What is credit card debt

Credit card number: What does the column of numbers mean?

© iStock / MKucova / 2012
by Detlev Neumann, January 28th, 2021

How nice that the internet never closes. No matter what time it is: online shops are always open. However, it doesn't matter when it comes to paying. Then you will often be asked for your credit card number. So, pull out your card and enter the long column of numbers. But do you actually know what exactly you are typing? After all, this multi-digit sequence of digits must have some meaning, right? Correct. But which? Here is the answer.

What is the credit card number?

The credit card number is a column of up to 16 digits. You need it when you pay a bill with the so-called plastic money. This often happens, for example, when you shop on the Internet. There the card is one of several cashless payment methods.

If you select it when shopping online, the provider will ask you later, Your Enter credit card number (and verification number). Mind you: your credit card number and not just any. The reason: you are unique with her to be identified as the owner of the card - and at the same time as the owner of the account associated with it. After all, the seller wants to be sure that their bill will be paid. And from the right customer. Therefore, credit card number and verification number alone are no longer sufficient for a purchase. You now have to identify yourself in two ways. In professional circles this is called two-factor authentication.

By the way: If your credit card has expired and you get a new one, the number will stay the same. Only the check number is new.

Where is the credit card number?

The credit card number is easy to find: Anyone who has ever seen a credit card will have noticed the long sequence of digits in the middle of the front. This is the credit card number.

© Hanseatic Bank The credit card number is the long sequence of digits on the front of the credit card.

So go ahead and type. A total of 16 digits. Or is your card number shorter? That is also possible. But why is one number longer than the other? Coincidence? No. There is a system behind this. So the length of the credit card number depends on the credit card company that makes it. For example:

Credit card companyCredit card number length
Visa13 or 16 digits
Mastercard16 digits
American Express15 digits
Diners Club14 digits


Why can I feel the credit card number?

You've probably noticed that all credit cards are the same size are. To be more precise: 85.60 millimeters long, 53.98 millimeters wide and about 0.76 millimeters thick. This is the credit card format, as it is known colloquially. It is officially called "ID-1 format". It belongs to the international standard ISO / IEC 7810. This stipulates that credit cards must have identical dimensions all over the world.

And what does that have to do with the credit card number? Quite simply: It is also after you uniform pattern built up. It starts with the fact that you can feel it. The number is stamped on the card. This so-called embossing used to ensure that the card could be read by analog imprinters. These are mechanical devices that press the raised credit card number onto an inserted receipt. Incidentally, there is a characteristic "ritsch-ratchet" sound.

However, this is rarely heard because billing is now carried out electronically by magnetic stripe or chip. Today imprinters are only used in exceptional cases, for example when modern machines go on strike. That is why there are still those Embossing. The international standard behind it is ISO / IEC 7811.

© iStock / Nastasic / 2018 You often need your credit card number when shopping online.

How does the credit card code work?

After that has been clarified, now to the credit card number itself. Or in other words: to the importance of its many digits. The first thing that strikes you is that this is in Blocks of several digits are arranged. This division is intended to make the number easier to read. There is no greater secret behind it.

The first places on the map are more interesting. Among other things, they show which credit card company each copy comes from. Therefore, the six digits at the beginning of the number are used as "Bank Identification Number ", BIN for short. Another technical term for this, also in English, is "Issuer Identification Number" (IIN). In German they are called “issuer identification number” or “bank identification number”. And of course there is a standard for this too: ISO 7812.

Accordingly, the BIN is composed as follows: The first digit or the first two digits stand for the credit card company. Here are some examples:

Credit card companyBank Identification Number
Visa card4
Mastercard51 to 55
American Express34 or 37
Diners Club36 or 38

If you have a credit card from Hanseatic Bank, you will notice that their number starts with 4. So that means it comes from Visa. This matches the “VISA Credit” imprint in the lower right corner of the card.

Depending on the issuer of the card, the second to fourth digits (Visa) or the third to fourth digits (e.g. Mastercard) represent the Card provider. This could be your bank, the savings bank or an automobile club, for example.

© Hanseatic Bank This is what the BIN looks like on every Hanseatic Bank credit card.

A Hanseatic Bank credit card has three digits: 152. Because the Hanseatic Bank works with the credit card manufacturer Visa, the first block of each of their credit cards looks like this:

  • Visacard number 4 and Hanseatic Bank number 152 result in 4152

Providers often have several types of credit cards in program. There are platinum, gold or standard cards. They can be recognized by the fifth digit. All providers use their own code here. This also applies to the sixth digit in the credit card number. It marks whether it is, for example, a main or secondary card, a partner or company card.

What is the point of the account number and check digit?

The sixth digit is followed by an individual account number that is linked to the credit card. Don't get confused: this is not the number of your bank or savings bank accountfrom which the invoice amounts are ultimately debited. The account number on the card comes from the credit card company. With credit cards from Hanseatic Bank, that is, from Visa.

The special account number on the card makes sense. Because some people have multiple credit cards but only one bank account. Since each card has its own account number, the card company can link it to the cardholder's bank account. So you canmultiple credit cards through one account let run.

The last digit in the column of numbers is always one Check digit. It is not to be confused with the test number. The check digit can be used to determine whether the complete credit card number is consistent. After all, it could also have been invented and rolled out freely. In order to recognize this, a certain calculation method is used, the so-called Luhn algorithm. This enables merchants, for example, to find out whether or not a credit card number was entered correctly.

Fake credit card number: what is this good for?

Fake credit card number: what is this good for?

On the Internet you will find some lists with "fake", ie invalid, credit card numbers, but they are structured in the same way as a real one. You can also create them yourself with generators like this one. Of course, such fake credit card numbers will not work for a purchase. They are used to test payment systems, for example the payment process in a web shop.

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