Bank identification numbers explained

On every credit card, you’ll find a bank identification number (BIN). The BIN represents the card’s first six to eight numbers, which together identify the financial institution that issued the card. The BIN makes up just part of a credit card number, which typically features 15 to 16 digits.

The BIN can help a card issuer track cases of fraud and identity theft. Read on to learn more about BINs.

Key takeaways

  • The six or eight digits of a BIN inform a cardholder which company issued their credit card or other payment cards.
  • A card issuer can use a BIN to track down a fraudulent or stolen card or crack down on identity theft.
  • In 2022, Visa and Mastercard started issuing cards with eight-digit BINs.

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What is a BIN?

Also known as issuer identification numbers, BINs pinpoint the industry of the company that issued the card and the specific financial institution that issued the card. If you spot a 4 or 5 as the first digit of a card number, for instance, it means the issuer does business as a bank or another financial institution. The remaining digits in the BIN tell you which institution issued the card.

Aside from credit cards, BINs show up on debit cards, charge cards, prepaid cards and gift cards.

An illustration of a credit card highlighting its bank identification number.

How BINs work

The American National Standards Institute International Organization for Standardization created the BIN system for credit cards and other payment cards.

The first digit in a BIN is called the major industry identifier (MII). Cards that belong to the Visa payment network often start with a 4, for instance, and cards that belong to the Mastercard payment network usually start with a 2 or 5. The number 2 is assigned to the airline and financial sectors, and the numbers 4 and 5 are assigned to the banking and financial sectors.

The remaining BIN digits identify a card’s issuer. All 14, 15, 16 or 19 digits in a card number make up the primary account number (PAN). The PAN identifies the card issuer and the account that supports the card.

In 2022, Visa and Mastercard began rolling out eight-digit BINs to address the shortage of BINs caused by the global growth of payment cards. Traditional six-digit BINs still exist, but the payment networks no longer issue them.

Keep in mind that your credit card account number is part of the PAN but does not represent the entire PAN. The PAN is longer than the credit card account number.

How to find a credit card BIN

The BIN is either embossed or printed on the front or back of a credit card. Depending on your card, the BIN may be the first six or eight digits.

Here’s a hypothetical example of the different digits that make up a card number:

4003 4411 2222 3333

In this example, 400344 is the six-digit BIN. The first digit is the MII, indicating the industry of the card issuer. In this case, 4 appearing as the first digit means the card issuer is in the banking and financial industry. The remaining five digits of the BIN tell us the card is tied to the Visa payment network and is issued by Capital One.

The first nine digits following the BIN represent the account number. The final digit is known as a check digit or checksum, which verifies the card number has been accurately used in a transaction.

Why BINs are important

As the Corporate Finance Institute explains, “In a world where trade and commerce are continuously moving online, BINs play a very important function by protecting both merchants and consumers. They are critical to ensuring that online transactions flow smoothly.”

Among the benefits of BINs for cardholders are:

  • Fraud protection: The BIN can help a card issuer track down a stolen or fraudulent payment card based on location data.
  • Identity theft protection: A card issuer can use a BIN to help prevent identity theft.

Among the benefits of BINs for businesses are:

  • Efficient card transactions: BINs speed up the processing of transactions.
  • Account validation: BINs enable verification that an account is legitimate.
  • The ability to accept several forms of payment: A merchant can take several forms of payment thanks to BINs.

Credit card BINs in a nutshell

The six or eight digits of a BIN inform a cardholder which company issued their credit card or other payment cards. But they’re more than mere numbers. A card issuer can use a BIN to track down a fraudulent or stolen card or crack down on identity theft. Typically, a payment card contains a six-digit BIN. But in 2022, Visa and Mastercard began rolling out cards with eight-digit BINs.

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