Remembering a PIN while keeping it safe: What are some ways to keep track of a PIN without risking security?

Primary tabs

What are some ways to keep track of a PIN without risking security?


I work with seniors as well as people with mental health challenges. We issue bank cards for people to use to pay for items and withdraw cash. I notice we have some people who cannot remember their Personal Identification Number (PIN) and they want to write it down and put it with the card, which of course would be very dangerous. However, something easy like 2468 or their birth date is also dangerous in the wrong hands. Any suggestions?

Our answer

Recalling a PIN in order to pay for groceries or take cash out at an ATM can be a stressful situation, but referring to a note with your PIN written down has its own risks, and could result in serious consequences in the event of a theft.

 Displayed is a laptop keyboard with a pen and wallet placed on it. Out of the wallet peaks, a credit card and post-it note with the message Pin 1234.One option that might assist your clients is encouraging them to create a memory hint or mnemonic device for their PIN. The article “5 Ways to Remember Your PIN” by Gemalto offers a few examples to help someone remember their PIN, such as spelling a memorable word out of the numbers, or connecting the numbers to people they know.

Visual images or cues can also be effective for memorization. The article “Clever tricks to remember your passwords” from the Telegraph explains how bizarre imagery, image association or a visual story might be able to help someone remember their PIN.

If these memory hints are difficult to memorize for your clients, then they might want to try writing the hints down (but not the PIN) to help them remember. The hint should be decodable to only your client, such as writing down “my favourite books”, which would indicate to them “Lord of the Rings”, where the PIN is then L-O-T-R using the letters on the PIN pad.

As another security measure, the memory hint could be secured in a pocket of a bag or purse using a secure lock. Here are a few options to explore:

  • Mini Padlock with Key by Masterlock (at Amazon Canada) is a small padlock that uses a key to unlock. This product costs about $30 (CDN) for four locks and keys.
  • Mini Portable Fingerprint Bag Lock by Eseesmart (at Amazon Canada) is a small padlock that only requires the clients fingerprint to unlock, and is designed to be faster and more secure than using a key to unlock a padlock. This product costs about $40 (CDN) for a pair of two locks.

Although less secure than a note and padlock, another option that your client could explore is using a small voice recorder to playback the memory hint. The Talking Memo Watch by Lifemax (at The Braille Superstore) is a digital watch that records an individual’s voice and can playback the message at any time. The individual can record their memory hint (e.g. “my favourite books”) to remind them of their number and play it back when needed. This product costs about $15 (USD).

If you still can’t find what you're looking for, please ask us a question.