The CUSIP number is a unique identifier used to identify US bonds. Most US traded securities have a CUSIP number. However, the CUSIP number has primary importance in the bond market, where it is used to process and settle trades.
Where most stocks have a 3 or 4 letter ticker symbol to identify them (ie AAPL for Apple stock or BAC for Bank of America), the bond market uses the 9 Character CUSIP Number.
What does CUSIP Stand For?
CUSIP is an acronym for the Committee on Uniform Security Identification Procedures. The identification system is owned by the American Bankers Association. The system is administered by Standard and Poors and has been used since 1964.
For more information on individual bonds, visit our Free Guide to Investing in Corporate Bonds.
Why Bonds need CUSIP Numbers
As of 2017, there are less than 4,000 publicly traded companies in the U.S. In 2015 there were over 5000. While some of those companies offer several types of stock (preferred, common) it is very unusual for a company to have more than 3 classes of stock. At most, there are 20,000 unique stock issues of publicly traded companies. There are well over 1,000,000 different bond issues. Most of these bond issues are municipal bonds issued by cities, counties, and states. With so many different bond issues, precise identification is critical.
There are three parts to a CUSIP Number
Example: 912828 + NB + 2 would be 912828NB2 CUSIP #
- The First 6 digits (912828) identify the issuer. In this case, the issuer is the Treasury Department.
- The next two characters (NB) identifies the specific bond.
- The last digit (2) of the number has no significance in identifying the bond.
How do you search for or look up a CUSIP number?
Having a CUSIP number in most cases is critical to finding information on a particular bond. If you own a bond, your broker should be able to provide the CUSIP number. If you are looking for information on a bond you do not already own and don’t know the CUSIP number, Fidelity has a nice tool here that will allow you to search for it using other criteria.