5 tips to remember your ATM PIN or any numerical password
I normally remember my ATM PIN without issue. But there have been two times where I completely blanked on my PIN. Had I needed money urgently, it would have been a big problem.
It got me thinking that I needed a better system for remembering my ATM PIN. I did a bit of research and came up with the following tips.
A preliminary: don’t use your birthday
It should go without saying, but it’s a bad idea to use your birthday for your PIN. Yes, it is easy to remember. But that also makes it easy for thieves to decipher. This is even more pertinent nowadays because people often share their birthday publicly on their Facebook profiles.
Still, a lot of people ignore the warning. A recent study found that as many as one in five people used their birthday as a PIN.
Be a bit smarter and use a PIN that thieves cannot figure out as easily. Try one of the tips below to help you remember the PIN.
1. Find out what the numbers spell
Lets say your password is the seven digit number 6363686.
Rather than remembering that jumble, you could just remember the letters correspond to numbers on the keypad and make a word out of it.
The numbers 6363686 happen to correspond to the word MEMENTO. You have a better chance of remembering this word, or you can even put that word on your phone in a memo for a more permanent solution.
You can find out what words your PIN spells by using the website PhoneSpell.org
2. Make a sentence out of the numbers
This is another tip that associates numbers with words.
The idea is to convert the numbers into words, and then make a list out of it.
An example will help to clarify the idea. Let’s say your PIN is 1250. If you spell out your PIN in words, you would write “One, Two, Five, Zero.” The starting letters of those words are O, Tw, Fi, and Z.
Now what you do is you make a list out where each word starts with those letters. For the PIN of 1250, you might write the list: Orange, Twix bars, Figs, Zucchini.
You will find it is easy to go from the list of words back into your pin. The reverse process is as follow:
Orange, Twix bars, Figs, Zucchini –> O, Tw, Fi, Z –> 1, 2, 5, 0 –> 1250
And that’s it, you’ve got your password at all time.
The only tricky part is a couple of the numbers start with the same letter, like five and four, so you will want to use the first two letters (FI and FO) in your list to distinguish.
Here is a cheat sheet with some suggested words:
zero –> Z Zuccini, Zesty salad, Ziti pasta
one —> O Orange, Olive, Oreo cookies
two —> Tw Twix bars, Twinkies, Tweezers
three —> Th Thin cheese slices, Thick bread
four —> Fo Focaccia bread, Food processor
five —> Fi Figs, Filet fish, Fiber cereal
six —> Si Simply potatoes, Single serve pizza
seven —> Se Secret seasoning, Semolina pasta
eight —> E Eggplant, Eggs
nine —> N Nectarine, Naan
Now all you have to do is make a sentence or list and store it on your phone, and you’ll always be able to get to your PIN.
3. Encrypt your password by appending another number
A trick that I like to use is to append some letters that are memorable to me.
For instance, let’s say your birthday is January 23, which is written as 01 for January and 23 for the day.
Now what you do is you add the memorable number 0123 to your PIN and store it on your phone.
If your PIN is 1250, then you can put the number 12500123 in your phone. Or you may write it as 01231250. Either way you know that four digits are to be ignored and you can figure out your PIN.
4. Use sports players jersey numbers
You have to be a big sports fan for this one, but it is a very good trick.
Let’s say your number was 2333. For me I could split this up into two numbers of 23 and 33, and then I could associate the numbers with the jersey numbers of players I know. For this case, I could write down Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and the numbers 23 and 33 would quickly come to mind.
You have to be really into sports for this to work, but undoubtedly there are people who know sports trivia so well that it could be useful.
5. Use modulo arithmetic to encrypt your password
This is the most complicated of the systems but it does have a chance to help you encrypt other passwords. Here is a detailed guide from which I will summarize the method.
You need to start out with a number that is memorable to you. Let’s say you will always remember the number 1234 as an easy code.
The next step is to subtract this number from your PIN to create another number. This number you create is basically an encrypted PIN and you can safely carry it around–only you know how to get back to your actual PIN.
Here is how the process would work. Suppose your PIN is 1250.
Step 1: subtract your number 0123 from your PIN
1 – 1 = 0
2 – 2 = 0
5 – 3 = 2
0 – 4 = -4 + 10 = 6
The only tricky part is if you get a negative number, like -4, you will want to add 10 to make it a positive number. (We are basically working with modulo arithmetic for the number 10)
Now you have a number 0026 (we can call it a fake PIN) that you can store in your phone safely.
When you want to go to the bank, you will then ADD your secret number 0123 to arrive back at your PIN.
Step 2: add your number 0123 to your fake PIN
0 + 1 = 1
0 + 2 = 2
2 + 3 = 5
6 + 4 = 10 – 10 = 0
Like in step 1, the method requires working in modulo 10. That means if you come up with a number 10 or larger, you want to subtract 10 to arrive at the correct number.
The process got us to 1250 which is your PIN.
Clearly these tips can be used for another numberical passwords as well.
I know that some of these five tips sound like more work than rote memorization, but the consequence is they are more foolproof than human memory. The goal is that you will never forget your PIN, so I hop these tips help. They have certainly helped me!
Sources: I found the first two tips at OzSoapBox, the third tip I came up with on my own–though someone at OzSoapBox also suggested it, and the fourth and fifth tip are from StraightDope Message Boards.
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