Three Little Known Facts About Credit Cards

Think you know your way around a credit card? Then these three little-known facts might just surprise you:

Why are credit cards all the same size?

No matter which bank or institution issues your credit card, they will always be exactly 3.375 x 2.125 inches wide and around 0.02 inches thick.

This size is standardised by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO Standard 7810).

Among many other things, the ISO regulate the size of credit cards to make sure that no matter where you are in the world, you can use yours to pay for anything, from hotel accommodation to a Big Mac to making a cash withdrawal to pay for ice-cream on the beach.

What does the stripe on the back of a credit card do?

Much like card size, the stripe on the back of a credit card is magnetic and regulated by ISO Standard 7811 and it contains various bits of information about you and the bank that issued your card.

The magnetic stripe is made up of three tracks of encrypted data which is read electronically. A reader, like those inside an ATM, can tell which bank or institution your account belongs to, what the card number is, when the card expires and what your spending limit is.

However new ‘chip and pin’ technology is being built into credit cards to make them even more secure.

The chip, which looks like a small silver microchip, should appear on the front of your card and if not, it might be time to contact your issuer or shop around for a new one to make sure you have the best credit card you can get in terms of security.

Is the long number on a credit card unique?

It is, but it’s not random or meaningless. Each number, or sequence of them in that long string reveals something about you and your credit provider.

The very first digit is known as the Major Industry Identifier (MII) and it tells a vendor which creditor issued your card. All Visa cards, for example, begin with a ‘4’ while all MasterCard’s begin with a ‘5’.

The first six numbers are known as the Issuer Identification Numbers (IIN) and they tell a vendor what country your card was issued in, by which specific bank and the credit type that it’s valid for. You can try it yourself by entering your card details at

Those are just three facts about credit cards that make them absolutely universal yet totally unique, but if you’re thinking about applying for a first, or additional credit card then it’s always wise to shop around.

Although cards look and work in the same ways, the terms that a credit provider can offer you vary from one bank to another so to get the best credit card, take some time to investigate the terms and conditions, interest rates, repayment expectations and any freebies on offer before signing up for credit.

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