What do credit card numbers mean? | finder.com

What do credit card numbers mean?

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Credit card numbers actually aren’t random at all.

Credit card numbers each serve a particular function that determines how each transaction will be routed and enhance security.

You probably know your credit card numbers by heart, either in full or the last four digits. But, if you are like most people, you probably have no idea what they mean. The numbers each have a specific identification function either for the bank, the system or you personally. While it is not imperative you know what the numbers mean, understanding the process your information goes through with each credit card transaction is still food for thought.

Unlike other account numbers, like those of the gas or phone company or even department stores, credit cards all use the same number system. In this system, the number and structure of the numbers on the card indicate what kind of card it is and to whom it belongs.

Credit card numbers breakdown

The first number on your credit card is called the Major Industry Identifier (MII) and notes the system that your card belongs to.

  • Number 3 denotes an American Express
  • Number 4 denotes a Visa
  • Number 5 denotes a Mastercard
  • Number 6 denotes a Discover credit card

Within each card system is a structure that is unique to that credit card company. For example:

  • On American Express cards, the third and fourth digits are the type and currency, the fifth through the eleventh digits are the account number, the twelfth through the fourteenth digits are the cards number within that particular account and the fifteenth digit is the check number.
  • A Visa uses digits two through six for the bank number, the seventh digit through the twelfth or the fifteenth are the account number and digit thirteen or sixteen is the validator number.
  • Mastercard uses digits two through six as account numbers depending on the length it can be digits two and three or two through four or two through five or six. After the bank number, the digits that follow up to the fifteenth are the account number and the sixteenth digit is the validator number.

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7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
17.99% to 26.99% variable
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Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases
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Get 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5x points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & fees
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0% for the first 18 months (then 13.24%, 17.24% or 21.24% variable)
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An 18 months 0% intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees
3% cash back on up to $10,000 in the first 12 months, then 1.5% on all purchases
0% for the first 12 months (then 15.24%, 19.24% or 25.24% variable)
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Earn 3% cash back on up to $10,000 in the first 12 months, then 1.5% on all purchases. See Rates and Fees.
2x miles at US restaurants and on direct Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
17.99% to 26.99% variable
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Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees

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Bottom line

While it is more important to know where you are spending your money than the function of your credit card numbers, it is helpful to understand the complexities of the credit card system. Once you realize how much effort has gone into ensuring security and efficiency you will have more appreciation for your card.

If you’re looking for a new card, make sure to compare your credit card options to find the best fit for your wallet.

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