What Is a Primary Account Number?

A primary account number is a unique number found on payment cards, such as debit and credit cards, that identifies the card issuer and the cardholder account linked to that particular card. The number is divided into four different sections that represent crucial information about your account and the card issuer.

Let's take a look at what a primary account number is, how it's created, and when you'll find it.

Definition and examples of the main account number

A primary account number is a number on credit and debit cards that identifies the cardholder's account and the credit card issuer associated with the card.

Alternative name: account number

You probably noticed your main account number every time you looked at your credit or debit card.

The primary account number will be 16-19 digits long and is easy to identify because it is displayed on the front or back of a credit or debit card.

How Main Account Numbers Work

While the long string of numbers on your credit card may appear random at first glance, the main account numbers are not randomly assigned. A master account number is created following a system defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

The ANSI system encodes the numbers to identify the card issuer, the network, and the account, in order to prevent fraud and identity theft.

First six numbers

The first six numbers of a primary account number identify which credit card issuer or industry the card comes from. The first number in the sequence is known as the Major Industry Identifier (MII). Here's a breakdown of what the first number of a main account represents:

airlines and finance
Travel and entertainment (includes American Express)
Health care and communications
Next five numbers

The next five numbers refer to the bank identification number (BIN) or the issuer identification number (IIN). These numbers indicate which credit card issuer provided the card and which network it belongs to.

Each credit card issuer has 1 trillion possible number settings to assign account holders, and each issuer has different numbering systems.

For example, the way Visa assigns identification numbers to account holders varies from how Mastercard assigns their numbers.

Remaining numbers

The remaining digits in a primary account number, excluding the last number, identify the individual card account. This set of numbers can range from nine to 12 digits.

The final number is known as a "checksum" and represents whether or not a credit card number is valid. The checksum is generated by an algorithm that can detect errors when someone incorrectly transcribes a credit card number.

Main account number vs. account number

Although main account numbers are commonly called "account numbers," it is important not to confuse the main account number on the debit card with the checking account number.

The main account number on your debit card is what allows you to make purchases, and it is the number that you will store on a website if you set up a default payment card.

However, the main account number on your debit card is different from your checking account number.


We hope you enjoy watching this video about bank account

Source: Zerodha Online

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