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The Composition of the Primary Account Number

The Primary Account Number (PAN) is the number on the front of most credit cards, debit cards and identification cards.

The PAN can also be used on some health-care cards and stored-value cards. It is usual practice for the PAN to be prominently embossed across the front of the card itself. The embossed PAN is a historical feature and reflective of its original function of being able to transfer a print of the PAN onto receipts when cards were manually processed with a credit card flatbed imprinter.

The PAN has common composition features that are in place across all types of cards, however, the PAN length does vary between issuers and card types. Most cards have a PAN of 16-19 digits long but the full range for all cards is 10-19 digits in length. The PAN is comprised of distinct parts that provides specific information.

The first 6 digits of the PAN - and more recently the first 8 digits - is known as the Issuer Identification Number (IIN). The issuer can be a corporation in the banking industry or an airline, travel and entertainment, merchandising, petroleum healthcare entities or other institutions or bodies not related to these major groups. The most prominent and greatest user of IINs are the banking industry who originally referred to the IIN as a Bank Identification Numbers (BIN), hence the overlapping terminology.