How Many Numbers Are on a Credit Card?

Quick Answer

There are 15 or 16 numbers on a credit card and each digit represents specific information necessary to complete a transaction.

Smiling woman holding new credit card in hands sitting on bed in front of laptop with credit card.

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The numbers on your credit card are more than just a string of random digits. Credit cards have either 15 or 16 numbers, and each represents specific identifying information necessary to complete a transaction.

Indeed, credit card numbers follow international standards designed to facilitate easy and accurate payments. Here's what you need to know about the numbers on your card and how each digit serves a purpose.

What Do All the Numbers on Your Credit Card Mean?

Credit cards in the Visa, Mastercard and Discover payment networks feature 16 digits, while those in the American Express network have just 15. While all the numbers on your credit card can appear to be random, there's actual meaning behind them.

  • First digit: The first number represents the card's payment network. For example, credit cards that begin with 3 are part of the American Express, Diners Club or Carte Blanche payment networks. Cards starting with 4 belong to the Visa network, while those beginning with 2 or 5 are affiliated with the Mastercard network. Discover network cards begin with a 6.
  • Digits 2 through 6: The digits immediately following the first number are issuer identification numbers (IINs). They indicate your card issuer and the specific credit card product you're using. For example, Chase uses the number 414720—among 90 IINs—for its Visa cards.
  • Remaining digits: The rest of the digits after the IIN make up your account number, which is linked to your card issuer to ensure transactions are routed appropriately. The last number, a "check digit," helps determine whether your credit card number is actually valid.

Increasingly, credit card numbers are printed flat and no longer feature raised numbers. That's because old-school credit card machines that needed the embossed numbers to imprint the number on carbon paper have given way to chip readers that encrypt your personal information. Similarly, credit card numbers are now generally found on the back of your card, not the front.

Credit Card Numbers vs. Account Numbers

Many people mistakenly believe their credit card number is their account number, but that's not the case. These are two different numbers that reference two different aspects of your credit card account. You can find your account number on your credit card statement or in your account dashboard.

Since your account number is different from your credit card number, your card issuer can replace a lost or stolen card with a new credit card number without having to create a new account for you.

Other Numbers on Your Credit Card

Your card also features other numbers besides your credit card number, including the CVV code and expiration date.


Credit cards have another three-digit number that usually appears on the back of the card called a card verification value, or CVV. You may see them referred to by other names, including:

  • Card verification code (CVC)
  • Card validation code 2 (CVC2)
  • Card security code (CSC)
  • Card identification number (CID)

These numbers provide extra verification for online and phone transactions to prevent unauthorized transactions. Say a hacker intercepts your credit card number. They'd likely have a hard time making online purchases without knowing the CVV number printed on your card.

CVV codes are three digits on Visa, Mastercard and Discover cards and usually appear on the back of the credit card. American Express cards have a four-digit number typically printed on the front.

Expiration Date

Card issuers take another security measure by setting their cards to expire after three to five years. The expiration date may be listed on either side of your card in a two-digit month and year format. For example, if your expiration date is 03/28, then your card is set to expire on the last day of March 2028.
Your account remains active when the expiration date arrives, but the card is no longer functional. Fortunately, you'll usually receive a replacement card in the mail as early as 60 days before the expiration date, so you'll always have access to a valid card.

How to Protect Your Credit Card Number

Now that you know the security measures your credit card issuer employs to safeguard your transactions, it's crucial for you also to protect your credit card numbers and information. Follow these steps to protect your credit card number.

  • Use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is a service that encrypts your internet activity to protect your privacy and sensitive data. If a hacker intercepts your internet activity, all they'll see is a random stream of characters—none of which can be used to hack your accounts or steal your identity.
  • Use a virtual credit card. A virtual credit card is a temporary and disposable number that gives you more anonymity when making online purchases. Your card issuer generates these random numbers that are tied to your account. You can usually set up virtual card numbers in your account settings.
  • Browse securely. Since hackers target insecure connections to steal your information, make sure you shop securely at sites with URLs starting with HTTPS and not HTTP. The "S" stands for secure, meaning the site encrypts your information when it is connected to its website.
  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links. Hackers use phishing, smishing and vishing techniques to try to steal your credit card information. This involves sending links to fake sites that closely imitate established websites. Rather than clicking on potentially fraudulent links you receive via email or text, type the website URL manually in your browser when shopping or banking online.

Keep an Eye Out for Unauthorized Transactions

Your credit card has 15 or 16 numbers in a specific sequence designed to ensure safe transactions and prevent unauthorized ones. To keep your account safe, take the necessary steps to protect your credit number, including your CVV code.

Still, hackers and fraudsters can be relentless and gain access to your accounts despite your best efforts to protect yourself. It's a wise practice to monitor your credit scores, reports and account statements regularly to spot suspicious activity. Identity theft and credit protection from Experian can aid your efforts with identity theft monitoring, dark web surveillance and privacy scans to remove your personal information from people finder sites.