A reader writes in: "I'm trying to look up a CUSIP number, but I'm not having much luck. How do I look up a CUSIP number on the Web?"
First, what is a CUSIP number?
I had no idea what a CUSIP number was, so this answer took me a bit of researching, something I enjoy immensely. According to the SEC, a CUSIP (Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures) number "identifies most securities, including: stocks of all registered U.S. and Canadian companies, and U.S. government and municipal bonds. The CUSIP system—owned by the American Bankers Association and operated by Standard & Poor’s—facilitates the clearing and settlement process of securities."
If you're trying to find a CUSIP number, you're looking for a number that identifies a type of security (for more on securities and CUSIP numbers I invite you to read About US Economy and Businnes). From my research, I found that one way to access the entire CUSIP database actually takes a subscription to Standard & Poor's or a similar service that has access to the CUSIP database. However, I did find that there are a few ways around this.
Four ways to look up a CUSIP number
You can use Fidelity Investment's quick look-up tool to find a CUSIP number, as well as a fund number or trading symbol.
The Bloomberg Center at Harvard Business School has a good basic CUSIP lookup.
Standard and Poor's KennyWeb is a stellar resource not only for looking up CUSIP numbers, but financial information of all kinds.
Sallie Mae offers a simple CUSIP search.