Your credit card numbers and features explained

A credit card may be small, but it comes with a lot of information, on the front and back too. By getting to know your card’s features, you’ll have a better understanding of how it works. So what do all those numbers, chips and symbols mean? Let us explain.

Credit card payment


1. Credit Card Issuer

This is the name of the bank or building society that issued the credit card. You will have applied to that institution to get the card, and they set the terms and benefits that come with it, such as annual fees and rewards. They’ll also send you a replacement card when it’s time to renew.

2. Credit Card Number

This is the big number on the front of your card, usually made up of 16 digits. Often referred to as The Long Number, you’ll need to use it to buy anything online or by phone. You’ll also need the card’s expiry date and security number to complete any purchase you make.

3. Cardholder’s name

This is the name of the person approved to use the card to make purchases. It could be the person who opened the account (the primary account holder) or an ‘authorised user’ – someone given permission to use the card by the account holder.

4. EMV Chip

The EMV (which stands for Europay Mastercard and Visa) chip – also known as the Security Chip - is the small, square computer chip you’ll find on almost all credit and debit cards today. The EMV gives your card an extra level of protection against fraudsters by creating a unique transaction code for every purchase. It also makes any attempt at replicating your card much more difficult.

5. Issue date

This number tells you the month and year your credit card was issued, or when it became valid to be used for online and retail purchases. Typically, credit cards are issued for between two to five years, depending on the card and credit card issuer.

6. Expiry date

This number tells you the month and year your card will expire, or rather, when it will need to be renewed. In most cases, a provider will send out a replacement card well ahead of the expiry date to enable a smooth transfer from the old card to a new one. As a fraud protection measure, an expiry date also serves as an extra piece of data that can be checked whenever the card is used to make an online purchase.

7. Contactless symbol

The universal symbol to let you know a credit card can be used for contactless payments. This means you can pay by tapping the card on a card reader with no need to enter your PIN, and can be used for transactions of up to £100. Find out more about contactless payments.


8. Magnetic stripe

This is the black stripe (also known as the magstripe) that holds all of your account information - your name, account number and other important details - which card readers require from you to make a payment, either by swiping, touching or tapping your card at the cash register.

9. Signature box

You sign your name here. A card must be signed by the account holder or authorised user before it can be used legally to make a purchase. This serves as a further fraud prevention measure as, if necessary, the signature on the credit card can be matched with a driver’s license or a signature given at the register.

10. CVV security number

The CVV - or card security number – is usually the last three digits on the signature strip on the back of your card. Designed to keep your card safe from fraudsters, the number is unique to you and only ever printed on the card itself. So, whenever you make an online purchase, you’ll always be asked for the CVV as proof that the actual card is still in your hands.

11. Customer service number

The official phone number to call with any questions you have or help you need concerning your credit card. Or, should you ever receive an unexpected call you’re not sure is from your card provider, this is the number you can call to check. It’s also a good idea to keep a note of this number elsewhere too, should your card ever get lost or stolen.

Be safe and savvy

So, as you can see, your credit card comes with a number of built-in security measures as standard to protect your account. However, it’s always pays to play safe by never sharing your password or PIN numbers. You’ll find all sorts of other ways to stay one step ahead of scammers with our fraud-fighter tool.

What’s next?

While credit cards share many common features, ultimately, different cards have different uses. To find the right one for you, why not take a look at our full range.

Browse our Credit Cards