What Is a Bank Identification Number (BIN)?


Bank Identification Numbers (BINs) are the first four to six digits on payment cards, serving as an essential tool for identifying the issuing financial institution. This article explores how BINs work, their applications, and why they are crucial for fraud prevention and secure financial transactions.

Understanding bank identification numbers (BINs)

Bank Identification Numbers (BINs), often referred to as BIN numbers, are the initial four to six digits on payment cards such as credit cards, charge cards, debit cards, and even gift cards. These numbers play a pivotal role in identifying the financial institution responsible for issuing the card.

Imagine these digits as a key that unlocks information about your card’s origin, type, and issuer. They are crucial not only for merchants but also for preventing identity theft and ensuring the security of transactions.

How bank identification numbers (BINs) work

BINs are part of a numbering system developed by two prominent organizations: the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ANSI, a nonprofit organization in the U.S., creates business standards, while ISO, an international group, sets standards across various industries.

Every payment card, from debit and credit cards to gift cards, receives a unique BIN number. This number, embossed on the front of the card, includes the first digit representing the major industry identifier and the subsequent digits specifying the issuing institution or bank.

Here’s how BINs work in practice:

  • A customer initiates an online purchase, entering their card details.
  • The first four to six digits of the card are submitted.
  • The online retailer uses the BIN to identify the issuing institution.
  • The issuer receives an authorization request to verify the card’s validity and available funds.
  • The transaction is approved or denied based on this verification.

Without BINs, the credit card processing system would struggle to determine the source of the customer’s funds and complete the transaction efficiently.

Benefits and applications of BINs


Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.

  • Efficient payment card transactions.
  • Identification of fraudulent or stolen cards.
  • Enhanced security and reduced identity theft risks.
  • Limited consumer usage – mostly for merchants and financial institutions.

BINs offer various benefits:

  • Efficient payment card transactions: BINs enable quick identification of the issuing institution, streamlining the checkout process.
  • Identification of fraudulent or stolen cards: BINs help financial institutions detect and prevent unauthorized card use.
  • Enhanced security and reduced identity theft risks: By verifying cardholder information, BINs add an extra layer of security.

Merchants use BINs to assess payment card transactions, identify originating banks, and verify customer-provided addresses. This information helps prevent fraud and ensures compliance with relevant laws.

Example of a bank identification number (BIN)

Consider this scenario: a customer swipes their bank card at a gas pump to fill up their tank. The system scans the BIN, identifies the issuing institution, and initiates an authorization request. Within seconds, the transaction is either approved or declined based on available funds.

Bank identification code (BIC) vs. BIN

It’s essential to distinguish between a bank identification code (BIC) and a BIN. A BIC, also known as a bank identifier code, comprises eight to eleven digits and is used for international purchases and transactions.

BICs can be connected or non-connected. Connected BICs, part of the SWIFT network, are called SWIFT codes and are essential for international financial transactions. Non-connected BICs are used for reference.

How do you use a bank identification number?

Consumers typically don’t use BINs directly, but understanding them is crucial. The first digit indicates the major industry, while the subsequent digits specify the issuing financial institution. When you make a purchase or transaction, the issuer verifies your account’s legitimacy and fund availability. Approval or denial depends on this verification.

What is BIN scamming?

BIN scamming is a fraudulent scheme where impostors pose as bank representatives, claiming your account information is compromised. They aim to extract sensitive information, including your BIN, to commit fraud. Always exercise caution and never share such details over the phone.

Why are BIN numbers important?

BINs play a pivotal role in enabling merchants to accept various forms of payment efficiently. Moreover, they assist financial institutions in identifying compromised or stolen cards, enhancing security for consumers. Protect your financial information, including your BIN, as it is vital for your financial safety.

Bank Identification Numbers (BINs) are the unsung heroes of secure financial transactions. While consumers may not interact with them directly, they are the safeguard that protects us from fraud and identity theft.

Frequently asked questions about BIN numbers

What are the other names for BIN numbers?

BIN numbers are also known as Issuer Identification Numbers (IINs) in some contexts. Both terms refer to the same set of digits at the beginning of payment card numbers that identify the issuing financial institution.

Are BIN numbers unique to each card?

Yes, each payment card issued by a financial institution has a unique BIN number. This number helps distinguish one institution from another and provides essential information about the card.

How do I find the BIN number on my payment card?

The BIN number is typically found on the front of your payment card, usually in the first four to six digits of the card number. It is often embossed, printed, or both.

Can I change my card’s BIN number?

No, you cannot change your card’s BIN number. It is a fixed identifier assigned by the issuing financial institution and is unique to your card.

Do virtual cards have BIN numbers?

Yes, virtual cards, which are primarily used for online transactions, also have BIN numbers. These virtual cards have the same essential structure as physical payment cards and serve the same purpose.

What happens if I enter the wrong BIN number during an online transaction?

If you enter an incorrect BIN number during an online transaction, the payment processor may not be able to identify the issuing institution accurately. This could lead to transaction errors or declines. It’s essential to double-check the BIN number when making online payments.

Do BIN numbers contain sensitive information?

No, BIN numbers themselves do not contain sensitive information such as cardholder names, account numbers, or expiration dates. They only identify the issuing institution. However, revealing your BIN number along with other details could potentially pose a security risk.

Can I use BIN numbers to identify the type of card I have?

Yes, the BIN number can provide information about the type of card you have. For example, it can indicate whether it’s a credit card, debit card, prepaid card, or gift card. It can also sometimes specify the card brand, such as Visa, MasterCard, or American Express.

Do all countries use the same BIN numbering system?

No, different countries may have their own variations of the BIN numbering system, but there is a level of standardization thanks to international organizations like ISO. However, the specifics can vary, and some countries may have unique BIN ranges.

Are BIN numbers encrypted or secure?

BIN numbers themselves are not encrypted, and they are not considered sensitive information. They are, however, part of the overall security measures in place to prevent fraud and ensure secure financial transactions.

Can BIN numbers be used to make transactions?

No, BIN numbers alone cannot be used to make transactions. They are one piece of the information required to complete a payment, along with other details like the full card number, expiration date, and sometimes a security code.

Are BIN numbers relevant for online shopping?

Yes, BIN numbers are particularly relevant for online shopping. When you make an online purchase, the website’s payment processor uses the BIN to identify the issuing institution and validate the transaction. This helps ensure the security of online transactions.

Key takeaways

  • BINs are the first four to six digits on payment cards, identifying the issuing institution.
  • They enable efficient payment card transactions and help prevent fraud and identity theft.
  • Consumers don’t use BINs directly; they are primarily for merchants and financial institutions.
  • Understanding BINs is crucial for protecting your financial information.
View article sources
  1. Bank Identification Number (BIN) Lookup & Ultimate Guide – Chargeback911
  2. Bank Identification Number (BIN Number) – Fraud.net
  3. Bank Identification Numbers – sbv.gov.vn