Knowing Your Credit Card: What the Details on It Mean

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Getting to know your credit card, physically

Visa and MasterCard are the two most popular names when it comes to credit cards, and while it is the bank issuing you the card, these are the two biggest networks on which credit cards run. A visit to any bank will help you see that there are innumerable choices when it comes to choosing a card, with cards available for people depending on their need, income, and lifestyle. Dining credit cards, cashback credit cards, grocery credit cards, the list goes on, and while they are all different in what they offer, they all have certain things in common with them.

The face of the credit card

  • Card number

    This is the 16-digit unique identification number for each credit card. No two cards will have the same number and this needn’t be the same as your bank account number.

  • Bank Identification Number

    These are either the first 4 or first 6 numbers of a credit card. It is used to identify the bank which has issued a particular card. The first number of a credit card indicates the network it operates on, with 4 being a Visa Card and 5 being a MasterCard.

  • Cardholder Name

    This is the name of the person to whom a particular credit card is issued.

  • Dates

    Each card has a “Valid thru” section which indicates the period until which the card is valid and can be used. Certain cards also have a date which mentions when it was issued.

  • Hologram/Logo

    Each credit card has the logo/hologram of the network on which it operates. This means that either Visa or MasterCard will be mentioned at the bottom right of the card.

  • Bank Name

    The bank name is typically on the top right hand of the card, with the card name on the top left. For example, a Citibank Prestige card will have Citi written on the top right and Prestige on the top left.

  • Microchip

    Almost all new cards come equipped with a new security feature, the microchip. This is typically present on the left-hand side of a card, though certain cards can be issued without it as well.

Behind the credit card

  • Magnetic stripe

    This is the black stripe which runs across the length of a credit card.
    Signature panel – This is a small area where a cardholder is expected to sign. The panel will either have the word MasterCard or Visa on it, which serve as security features to distinguish fake credit cards. It also contains the same 4 digits as the last 4 digits of the account number on the front panel.

  • CVV2

    This is a 3-digit number which is used for identification purposes for online transactions.

  • Hologram

    An additional hologram may or may not be present on the back of a credit card.

Now most of us are very concerned about physical appearances, spending a bomb on maintaining them. This holds for credit cards as well, with newer designs available on the market, but at the end of the day what matters is whether we know what lies behind that beautiful façade. So the next time you see your credit card, remember all that it stands for.


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