A primary account number often abbreviated as PAN is the 14 or 16 digit numeric code located on the face (front) of your credit or debit card; this code is also encrypted on a magnetic strip. This primary account number is used to identify the individual account holder.
This number is composed by various different elements that include part of the account number and a check digit or something that confirms the validity of the account.
The PAN was created to secure electronic transactions. In order to complete a successful electronic transaction the PAN along with the PIN and card expiration date are sent to a merchant bank so that they can authorize the transaction.
Click for the full glossary of credit card terms.