Where Is My Credit Card Number & How To Find It

Shawn Manaher
Shawn Manaher
Updated on November 16, 2022
where is credit card number

In this modern age, credit cards are ubiquitous. It seems that everybody you know has some sort of banking card, whether it’s a debit card or a credit card. These devices seem like magic, but how do they work? Where is my credit card number, what does it do, how does it work, and how can I find it?

Your 13-to-19-digit credit card number will be visible in several places, including the front of your card, your bank statements, and your online credit card account. Alternatively, you could call your bank and ask them to recite your credit card number. Your credit card number serves as a way to identify your account and verify your legitimacy with every transaction.

If you are the type of person who simply uses your credit card and pays it no mind, you may be satisfied to learn where your credit card number is. However, you may be curious as to the intricacies of your credit card number. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about credit card numbers, from how to find them to how they work.

What Is A Credit Card Number?

In its most simple form, a credit card number is an identifier. It is a unique number on your credit card that links the piece of magnetic plastic in your wallet to a real bank account and makes cashless transactions possible.

Credit card numbers average between 15 and 16 digits, with numbers typically appearing in four sets of four digits. However, credit card numbers can reach up to 19 digits or as low as 13, depending on the card network, account number, bank, and location.

Largely, credit card and debit card numbers function similarly. Both credit card and debit card numbers act as identifiers and a verification system and follow the same format. 

If you can learn to identify one, you can identify the other; oftentimes, the only difference is that providers will mark debit cards with a debit symbol.

Your card may seem like a random assortment of characters, but you can rest assured that it follows a strict identification system. We will cover this later.

When a device reads your credit card, it verifies your transaction locally. However, it is not in charge of flagging potential fraud or security issues; an algorithm from your bank or card provider handles this process.

Virtual Card Numbers

If credit card numbers were not complicated enough, some credit card companies have introduced virtual card numbers for internet-based transactions (also known as e-commerce.)

According to Capital One, one of the largest banks in the United States that specializes in credit and debit cards, a virtual card number is a security measure that certain credit card providers may provide to add an extra layer of security to online transactions.

A virtual card number is identical in layout to a regular credit card number but acts as something of a proxy for your credit account when shopping via the internet.

A virtual credit card number is a secondary credit card number that attaches to your credit account so that you can avoid using your real credit card number where transactions may not be secure.

If your credit card company offers virtual card numbers, such as Citi and Capital One, you can find them on their website and web or phone applications.

Credit Card Number Versus Security Code

If you’re familiar with credit card numbers, you may also be familiar with security codes. If a credit card number is to identify and validate the usage of your credit card, why does it have a security code, as well?

The security code (also known as a CVV, CSC, or CVC, depending on your provider and merchant) is a three-digit number on the back of your card, the opposite side of your credit card number.

While credit card numbers exist for identification and validation, security codes simply act as another level of security to prevent fraudulent activity. 

By providing your card’s security code, a merchant and a provider both gain sufficient evidence that you have your card in your possession and are not a stranger who has illicitly acquired your card information.

While every credit card transaction utilizes your credit card number in some form, larger ones- such as loan payments or expensive purchases- might require your security code as an additional layer of security.

Virtual card numbers will also often feature a virtual security code, adding a further layer of security to online transactions.

How To Find Your Credit Card Number

If you have used a credit card before, it’s hard to miss your credit card number. Your credit card number is the sequence of 13 to 19 digits emblazoned on the front of your plastic or metal card.

In some cards, the number may not have an identifying color, so it can be more challenging to read or make out the numbers. 

However, most cards will feature a different color for your credit card number so that it better stands out from the background color of the credit card. Typically, this color will be dark silver or grey. A

If your credit card is older or has sat in your wallet for some time, this color may rub off, and your credit card will be challenging to read once again.

How To Find Your Credit Card Number Without Your Card

If you do not have your credit card immediately available, finding your credit card number can be significantly more challenging. You may have to put in some more effort to find it.

Lawyers and credit card experts recommend keeping a record, if not the originals of, all of your major receipts and bills from the past seven years. This record should include your credit card statements.

If you keep your credit card statements on hand, you can easily find your credit card number. The location of your credit card number will vary depending on your provider, but typically, it is on the upper right corner of your statement.

Alternatively, if you have your provider’s app installed on your phone or computer, you may find a part, if not all, of your credit card number there.

If you have neither of these, you can call your credit card provider. 

If you provide sufficient evidence that your identity matches the one on their records, such as your social security number or a remote cell phone verification, your provider may recite your credit card number for you.

If you have lost your credit card, your provider can send you a new credit card, as well. This new card will have a different number, however, so it is not wise to ask for a new card and your old number at the same time.

How Do Credit Card Numbers Work?

By now, you should be aware that credit cards are a system of identification and verification. However, they do not achieve this via magic. 

There is a complex and specific process that your provider and merchants will undertake to validate the identity of your credit card and what account it is attached to.

Though they may look randomly assigned, computers create credit card numbers through a very deliberate process. 

Each number represents one aspect of your credit line account and totals up to a specific total, especially the final number. 

This total helps to verify the integrity of your card and your account.

This mathematical and numerical aspect seems complex, but it’s far simpler than you might think. Let’s take a look.

The First Number

The first number of your credit card is an MII, which is short for Major Industry Identifier. The Major Industry Identifier has a self-explanatory name; it defines which industry your credit card belongs to and frequently to which card network it belongs. 

The most common Major Industry Identifier numbers are 3, 4, 5, and 6 in the consumer world. These numbers are associated with every significant card network in America. 

3 represents American Express, 4 denotes Visa, 5 designates Mastercard, and 6 represents Discover. 

Specifically, American Express cards will start with either 34 or 27, while Discover cards will begin with 65, 6011, or 644.

Alternatively, industry-specific credit cards such as airline rewards programs take up other numbers from 1 through 8.

Numbers 1 and 2 are designated for airline-related cards. 7 is for petroleum cards, and 8 is for telecommunications and health care.

Numbers 2 Through 6

Digits 2 through 6, or potentially starting at 3 or 5, depending on if you have American Express or Discover, are known as Bank Identification Numbers. 

These numbers, also known as BINs, indicate which bank your credit card belongs to, independent of its network.

For example, Chase, the largest bank in the United States, has an identification number of 414720. A Chase card from the Visa network will always start with the number 4414720.

Meanwhile, a Chase card from the Mastercard network will always start with the number 5414720.

The BINs of some of the most popular banks are as follows.

American Express379741
Wells Fargo446542
Bank of America480011
Capital One414709

Numbers 7 Up To 18

Credit card numbers vary wildly in length, so getting an exact measurement of the number of digits is downright impossible. However, it is easy to break the credit card number down into sections.

For example, your credit card may have a four-digit MII, extending its length significantly. However, if you know your bank, you can easily identify your BIN.

Immediately after your BIN, typically starting at the number 7, is an account number. These numbers help identify your exact account rather than a generic card from your network and bank. However, this number will not include the final number in your sequence.

Final Number

The final digit of your credit card number is a checksum or a key. There is no specific rule for the final number, but it must fit the equation that all valid credit card numbers plug into.

This number can be anything, but it must be one digit. Therefore, it must be between 1 and 9.

Checksums And Verification

Ultimately, the purpose of a credit card is identification and verification. To this end, credit card numbers plug into an equation known as the Luhn algorithm, designed by Hans Peter Luhn in 1954.

Using the following steps, you can mimic how credit card transactions verify that a credit card number is valid.

  1. Double every second number in your credit card number.
  2. If any double digits result from this doubling, split them into separate numbers. I.e, if you double a 7 into 14, it becomes a 1 and a 4.
  3. Find the sum of all of the remaining numbers.
  4. Add the sum of the numbers that you did not double.
  5. Add together the results from steps 3 and 4.
  6. Divide the final result by 10.

If the final result ends in a zero, your credit card is verified.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is a former financial advisor, has founded 5 online businesses, and is a coach, speaker, podcast host, and author.

He's been featured on Forbes, The Consults Corner on TAE Radio, The Writing Biz, What's Your Story, and more.

He loves to share his personal finance tips and money management wisdom with others to help them find financial freedom.
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