What Is a CUSIP Number?

CUSIP refers to the Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures which oversees the entire CUSIP system. The CUSIP number is a unique identification number assigned to all stocks and registered bonds in the United States and Canada, and it is used to create a concrete distinction between securities that are traded on public markets. These numbers are used to help facilitate trades and settlements by providing a constant identifier to help distinguish the securities within a trade. Each trade and the corresponding CUSIP number are recorded to facilitate the tracking of actions and activities.

Pronounced as "Q-sip," CUSIP is an acronym for the Committee on Uniform Security Identification Procedures. Foreign securities have a similar identifiers called the CINS number or ISIN number.

Key Takeaways

  • A CUSIP number is a unique identification number assigned to stocks and registered bonds in the United States and Canada.
  • It comprises nine letters and includes letters and numbers.
  • CUSIPs were first introduced in 1964 to simplify the settlement and clearance of stocks.
  • They are mainly used today in computerized trading record-keeping systems for trades and shareholder records.
  • Foreign securities have CINS or ISIN numbers instead of a CUSIP.

Understanding the CUSIP Number

Like the stock symbols assigned to the shares of a publicly traded company, a CUSIP number is a unique identifier attached to the securities issued by a company, whether stocks or bonds.

The CUSIP system is owned by the American Bankers Association in conjunction with Standard & Poors. The system is in place to facilitate the settlement process and the clearance of associated securities. The CUSIP is composed of nine characters and can include letters and numbers. It is assigned to all stocks and registered bonds that are sold or traded within the United States and Canada.

How CUSIPs Work

A CUSIP number is similar to a serial number. The first six alphanumeric characters are known as the base, or CUSIP-6, and identify the issuer. The seventh and eighth digits identify the type of security and the ninth digit is a “check digit” that is automatically generated. By providing a consistent identifier that distinguishes securities, CUSIP numbers help facilitate and ease actions and activities such as trades and settlements. CUSIP Global Services creates anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 new identifiers each day.

A CIN (CUSIP International Numbering System) is used for securities issued in foreign markets. In this case, the first letter represents the issuing country. For example, E09876AA7 represents a AA credit rating corporate bond issued in Spain (E is the letter used to identify Spain) and offered in a foreign market.

44 million+

The number of financial instruments categorized by the CUSIP system.

Locating a CUSIP Number

CUSIP numbers are publicly available and can be accessed through the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) via the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) system. Additionally, the information is often listed on official statements relating to security such as confirmations of purchase or periodic financial statements, or the information can be accessed through various securities dealers.

A "dummy CUSIP" is a temporary, nine-character placeholder used internally by a company to identify a security until its official CUSIP number is assigned.

Examples of CUSIP Numbers

Here are a few examples of actual CUSIPs for companies across various sectors.

CUSIP Numbers For Select Stocks
Apple Inc. 037833100
Alphabet Inc. 02079K107
Alaska Air Group 011659109
Walmart Stores, Inc.  931142103
CUSIP numbers

ISIN & CINS Numbers

Expanding beyond the CUSIP system is the International Securities Identification Number (ISIN) system. ISINs are used internationally with most United States and Canadian securities labeled with an additional two-character prefix and one final check character attached at the end of the originally issued CUSIP.

Additionally, information regarding the currency of the specified security is also required to facilitate proper processing and recording. This has helped establish an international system for the clearance of securities. While it is not yet used worldwide, the ISIN system has gained traction across foreign markets as a way to simplify trading processes, particularly for international investing.

A CINS number is another international extension of the CUSIP numbering system. As with CUSIP numbers, a CINS number consists of nine characters. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are CUSIP numbers important?

CUSIP numbers are unique identifiers attached to listed stocks and bonds. They provide a standardized method for identifying securities to facilitate the clearance and settlement of trading market transactions.

What does a CUSIP number tell you?

A CUSIP will tell you the exact type of security it references and who issued it. The unique identifier will also tell you what type of security it is (e.g., a corporate bond or common stock).

What can I do with a CUSIP number?

As an ordinary investor, CUSIP numbers are not of much use. Instead, these are used primarily by brokerage and clearing firms to ensure that transactions are properly settled and recorded.

How do I look up a CUSIP number?

There are several ways to do this. Perhaps the simplest is to request a stock quote on a broker's website, which often will include the CUSIP. You can also find the numbers on a brokerage's official statements sent to clients, or on physical stock or bond certificates, if you own them. Certain bond CUSIPs may also be obtained through the Municipal Securities Rule making Board (MSRB) via the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) system.