A Personal Identification Number (PIN) is a unique numeric personal code or password that is often linked with financial accounts. Banks and credit card companies use these numbers to secure financial information, but they can also be found linked with student loans, utility accounts, and other secured systems. A PIN usually has four digits that are known only to the account holder. When the account holder wishes to access information, he or she can enter the number along with another form of identifying information such as a password, account card, or name.
Most consumers are familiar with PINs because they are used to access Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs). A client inserts a bank card into an ATM, enters the number when prompted, and then makes any account changes, deposits, or withdrawals necessary. By linking the bank card with a PIN, the bank secures the information it contains if the bank card is lost or stolen. Most banks automatically assign numbers to their customers, although they can also be manually set.
A PIN number is highly useful for gaining quick access to secure information. Assuming a consumer keeps it private, the number can be used to pay bills, check account balances, transfer funds, or perform a variety of other account transactions. Having one also means that the client does not have to use his or her Social Security Number as an means of identification. Since identity theft is a concern for many people, this alleviates a number of fears.
If a pin is randomly assigned, a customer should memorize it and shred the slip with the number on it. If someone is are concerned about forgetting your PIN or wants other people to have access to it in an emergency, he or she could store it in a secure area like a safe or deposit box along with other vital information. Under no circumstances should anyone carry the number with other account information, in case the person's wallet is ever lost or stolen.
People who are given the option of selecting their own PIN should try to pick a random number. A phone number, part of a government assigned identification number, or any other familiar number should be avoided. People should avoid patterns, such as 5445 or 1234, because they are easier to guess than random number sequences. People who have difficulty choosing may want to use a random number generator and remember to keep the number in a secure place if it is written down.