Credit cards can come with a four-digit personal identification number (PIN). The PIN acts like a password, helping to prevent unauthorized use of your credit card. However, in the U.S., PINs are more often required when using debit cards than when using credit cards.
Hence, if you live in the United States and don’t often travel abroad, you may not find yourself using a credit card PIN most of the time. Still, it can be helpful to understand their purpose and how to obtain one just in case.
What Is a Credit Card PIN?
A credit card PIN is a four-digit personal identification number used to help verify the integrity of certain transactions that might occur while using a credit card. You might receive a PIN with your new credit card; however, it will probably be mailed separately for security reasons. This way, if someone were to steal your card, they won’t gain access to your PIN along with it.
Credit card PINs offer an added layer of security alongside other measures, such as your signature, the credit card’s EMV chip, or the credit card CVV number. In the United States, chip and signature are the preferred security measures for most types of transactions, but there could still be times when you need a PIN.
How Do Chip and PIN Cards Work?
Chip and PIN generally refers to credit cards that have a microchip that can be inserted into a card reader. As their name suggests, these cards may also require the cardholder to authorize the transaction by entering their PIN.
The use of a microchip and a PIN allows for increased security when compared to credit cards of the past, which only used a magnetic stripe to complete transactions. Also called stripe and signature cards, these older credit cards are considered less secure than chip and PIN credit cards. This is because the magnetic stripe has your card information coded directly into it.
An increase in credit card data breaches called for a more secure solution. That led to the adoption of EMV cards, named for the three organizations that developed the technology — Europay, Mastercard, and Visa. EMV cards would become the chip and PIN cards we know today, later joined by contactless payments.
The main benefit of EMV, or chip and PIN, cards is that they generate a one-time code when inserted into the card reader. Instead of sharing your card number with the merchant, the code is used to process the payment. This process is more secure than using a magnetic stripe because it makes it much more difficult for thieves to attempt to steal your credit card information.
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Credit Card vs Debit Card PIN
There’s little difference between a credit card PIN and a debit card PIN. Both are four-number codes that you use to verify transactions in some situations.
At least in the U.S., the most notable difference between credit vs. debit card PINs is that debit card transactions require a PIN more often than credit card transactions do. In other countries, the use of PINs for credit card transactions could be more common.
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Why You Might Need a Credit Card PIN
The two scenarios in which you’re most likely to need a credit card PIN are when requesting a cash advance and when traveling outside the U.S.
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A cash advance works like a loan from your credit card issuer. There are a few ways to request a cash advance, but one way to do so is by using your credit card at an ATM. You may be required to enter your PIN when requesting a cash advance, and credit cards sometimes have daily cash advance limits.
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Credit Card Purchases Abroad
European credit cards often use chip and PIN technology, which can help keep your money safe when traveling abroad. That means you could be required to enter your PIN, even for purchases. For instance, automated kiosks in Europe may only work with foreign credit cards if you provide a PIN.
Guide to Requesting a Credit Card PIN
Whether or not you think you’ll need a credit card PIN, you can request one from your card issuer just in case you do end up needing it in the future. Keep in mind that your card issuer may have sent you a PIN when they shipped your new card. However, as mentioned earlier, the PIN likely was not sent in the same envelope as your credit card for the sake of security.
If you aren’t able to locate a PIN that was sent with your card, you can request a new one in the following ways:
• On your bank’s website. Some banks allow you to request a new PIN while logged in to your account. To do so, you can search your bank’s website for information on requesting a PIN for a credit card.
• By phone. Some banks require you to call to request a PIN on a credit card. If that’s the case, or if you simply prefer to call, your card issuer should provide a support number. They likely won’t issue you a new PIN over the phone but will instead mail it to the address on file.
• At a bank branch. If your bank has branches nearby, then you should be able to request a PIN by visiting a branch and asking them to reset it for you.
• At an ATM. If you know your existing PIN and simply want to change it, you might be able to change your credit card PIN by visiting an ATM.
If you request a new PIN either online or by phone, it should be mailed to your address on file. Thus, you should make sure your address is up to date before requesting a PIN.
Another important credit card rule to keep in mind is not to use personally identifiable information in your PIN, such as your birthday or your address. While those might be easier to remember, they can also be easier for a thief to guess.
Do All Credit Card Issuers Offer Cards With PINs?
The answer to this question may depend upon your location. In the U.S., for example, most credit cards have at least chip and signature verification, though an increasing number have chip and PIN. While chip and PIN adoption has increased in the U.S., the technology is already fully implemented in much of the rest of the world.
Most major banks in the U.S. offer PINs with their credit cards, even if PIN verifications aren’t always required.
Finding Your Credit Card PIN Number
When you were approved for your new credit card, you might have received a separate mailer with your credit card PIN along with relevant information about using it. If you never received your PIN or you lost it, you probably won’t be able to find your credit card PIN by logging into your account. Usually, you’ll either need someone to reset it for you at a bank branch or ask to have a new PIN mailed to your address on file.
Are Credit Card PINs Safe?
Chip and PIN credit cards tend to be much safer than their magnetic stripe counterparts of the past. This is because chip and PIN credit cards do not share your credit card number; instead, they generate a unique, one-time code to verify the transaction. Hence, schemes that worked in the past, such as credit card sniffing, are much less likely to succeed with chip and PIN credit cards. This helps you keep your data safe, along with your money.
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With the adoption of EMV, credit cards may have a PIN, but purchases don’t often require them in the United States. However, your card issuer may have sent you a PIN when you were approved for a new card. Chip and PIN technology makes credit cards more secure so you can feel more confident about your purchases.
Of course, you have many options when considering new credit cards. One card equipped with all the latest security technology is the SoFi credit card. Not only will your purchases be secure, but you can earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards. For a limited time, new credit card holders† who also sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings with direct deposit can start earning up to 3% cash back rewards on all eligible credit card purchases for 365 days1. Offer ends 12/31/22.
What if my credit card company does not allow chip-and-PIN purchases?
Most credit card companies should allow chip-and-PIN purchases, or at the very least, chip and signature. All U.S. merchants were asked to begin accepting EMV chips by October 2015. While there’s no federal law requiring EMV compliance at the moment, it is considered industry-standard. As a result, most credit card issuers have already adopted EMV standards.
Can I use the same PIN for all credit card transactions?
Some card issuers might allow this, but others may not — it depends on the banking institution. For example, your card may not allow you to use the same PIN for cash advances that you use for purchases. If that is the case, you will need to remember two different PINs.
How do you get a PIN for your credit card?
Card issuers will often send you a PIN when you apply for a new credit card. However, if you lost your PIN or don’t recall receiving one, you can try requesting one from your bank. You may be able to request a PIN via online banking; if that isn’t possible, other options include asking for one on the phone or visiting a bank branch.
Can you use a credit card without a PIN?
Whether you can use a credit card without a PIN depends on the kind of transaction you’re making. For example, if you are in the U.S. and requesting a cash advance with your credit card at an ATM, it is unlikely that you will be able to do that without a PIN. Purchases, on the other hand, often don’t require a PIN in the United States.
Photo credit: iStock/Ludmila_m
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
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The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
New and existing Checking and Savings members who have not previously enrolled in direct deposit with SoFi are eligible to earn a cash bonus when they set up direct deposits of at least $1,000 over a consecutive 25-day period. Cash bonus will be based on the total amount of direct deposit. Entry into the Program will be available 10/1/22 to 12/31/22. Full terms at sofi.com/banking. SoFi Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. Member FDIC.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 11/3/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet