, is actually not part of the account. It’s known as a check digit, which is used to verify that your card is real. When your credit card is processed, a system known as the Luhn algorithm uses this last digit to ensure that your card number is a real one.

So if, for example, your card number were 5432 1234 5678 9101, your number breakdown would be:

  • The first digit (5) indicates that your card is part of the Mastercard network.
  • The next five numbers (43212) indicate the bank that issued your card; together, those first six numbers (543212) make up the BIN.
  • The remaining numbers (3456789101) are your individual account number.

The divide

With some clear methods behind the credit card number madness, you might also wonder if there is a reason your credit card number is generally divided into groups of four numbers.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

The answer? Simplicity. The number is divided this way to make it easier to read your number aloud over the phone, according to Mark Nelson, a senior vice president at Visa.

Expiration date and CVV

Both the expiration date and the CVV, or security code, serve as additional security features on your card. When you place an order over the phone or online, you will almost certainly be asked to give these numbers, which help ensure that you are actually holding the card in your hand at the time of your purchase.

What do the numbers on your credit card mean? - The Points Guy (2)

The CVV (card verification value) is a number three or four digits long. On a Visa or Mastercard, the CVV is usually on the back of the card. An American Express card, however, has its four-digit CVV on the front of the card.

Note that an American Express card may also have a three-digit code on the back. This is known as a CID (card identification data) number and is an added security measure. Since it is not the CVV, though, your card will be declined if you try to use it instead of the actual CVV on the front of the card.

Bottom line

While they might seem random at first glance, all the numbers on your credit card serve a specific purpose. You don't need to think about them in order to reap maximum benefits from your card, but it's nice to know the purpose behind those powerful little numbers.

Additional reporting by Emily Thompson.

Related stories

20 must-have cruise items — including a roll of duct tapeChase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve insurance benefits – Which is better?The complete guide to the Expedia Rewards loyalty programNot as simple as it seems: How to use JetBlue Travel Bank

Featured image by

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.

  • Learn Moreabout The Business Platinum Card® from American ExpressTerms Apply

    TPG Exclusive OfferThe Business Platinum Card® from American ExpressEarn 150,000 points120,000 points

  • Learn Moreabout Ink Business Unlimited® Credit CardTerms Apply

    Best Offer EverInk Business Unlimited® Credit Card$900 bonus cash back$750

  • Learn Moreabout Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardTerms Apply

    Best all-around travel rewards cardChase Sapphire Preferred® Card60,000 bonus points

  • Learn Moreabout Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit CardTerms Apply

    Best card for premium perks while travelingCapital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card75,000 bonus miles

See all best card offers

Related stories

Guide20 must-have cruise items — including a roll of duct tapeNewsChase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve insurance benefits – Which is better?GuideThe complete guide to the Expedia Rewards loyalty programGuideNot as simple as it seems: How to use JetBlue Travel Bank

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Apply for Chase Sapphire Reserve®

TPG Editor‘s Rating

Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

4

/ 5

Go to review

Apply NowApply for Chase Sapphire Reserve®

at

Chase

's secure site

Rewards

1 - 10X points

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points

Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850

Excellent

Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more

Apply NowApply for Chase Sapphire Reserve®

at

Chase

's secure site

Best premium travel card for value

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

TPG Editor‘s Rating

Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

4

/ 5

Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer

    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points

  • Annual Fee

    $550

  • Recommended Credit

    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850

    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Rob Wisoky

Last Updated: 11/09/2022

Views: 6182

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (68 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rob Wisoky

Birthday: 1994-09-30

Address: 5789 Michel Vista, West Domenic, OR 80464-9452

Phone: +97313824072371

Job: Education Orchestrator

Hobby: Lockpicking, Crocheting, Baton twirling, Video gaming, Jogging, Whittling, Model building

Introduction: My name is Rob Wisoky, I am a smiling, helpful, encouraging, zealous, energetic, faithful, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.