Know the anatomy of your credit cards

Credit cards are in most people’s pockets, but how much do you know about the way they work? Take this quiz to check your credit card knowledge.

Tags: Credit, Credit cards
Published: February 04, 2020

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Take a moment to learn why credit cards are designed the way they are.


Answer key: 

1. A. To meet international standards.

2. B. The separate three- or four-digit number on the back or front of the card.

3. D. All the above.

4. D. All of the above.

5. C. So they can be run through a manual imprinter.

6. C. To prevent forgery.

7. A. Yes.

8. B. The card’s issuer, including their industry (airlines, financial institutions, etc.).



All credit cards are the same size to meet international standards. This ensures cards can be used globally regardless of where they’re issued.


The first six numbers of a card provide details about the issuer, kind of like the routing number on a check. The numbers are raised so cards can be run through a manual card reader, though these aren’t as common today.


The card’s Card Verification Value, or CVV, number is used to reduce fraud. It’s a three- or four-digit code often found on the back of the card, and it’s often required when you make online purchase.

Magnetic stripes

The magnetic stripe on a card stores a lot of information: your name, the card number and its expiration and details about the issuing bank. Because all of this information is constant, it can sometimes be vulnerable to theft. That’s one reason banks adopted a new standard: chips.

EMV chips

In addition to being the new industry standard, EMV chips generate unique information for every transaction, rather than transmitting constant information like a magnetic stripe. This can make them more secure. Chips can also enable contactless payments.

Even with new technology, some things about credit cards are the same as they’ve always been. For instance, you still need to sign the back of your credit card for it to be valid.


Learn how to use your credit cards wisely as you plan your vacation budget.