October 23, 2005

Luhn formula

Posted in Credit card at 17:44 by graham

A credit card number must be from 13 to 16 digits long. The last digit of the number is the check digit. That number is calculated from an algorithm (called the Luhn formula or MOD 10) on the other numbers. This is to spot typos when a user enters a number, and I assume was to allow detecting an error reading the magnetic stripe when a card is swiped.

The MOD 10 check does not offer security, it offers error detection. Think of it as fullfilling the same role as a CRC in software.

To calculate the check digit:

First drop the last digit from the card number (because that’s what we are trying to calculate)

Reverse the number

Multiply all the digits in odd positions (The first digit, the third digit, etc) by 2.

If any one is greater than 9 subtract 9 from it.

Sum those numbers up

Add the even numbered digits (the second, fourth, etc) to the number you got in the previous step

The check digit is the amount you need to add to that number to make a multiple of 10. So if you got 68 in the previous step the check digit would be 2. You can calculate the digit in code using checkdigit = ((sum / 10 + 1) * 10 – sum) % 10

For an example of this in practice download the code to the credit card number generator.

Credit card numbers are a special type of ISO 7812 numbers.


  1. crorkservice said,

    October 15, 2015 at 22:18

    twkqrC Thanks for the article post. Keep writing.

  2. Mark said,

    December 31, 2012 at 03:32

    I figured it out, after you calculate the first sum, you simply add the 16th digit by 1, and subtract the 14th digit by 1… and take of the 0 and leave the CID with the second sum and the expiration year…. For example….the last four digits 7808.. my conclusion was 01….drop the 0 and put the 1==>with the year of the expiration date “2016”, 1=>16, 116=CID!!!!!

  3. Anon said,

    November 22, 2012 at 03:42

    Although this probably wouldn’t work today, back in the late-90s I can remember figuring out a simple way to create new CC (with Mastercard and Visa) numbers based on an original, that would usually pass a verification check, simply by adding the 16th digit by 1, and subtracting the 14th digit by 1…

    Therefore if the last group of numbers in a full CC sequence was “2804,” a new number could be generated by changing it to “2705” — or maybe it was the other way around; it’s been so long, I’ve forgotten.

    Back in the day, this was primarily used by us script kiddies to perpetually sign up for new, 30-day “trial” AOL accounts, which provided Internet access before ISPs were established in every area like they are now. I just got a kick out of reading this article because it reminded me of that, which I hadn’t thought of in years…

  4. dadicoool said,

    August 16, 2012 at 19:39

    is there any solution to calculate cvv number and the expire date ?

  5. Jacob said,

    August 1, 2012 at 09:59

    Wait im kinda dumb. so after you do all this you get one number. Mine came out to be 1. What do i do after that.

  6. Sanjeev Thakur said,

    October 4, 2011 at 05:17

    Great content Man.. hats off :D

  7. Cosmos said,

    July 8, 2011 at 12:51

    infact u are the best site ever i have seen because u have done a good calculation.thank u for your formula it is working now .

  8. john said,

    April 24, 2010 at 22:34

    when you reverse and take off the check digit. for a 16 digit for example, do you simply just disregard the fact that it was an odd number and then start by multiplying 14th digit and the 12 digit, and skipping the last even digit? and then comming back to it later for the even multiplications?

  9. will said,

    March 27, 2010 at 03:11

    nice, i used the formula for websites where they want you to put your credit card # in.(websites that dont charge but want your number) i personally thought what idiot would do that so i checked out your website and found this! Good Work.Is this as a hobby or does your job like need you to do this? Well anyways kool and i’ll probaly have to re-visit the site so i can tell my friends how to make there credit card numbers into fake ones.

  10. Free Credit Cards (kind of) | Villager With Wheel said,

    April 19, 2008 at 05:54

    […] number” means reverse the whole credit card number. The Darkcoding site explanations right here and right here as well as the Wikipedia explanation here help clarify what is going on. The […]

  11. Rand Al’Thor said,

    January 20, 2008 at 21:09

    though this is a bit freighting, its fun to see things like this everyday. its not everyday you get a funny bunch like this :) thanks John

  12. James Brown said,

    September 3, 2007 at 22:45

    It would seem to me that step 7 of your algorithm is overly complicated. Let me suggest three alternatives to make the algorithm simpler.

    1. If you insist on calculating and comparing to the check digit removed in step 1, then this calculation seems simpler: 10 – (sum % 10).

    2. An even easier solution is to add in the check digit removed in step 1 and confirm that the sum % 10 == 0.

    3. One more simplification presents itself if you opt for solution 2 above. Simply do not remove the check digit at all (skip step 1), change step 3 to double all the digits in EVEN positions, and change step 4 to add in the digits in ODD positions. With these changes the new instructions become …

    Reverse the number

    Multiply all the digits in even positions (The second digit, the fourth digit, etc) by 2.

    If any one is greater than 9 subtract 9 from it.

    Sum those numbers up

    Add the digits in odd positions (the first, third, etc) to the number you got in the previous step

    Confirm that the sum is an even multiple of 10. You can do this in code with something like (sum % 10) == 0

    • James
  13. Tamlyn Rhodes said,

    March 31, 2007 at 12:52

    Thanks for this! I thought I’d found a clever way to human-readably encrypt my credit card number in an email by multiplying it with a number that only me and the recipient knew. However it turns out that due to the luhn-induced redundancy it is trivial to retrieve the factors from the product. Drat!

  14. anon said,

    November 9, 2006 at 21:29

    Thanks for the info, this helps me alot with the e-commerce site that I’m making for my work right now. And it also gives me a laugh reading through the comments ;)

  15. blessyn said,

    August 11, 2006 at 15:44

    am not good at maths pls

  16. John Banshee said,

    April 25, 2006 at 21:28


    Thanks for this – very useful when developing eCommerce and don’t really wanna use my personal CC number he-he.



  17. V_Man said,

    March 3, 2006 at 22:42

    Very interesting and educational site, nice to know a little bit of how this stuff works, good work, please post more information as you find out.

  18. me said,

    January 18, 2006 at 14:23

    Howard Beale, I think the reversing has to do about credit cards with 13 digits for example… If you drop the last digit and do not reverse, you will get the numbers witch were suposed to multiply by 2 (the odd positoion ones) not multiplyed and vice versa… Off course, there are many other ways to deal with this, reversing is just one of them ;)

    PS: Sorry my english :-S

  19. MTN Thief said,

    December 22, 2005 at 02:19

    A differenct formular applies to Rcarge cards. That is my area of specialization. MTN have been on their knee only to know my whereabout and arrest me, maybe kill me. I will continue to destroy the company until they begin to do the right thing. Wanna join my syndicacy? Dangerous but lucrative…send me an email, eetracy2003@yahoo.com. Let me have your number and we can talk. But it must cost you something…SOMETHING…ready?…

  20. Howard Beale said,

    December 4, 2005 at 20:13

    Actually, according to the information above and my own personal experimentation, you can save yourself some coding and processing time by NOT reversing the number when calculating the Luhn check digit. Mathematically, addition wouldn’t matter if the number were reversed or not. The reversing of the digits is therefore a waste of time.

    If the length of the numeric string which you’re going to add the check digit to is odd in length then you would double-calculate the digits in the even positions. Likewise, if the string is even in length then you will double-calculate the digits in the odd positions.

    I have some source code in Quick/Visual BASIC form on my website which demonstrates that fact. In fact it automatically calculates the correct digits based on the length of the input string and whether or not you want to generate or verify the Luhn check digit. Very simple MOD 2 stuff. ;->

    Anyhow, LOVE the website and the redesign. I do miss the hysterical lameness of the classic posts by the lamers though (I’m sure they’ll be new ones by the terminally clueless).

    Perpetually mad as hell at spammers and scammers…


  21. Ebuka said,

    November 4, 2005 at 17:04

    Does Lunh’s formula apply to all cards number (recharge cards)

Leave a Comment

Note: Your comment will only appear on the site once I approve it manually. This can take a day or two. Thanks for taking the time to comment.