/ Money, Shopping, Technology

Forgotten your PIN? Soon it may not be an issue

A recent report shows that contactless mobile payment systems in the UK have won the hearts of many. So are we losing our love for the PIN, or are we still a way off finding a secure alternative?

Two-thirds (67%) of us think the PIN will soon be a distant memory of the banking past, according to research by Intelligent Environments. And many believe this will be within the next five years

Could this really be true? Or are you with the 32% who have PINned their hopes on our four digit friend?

Cracking the code

PINs are supposed to be super-secure four digit codes. The theory is that a PIN is for your eyes only, and therefore the likelihood of someone cracking the code is extremely low.

While there are around 10,000 PIN variations, there are weaknesses in the system. Many of us – myself included – don’t adhere to basic PIN number security: 32% of us have never changed our PINs, and only 37% have kept them a secret.

Being a part of that 37% can be a safety net in some circumstances. There have been moments when I’ve had a complete brain freeze when trying to recall my number. As someone who hasn’t kept my PIN secret I’ve been able to lean on my other half, who has a certain penchant for remembering these vital details.

But, if I was on my own when I forgot my PIN, I would have resorted to using the three attempts to potentially block my card or crack the code. Alternatively, I could bring the transaction total down to under £30 and make use of the contactless card payment limit.

Future technology – safer than PINs?

We’ve already adopted contactless systems such as contactless cards and Apple Pay in the UK. Paying via these methods has rocketed by 200% since the payment limit was increased from £20 to £30 in October.

But there are some not-so-distant plans for new biometric technology, including vein pattern scanners, fingerprint readers and voice recognition systems. Lloyds Banking Group is currently testing a wristband that can identify a person by their heartbeat pattern. Experts believe that these systems will be so unique to the customer that fraudsters will be incapable of imitating us.

So what do you think the future holds? How do you think you will you be paying for your weekly shop?

Do you think that this is the end for the PIN number?

No (50%, 66 Votes)

Maybe (32%, 42 Votes)

Yes (18%, 24 Votes)

Total Voters: 132

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I use Apple Pay wherever possible. It avoids the need to take my wallet out of my my iPhone is often already in my hand for another reason anyway. Unlike a physical contactless card, Apple Pay has no transaction limit because it is authenticated by two-factor authentication (something you have and something you are) like chip & PIN (something you have and something you know). The missing piece in the jigsaw is delivering receipts electronically to make the whole process paperless.

It is disappointing that some retailers still don’t support contactless payments at all. Even a brand new branch of Sainsbury’s near me doesn’t support it. With no transaction limit for some contactless payment methods, all retailers really should support contactless by now.


I like contact-less and use it where ever I can though its a good thing at this early stage the amount is small and limited, I do not doubt it will grow. Mine is with HSBC, think the next stage it will be on the mobile like what Apple have introduced and are doing at present.


I have four PIN’s in varying degrees of regular use and sometimes I have a mental block. This is critical when you have to use the same credit card as you used to make a booking in order to receive the service [in some hotels for example]. I do have a safety net method of recovering a forgotten PIN from my memory but I won’t describe it. Anything that involves cards or iPhones is a nuisance because they can so easily be left at home, lost or stolen and then you really are stuck up a gum tree. So the idea of a wristband appeals to me, until I think – would I need four of them? Presumably a way could be found to ‘authorise’ the wristband to interact with one’s selected accounts and, at the point of payment, to pre-select the account to be charged before offering the wristband to the scanner. This could also help with store cards which are account cards rather than credit cards, although I suspect they are on the way out anyway. I can see why the banks might want to develop systems that lock their customers in to using just one account for everything but I think we should guard against that and seek multi-versatility [which is tautologous but sounds nice].


Predictably, my answer is no thank you and that, of course, makes me an old fashioned person, behind the times and the latest trends. So be it. It is through choice and not incapability. I would be very fearful of any phone app that let me spend an unlimited amount using a telephone. I have no doubt that others would be trying to find ways of spending that for me and any security lapse could drain my bank account. I also don’t need a card to buy a newspaper, though I would have one to use on London Transport as this seems to be the only way to get around the capital these days.
Technology moves on and things like computer boot up times and internet access will soon be instant using future chipless technology. Payment methods will evolve and, sadly, money may become a thing of past generations. It shouldn’t become too easy to purchase things. There should always be a barrier that makes one consider whether a purchase is necessary before parting with wealth, in what ever form it comes in. Wealth will always be finite and folk will always be able to get into debt. We are going to see many examples of card and chip based payments in the next few years as people try out new ideas. Some will catch on, others will fail, and, as said earlier, there will always be people willing to find ways of criminally exploiting loopholes in security. If I were a few years younger I would think more about these things, however I do believe that good, old-fashioned money will keep me going until I spend no more.


Vynor, like you I’m a little cautious. Can someone tell me, if my contactless card is stolen can it be used by the thief until I discover its loss and report it? If so the fact I have to authenticate my card whenever I use it in person is security I like. In principle if other personal features were used such as fingerprints or iris recognition (is that affected by contact lenses?) for example I’d be OK providing the banks put their money where their mouth is and do not quibble if the card gets misused – I am trusting their certainty in the method.

You mention making spending even easier, and whilst I use a card most of the time because it is convenient I think they, for some, make impulse buys with money you haven’t yet earned too easy and tempting. Some do not have the discipline to resist such spending. Part of the credit crisis was down to the huge levels of debt accumulated on credit cards.


If your contactless credit card is lost or stolen, then yes, the thief can spend on it until you report it stolen but only six times. However, your card issuer will reimburse any fraudulent transactions and you won’t have to pay for them. So there’s nothing to worry about with contactless credit cards.

I wouldn’t want a contactless debit card though, as it allows a thief to spend your money immediately rather than the card issuer’s money. Even if any fraudulent use is subsequently reimbursed, the temporary loss of your own money might cause problems.


NFH, thanks for the information. i am not clear though – how can it be used only six times if stolen? I might not realise it is lost for a while. Surely until it is reported stolen it is assumed I am using it? Forgive me if I am naive here – I don’t (currently) have a contactless card.

As far as not worrying about the loss because the card company will reimburse it, in the end it is all card users who will pay one way or another, isn’t it. A bit like all fraud – we all end up paying in premium hikes, bank charges or whatever?


According to the Which? guide to Contactless Payments referenced in the Intro [click on contactless cards in red] :

“Although contactless transactions do not require a Pin to be entered, card issuers will restrict the number of contactless transactions that can be made before the Pin is requested, to prevent fraud. Our research suggests a thief would be able to spend between £45 and £100 before being asked to provide a Pin.

“Fraudulent transactions on contactless cards are protected by the same rules that apply to other card payments. This means that if you’re a victim of fraud, your bank will refund you the money, provided it’s not a result of your own negligence. However, you will have to pay the first £50 of the total amount of fraudulent transactions made on your card. . . .”

So you could be caught for up to £50 even if the transactions were fraudulent.