Credit card numbers explained

There are lots of numbers on your credit card, but do you know what they all mean?

1. Credit card number

This is the long number on the front of your card. It's usually 16-19 digits long and is unique to you.

Credit card valid from / expire end.

2. Valid from/Expires end

These numbers indicate the month and year your credit card was issued, and when it'll expire.

Security number or 'CVV'.

3. Security number or 'CVV'

For Mastercard and Visa, this is the last 3 digits of the number printed within the signature strip.

These numbers in more detail

  • This is often referred to as the ‘long number’ on the front of your credit card, which is usually 16 digits, but can be up to 19 digits in some instances. More formally, it’s known as a Permanent Account Number, or ‘PAN’.

    It’s not just a random number though. Your credit card number is unique to you and includes information used to identify your account, card and who it’s issued by.

    The first digit indicates the provider:

    • Mastercard numbers start with a 2 or 5.
    • Visa card numbers start with a 4.
    • American Express numbers start with a 3.

    The first 6 digits help to identify the card issuer, known as an Issue Identifier Number or ‘IIN’.

    All numbers following that relate specifically to your account, excluding the last one which is known as a ‘check digit’. This helps us verify that the full credit card number has been provided, and in the right order, anytime you make a purchase or payment.

    This method for creating credit card numbers is used internationally, and was invented by IBM engineer Hans Peter Luhn in 1954.

  • These numbers represent the month and year your card was issued, and when it will expire. For example, 06/20 would be June 2020.

    Credit cards are typically issued for 2 to 4 years, and renewed just before the expiry date. You might notice that the ‘expires end’ date is 3 years and 1 month after the ‘valid from’ date, just giving you a little extra time to switch to your new card.

    Once it’s expired, you won’t be able to use your old card, so it’s a good idea to start using a new card as soon as it arrives, just to avoid any future inconvenience.

    If your credit card is re-issued for any reason, e.g. you’ve ordered a replacement for a lost card, as you’d expect, your new card will have revised ‘valid from’ and ‘expires end’ dates.

    For security, any old cards should be cut up and disposed of carefully.

  • When you make a purchase online or over the phone, you may be asked for the ‘CVV’, ‘CVC’, ‘CVN’, ‘CVV2’ or a ‘security number’. In reality, they’re all the same thing.

    In simple terms, it’s a card verification number or code. Because it’s only ever printed on the card itself, when you provide it, that helps us to verify the physical card is still in your possession.

    On Visa and Mastercard credit cards, you’ll find your security number on the back of your card. It’s the last 3 digits of the number printed in the top right-hand corner of the signature strip.

    On American Express credit cards it’s a 4-digit number printed on the front, just above and to the right of the long credit card number.

Other numbers you might see

Issue number – some card providers include an ‘issue number’, although Lloyds Bank don’t. Starting with a 1, this increases each time a card is re-issued on the same account.

Account number – on a credit card, your account number is included as part of the long credit card number. On a debit card though, this is shown as a separate number underneath the long number.

Sort code – this isn’t a feature of credit cards, but you will see a sort code on debit cards, sitting alongside the account number underneath the long card number.

Your card PIN

One number you won’t find printed or embossed on your card, is your Personal Identification Number or ‘PIN’. That’s the 4-digit number you enter at a payment terminal to make purchases in-store, or at an ATM to withdraw cash. This is highly sensitive information, so only you should know what it is.

If you’re ever issued a new card and PIN, they’ll be delivered separately for security reasons.

You can change your PIN at any UK cashpoint displaying the LINK logo. Of course you’ll want to pick something that’s easy to remember, but make sure it’s not easy for someone else to guess.

If you’ve locked your card by using the wrong PIN, you can also unlock it at a LINK cashpoint, although you’ll need to know the correct PIN to do this.

If you think someone knows your PIN, you should change it straight away. If you’re ever concerned that your account is at risk, it’s important to contact us straight away.

Need a PIN reminder?

If you use our Mobile Banking app, you can view your PIN securely online.

Find out how to view your PIN in the app
Alternatively, to request a PIN reminder by post: 

  • Log on or register for Internet Banking, select ‘Your account tools’ from the menu, then ‘Replacement cards and PINs’.

Key points about credit card numbers

  • The long credit card number is usually 16-19 digits and is unique to you.
  • The ‘valid from’ date is the month and year your card was opened. 
  • ‘Expired from’ details the month and year your card will expire. 
  • For Mastercard and Visa, the ‘CVV’ or ‘security number’ is the last 3 digits of the number printed in the top right-hand corner of the signature strip. 
  • To use your card at an ATM or shop, you’ll need your PIN, even for some contactless transactions. Although all of your card numbers should be kept safe, only you should ever know you PIN.

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