How Should I Choose a PIN?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Choosing a personal identification number (PIN) for an ATM or credit card should take some consideration. With identity theft rampant, it is important to choose a PIN that cannot be easily guessed. There are several ways to avoid choosing a PIN that a thief might reasonably be able to guess.

If a person has physically stolen one’s wallet or one’s identity by reading mail, or by intercepting personal data on the Internet, the person may be in possession of knowledge about not only one’s self, but also close family. Some details are fairly easy to research, like family members’ ages or birthdates. Thus a PIN should not be chosen from a family members birthdates in any combination.

As well, one’s social security number or phone number may be known. Any combination of these numbers should be avoided as well. Leave out phone numbers of close family, whose numbers may show up on stolen phone records. Also leave out numbers of close friends one frequently calls, as if a cellphone is stolen, these will show up in a call log. They make poor choices for choosing a PIN.

A series of repeating numbers like 1111, or 2222 are also easy PIN codes to break. As well numbers in sequence for a PIN like 1234, or 2345 should be avoided. Again these PIN codes are common and might be easily guessed.


Since it gets more difficult to keep in mind all the numbers one must remember, a PIN number should be memorable. It can be a date that holds personal significance, but also private significance. For example one might chose the year in which one received his or her first kiss, or the date on which he or she got engaged.

Another possible PIN choice is the birthday, either day and month, or month and year of a close friend, or of a distant ancestor. This is another type of PIN that is memorable but unlikely to be easily guessed.

PIN choice that seems resistant to breakage can be a number of businesses one needs to know. For example, if one needs to call the cleaners or the kids’ school, and must know these numbers, then the last four digits of the number may make a good choice too. One could also use the first two digits and the last two digits of a business telephone number for a PIN.

One could also choose a PIN that reflects an important date in history. For example one could use a PIN that reflects the end of a war, or the date a beloved book was published. Another choice would be a holiday one particularly enjoys like Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day.

By choosing something with personal significance, remembering one’s PIN is fairly easy. However, by avoiding numbers with overtly and guessable personal significance, it is unlikely that a person in possession of one’s ATM card will be able to simply guess one’s PIN. By keeping a PIN unguessable to others, one will have the time to notice the missing card and report it, prior to having one’s money stolen.


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Post 2

PINs I have used were my Boy Scout Troop Number squared, gear combination of a favorite bike, and the year of birth of a favorite composer. PINS I have considered are dates of very long bike rides, and the sum of the area codes I have biked to.

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