MasterCard Secures Patent for Dynamic Account Numbers

Say goodbye to the 16-digital credit card number.

MasterCard today was awarded a patent for what it calls “variable length bank identification numbers.” Essentially, the patent protects a computer system developed by MasterCard, one of the world’s largest payment networks, to assign account numbers that are not 16 digits long.

The patent application was first filed in 2014.

MasterCard created the system to overcome a challenge. The first six digits of a payment card make up the bank identification number, or BIN. If you do the math — and we are certainly not going to do that — the six-digit BIN permits the issuer to assign up to 1 billion unique account numbers, according to the MasterCard patent application. This is actually “excessive,” according to MasterCard, so the payments company devised a way to use fewer digits to, for example, break a standard 6-digit BIN “into several BINs, which may then be assigned to various different issuers.”

Whether these variable-length account numbers actually become commonplace is anyone’s guess, but it is interesting to note that, in credit cards, innovation can be as a simple as 1, 2, 3.

MasterCard [ticker: MA] has a market capitalization of nearly $98 billion.

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