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Understanding Your Credit Card

Victoria Russell
Written by  Victoria Russell
5 min read
Updated: 30 May 2024

Key points

  • A credit card number uniquely identifies your card, structured to include the bank identification number (BIN), account number, and a check digit for verifying authenticity

  • Common uses for a credit card number include online shopping, booking flights and hotels, and setting up automatic payments for recurring charges

  • Additional numbers on a credit card, such as the security code (CVV), expiration date, and issue number, enhance transaction security and help manage card validity and replacement

What is a credit card number?

A credit card number serves as a unique identifier for your card. It is not merely a random sequence of digits.

Each number is structured to include information about the card issuer and your account.

When you make a purchase, this number verifies available funds and processes the transaction securely.

The structure includes a bank identification number (BIN). The BIN identifies the issuing institution.

It is followed by an account number and a check digit. The check digit is used to verify the card’s authenticity.

Find out more with our 'what is a credit card' guide page.

When will I need to use my credit card number?

Your credit card number is essential in several everyday situations. Here are the most common scenarios where you'll need it:

  • Online shopping: You're buying books, clothes, or electronics. Entering your credit card number at checkout is a must. It completes your purchase

  • Booking flights or hotels: Planning a holiday or a business trip? Your credit card number is required to secure your bookings. It's also needed to guarantee your reservation

  • Setting up automatic payments: For convenience, automate payments for bills like utilities or subscriptions. Your credit card number sets up these recurring charges. This ensures you never miss a payment

What is the difference between my credit card number and my account number?

Understanding the distinctions between your credit card number and your account number is crucial.

A credit card number specifically identifies your card. It is used for transactions where personal banking details are not needed. This number is the long series of digits on the front or back of your card.

Conversely, an account number is tied directly to your bank account. It is used primarily for direct debits, bank transfers, or receiving money.

Each number plays a pivotal role in banking. The credit card number facilitates daily purchases and online shopping.

Meanwhile, the account number is essential for broader financial management and receiving funds.

Will my credit card number change when I get a new card?

When you receive a new credit card, the number may change based on several factors. If your card has expired or is reported lost or stolen, a new number is typically issued.

This step helps protect your financial security by preventing potential fraudulent use of the old number. Learn about credit card security.

However, if you're receiving a new card due to the expiration of your old one, the issuer might keep the same card number.

It's crucial to activate the new card as per the provided instructions. Activation usually involves calling a secure phone number or registering the card through your bank's online system.

Whenever you get a new card number, remember to update your details. Update them with any services where your card is used for automatic payments.

This includes subscriptions, utility providers, and online shopping sites. Updating ensures continuous service and prevents payment disruptions.

What are the other numbers that are found on a credit card?

  1. Security code (CVV) and its purpose: The Card Verification Value (CVV) is a three or four-digit number. It is found on the back of your credit card. The CVV adds an extra layer of security during transactions. It is crucial for purchases online and over the phone. This is because the seller cannot physically check the card

  2. Expiration date and its role: The expiration date is printed on the front of your card. It is a critical feature. It shows when your card will no longer be valid. This helps banks issue new cards on time. It also acts as an additional security check against unauthorised use

  3. Understanding the issue number: The issue number is more common on debit cards than credit cards. It differentiates between cards issued in replacement or renewal of an old card. It is useful in distinguishing cards when one is lost or stolen.

Compare credit cards with MoneySuperMarket

If you’re looking for a credit card, it’s quick and easy to compare with MoneySuperMarket.

Our eligibility checker tool shows you the cards you’re most likely to be approved for by doing a ‘soft’ credit search, which won’t affect your credit score.

You'll be shown a range of credit cards, which you'll be able to sort according to features such as interest rate, length of interest-free period and your chances of being approved, before making a final decision. That way you can apply with greater confidence.

MoneySuperMarket is a credit broker – this means we’ll show you products offered by lenders. We never take a fee from customers for this broking service. Instead, we are usually paid a fee by the lenders – though the size of that payment doesn’t affect how we show products to customers.

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