Get the Finder app 🥳

Track your credit score


What Do Credit Card Numbers Mean?


Fact checked

We’re committed to our readers and editorial independence. We don’t compare all products in the market and may receive compensation when we refer you to our partners, but this does not influence our opinions or reviews. Learn more about Finder .

Credit card numbers each serve a particular function. It may be hard for you to believe, but they are not just random identification numbers. They determine how each transaction will be routed and enhance security.

You probably know a few credit card fun facts and memorised your own credit card numbers by heart, either in full or the last four digits. You have recited them more times then you can count, 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 to spending that you know what the numbers mean it is food for though that helps you understand the process your information goes through with each credit card transaction.

Unlike other account numbers like those of the gas or phone company or even department stores, credit cards all use the same number system. Almost all national credit card numbers are based on the ANSI Standard X4.12-1983 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 notes the system that your card belongs to. Each of the major credit cards are assigned to a system.
    • Number 6 denotes a Discover credit card
    • Number 5 denotes a Mastercard
    • Number 4 denotes a Visa
    • Number 3 denotes a travel or entertainment card like American Express or Diners Club
  • Within each system is a structure that is unique to that credit card company. For example:
    • On American Express cards the third and fourth digits are 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 check 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 check number.

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

Related Posts

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and Privacy & Cookies Policy.

Credit Cards Comparison

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Purchase rate Balance transfer rate Annual fee
Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard - Exclusive Offer
0% for 12 months, reverts to 19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months
Finder Exclusive. Ends 29 October 2020
Save on new and existing interest charges with 0% interest on both balance transfers and purchases for the first 12 months.
ANZ Low Rate
12.49% p.a.
0% p.a. for 25 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee
$0 annual fee for the first year ($58 p.a. thereafter)
Save with 0% p.a on balance transfers for 25 months (with a 1.5% BT fee) and $0 first year annual fee. Plus a 12.49% p.a. purchase interest rate.
NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card
19.99% p.a.
0% p.a. for 6 months with 2% balance transfer fee
$295 annual fee for the first year ($395 p.a. thereafter)
Collect up to 130,000 bonus Qantas Points (100k when you spend $3,000 in the first 60 days and 30k after 12 months). Plus, 75 bonus Status Credits.
Citi Rewards Card - $500 Voucher Offer
21.49% p.a.
0% p.a. for 12 months
$99 annual fee for the first year ($199 p.a. thereafter)
Get a $500 e-voucher to spend at Myer, JB Hi-Fi or Coles when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days. Plus, earn points with the Citi Rewards Program.

Compare up to 4 providers

* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.

Go to site