An issue number on cards was initially put in place to allow for the change of a static card number when re-issued or replaced. However, in recent years, fewer and fewer merchants and financial institutions require them.
What's an Issuer Number?
Issue numbers on cards indicated when they had been re-issued or replaced. Cards had these numbers on them in sequential order to show when a new card was printed. Companies like MasterCard would use the credit card number as a permanent account number; it didn't change once a new card was issued. Instead, the card had a different expiration date, a unique CVC/CVV number and a new, sequential issue number.
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Issue numbers never really became standard in the United States or Canada. However, they are still sometimes seen in the UK and Europe, but they are becoming increasingly rare. The majority of new credit and debit cards no longer have them. Cards with issue numbers had a fixed prefix sort code and an account number. The issue number was created as a simple way for institutions to tell the current card from a prior issue of the same card.
Locating Issue Number on Card
Some people confuse the three-digit CVC/CVV number on the back of the card with its issue number. However, these do not serve the same purpose. The issue number was usually on the front of a debit or credit card in line with the dates that show when the card could be used before it expired. Sometimes issue numbers were printed on the bottom right corner of the card and would even say "issue number" next to the digits.
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Issue numbers are one- or two-digit numbers that read "1" or "01" with the first issue of a card. If no number looks like this in the locations mentioned, the card does not have an issue number. The second issue of a card would read "2" or "02" and the numbers would go up with each re-issue. Today, because the credit or debit card number changes when a new card is issued, there's no longer a need for an issue number.
The Discontinuation of Issue Numbers
With the evolution of computer databases over the past few decades, it is easier to track customer accounts than ever before. Therefore, banks and credit card companies do not need an issue number in their internal systems. Even though the card number changes with every re-issue, an internal ID number for these institutions remains the same for the life of the credit or debit card, which links the different cards and accounts of one person. Customers may never know what this number is, as it is not used outside of the institution that generated the card. Nevertheless, these internal ID numbers add an extra layer of security for the customer.
There are likely very few MasterCard issue numbers still in existence. In the UK, Switch was a popular debit card payment system with issue numbers. In 2002, it merged with Maestro, the international debit card of MasterCard. In 2011, Maestro joined with standard international and was no longer a separate card. After that date, any cards with an issue number expired, and valid cards today no longer require an issue number.
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