You might have been asked if your credit card has an issue number when you made an online payment or seen the number printed on one of your cards and wondered what it is and why it's there.
The credit card issue number is a short (typically 1 digit) number printed on the front of some debit and credit cards in the UK and Europe. It is used to indicate the sequential number of the card when it is reissued or replaced but has become obsolete.
Read on to find out which types of credit cards have an issue number, what exactly it is and when you might need to use it.
What are credit card issue numbers?
Issue numbers used to be a popular way for debit cards and credit cards to indicate the difference between an old and a new credit card when it was reissued or replaced.
If your card went past its expiry date or you lost it, a new card would be printed and this would have the next sequential issue number on it - your first one will have a issue number of 1 on most cards and a 0 on a small number.
Credit card companies would previously use your credit card number as the defacto account number and therefore they didn't want to change it when a new card had to be issued. Instead they reprinted the card with the same long credit card number, but different from and to dates, a different CVC/CVV number on the back.
This new card would also have a different issue number which would indicate how many times the card has been replaced.
In the United States, Canada and other countries around the world, issue numbers never took hold and are very rarely found on credit cards or debit cards. In the UK and Europe, they are becoming increasingly rare and you would struggle to find a brand new credit card that still comes with an issue number today.
Where on the credit card can I find the issue number?
The issue number is always found on the front of a credit card or debit card. There is some really bad advice out there that confuses the 3 digit CVV/CVC number on the back with the issue number. They are not the same thing!
The most common place to find your issue number (if you have one) is on the front, in line with the from (again - if it's there) and to dates.
Some cards used to print the issue number in the bottom right hand corner instead. In this case, unlike the previous, it may not say the words "Issue Number" next to it.
The easy way to tell it's an issue number is that it will be a one digit or rarely two digit number that should read 1 or 01 if it is your first plastic.
If you're looking at the front of your credit card and you can't see a number to the left or right of the dates or in the bottom right, that most probably means your card doesn't have an issue number.
If this is not your first card for the same account (e.g. you've had a replacement sent out), you should notice that the credit card number is most likely different to the one you previously had.
Even in cases where credit card companies do not change your card number, they no longer use physically printed issue numbers to track this and rely on database systems and through the use of different expiry dates.
Why do credit cards not have issue numbers anymore?
One major reason why credit cards (and debit cards) do not have issue numbers anymore is because they are relatively pointless.
The vast majority of cards have an issue number of 1 because customers tend to change the cards more frequently than they get reissued.
Even if your number is not 1, it is not a particularly useful way of preventing fraud as it's still going to be pretty easy to guess. In fact if somebody has stolen your old credit card, they will know your new issue number - it's just going to be 1 more than the one they've got access to!
As computer systems have evolved, it is far easier to track customer accounts and credit card companies and banks no longer use the long credit card number as the ultimate account number in internal systems.
Although this is the number you'll need to use to contact the credit card company with, there will be an internal ID associated with your account that will remain the same for the life of your credit card.
This internal ID will link the various different credit cards you may have and in most cases customers will never know what that ID is as it has no use outside the bank and in fact provides a better layer of security if these are never disclosed.
What do I do if an online payment is requesting the issue number?
Sometimes you'll see an online payment form that requests the issue number. In most cases where you do see it, you should just be able to leave it blank and the form should recognise that you don't have one on your card and let you submit the payment information.
If the form was coded up poorly, the issue number may be a compulsory field although I can't remember the last time I have ever actually seen that happen. In this case you can just stick a 1 in that field and submit.
It doesn't even really matter whether this is your first plastic for that account or a replacement card - if you don't have an issue number printed on the front of your card, your card issuer will simply ignore that field when it is submitted through.
Even in cases where issue numbers are compulsory (very rare payment methods in only some parts of the world), putting down a 1 should pass almost every single time in cases where you do not have an issue number printed.
Stating the obvious, if you DO have an issue number on your credit card, then of course put that number down. The likelihood is that even if you do have it, it won't actually be used in the transaction authorisation process, but it doesn't hurt so you might as well put down the correct one!
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