What information appears on a bank card?

Nothing that appears on a credit or debit card is there just by chance, so we'll explain the meaning of each element

The credit cards and debit cards issued by banks are very useful for carrying out everyday transactions, but have you ever wondered about the meaning of the information appearing on a card?

Since 1989 the numbering systems used for cards reflect the ISO/IEC 7812 standard. This consists of a series of guidelines that determine the positions and meanings of the numbers appearing on a bank card. 

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Information appearing on the front side of a bank card

The front side or face of a bank card contains different information that makes each card unique. Although the most important in terms of information value is the card number or PAN, there is other information that is also very relevant. These are:

  • The name of the company that issued the card.
  • The card chip. This increases security and allows for faster purchases. The chip is located on the left-hand side.
  • The personal account number (PAN) or card number. This is in the center of the card and has 16 digits.
  • The expiration date of the card. This date includes the month and year and is typically requested when making online purchases. It is located below the card number.
  • The name of the cardholder. Since these cards are personal and non-transferable, the name of the cardholder must be included.
  • International brand. The most common are VISA and MASTERCARD. This tends to appear in the lower right corner. 

Information appearing on the reverse side

The back of the card also contains important information that is sometimes used:

  • The magnetic strip occupies the entire width of the card. However, nowadays its use has been replaced by the chip.
  • The signature panel is located below the magnetic strip. This is where the cardholder signs the card.
  • The CVC or CVV number, or security number. This is the three-digit number shown to the right of the signature panel, and that is often requested when making online purchases. 

What do the various digits from the card number mean?

The card number or PAN is divided into three sections with different numbers that contain specific information.

The first digit on the card indicates the type of card based upon the issuer. In accordance with the ISO/IEC 7812 standard, if the first number is a 1 or 2 it would be a card issued by an airline. If instead there is a 7, it means that the issuer is a petroleum company. To indicate bank cards, whether debit or credit, the first digit of the account number must be a 4, 5 or 6.

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The digits between positions 1 and 7 identify the country and the card issuer. Although the full range for the countries is kept private for security reasons, there are some numbers from this range that are known. For example, cards issued by Visa Electron have, among others, ranges 4026, 4508, and 4913. MasterCard cards are assigned the ranges between 51 and 55, and finally, Maestro cards have 5020, 5038 and 66761, among others.

Finally, the remaining numbers on the card (up to 13-18 digits) are an internal code used by the issuing bank to associate the card with the customer. There are no general rules for these numbers, with the banks being able to apply their own criteria. Within the freedom that each institution has, it is typical for the digit in position 16 to represent the control digit for each card.

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