CUSIP Numbers and How to Look Them Up

CUSIP numbers help you locate detailed information on securities

iPhone with stock graphs on

Mark Finn / Unsplash

A CUSIP (Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures) number identifies securities, including stocks of all registered U.S. and Canadian companies, as well as U.S. government and municipal bonds. It is nine-characters in length, consisting of numbers and letters. The CUSIP number is used in the CUSIP system, which is owned by the American Bankers Association (ABA) and operated by Standard & Poor’s. This system facilitates the clearing and settlement process of securities.

Importance of CUSIP Number to the Bond Market

Most stocks can be identified by three or four letters in their ticker symbol, such as INTC for the chip maker Intel, and there are usually around 20,000 unique ticker symbols for these publicly traded companies. However, in the bond market there are well over 1,000,000 different bond issues. Most are municipal bonds issued by cities, counties, and states. With so many different bond issues, a precise identification system is critical to keeping track of them.

What the Characters in a CUSIP Number Mean

The groupings of characters in a CUSIP number identify specific information:

  • First six characters: Known as the base or CUSIP-6. Identifies the bond issuer.
  • Seventh and eight characters: Identify the bond maturity.
  • Ninth character: An automatically generated check digit.

Four Ways to Look Up a CUSIP Number

It's helpful to have as much information as possible for a successful CUSIP search for a security. A quick search tool can be found at QuantumOnline.com. You can find not only a company's CUSIP number, for example, but also a profile of the organization and a host of contact information for it.

You can also use Fidelity Investment's quick look-up tool to search for a stock, mutual fund, index, or annuity using a security name, trading symbol, CUSIP number, or fund number.

Standard and Poor's KennyWeb is a useful resource not only for looking up CUSIP numbers, but financial information of all kinds. Sallie Mae also offers a simple CUSIP search.

The MSRB’s Electronic Municipal Market Access website known as EMMA offers searchers advanced search functions that can be used to track down securities information as well as look up CUSIP numbers.

Finding a Security's CUSIP Number

If you're looking for a stock, for example, it can be as simple as performing a Google search. For example, a simple search for the CUSIP number for the Apple corporation (AAPL) will bring it up (037833100).

You can also find the CUSIP number on official statements for a security. These can be documents like financial statements and confirmations of purchase. CUSIP numbers can also be obtained from securities dealers.

Research Using a CUSIP Number

The primary reason for looking up a CUSIP number is for information on a stock or bond. To access the entire CUSIP database requires a subscription through Standard & Poors or similar service or organization that provides the access to the CUSIP database. However, for those seeking general information, a subscription is not always necessary.