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PINs vs. Passwords: What’s the Difference?

Jackie here. PINs and passwords both secure your accounts, but that doesn’t mean they are interchangeable. Let’s examine the similarities and differences between these two components of account security.

What Is a PIN?

A PIN, short for personal identification number, is a series of numbers used to verify identity. PINs are strictly numerical, and don’t contain letters or symbols. These are often used to secure your ATM cards, to allow purchases using an app, etc. For the most part, PINs are less secure than good passwords. They are often shorter (4-6 digits) and since they use only numbers, have fewer possibilities for each space, theoretically making them easier to hack.

PINs do have a big advantage though. They are much easier to input, especially when using a mobile device. With a password, you often have to switch between keyboards, and think about case sensitivity. In general, a PIN takes a few taps on a screen to input.

What Is a Password?

A password is another gatekeeper for your personal information. Unlike a PIN, a password can contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. They are typically longer than a PIN.

The advantage to a password is its versatility. With a 10 character password there are more than 59 quintilian (or 59,000,000,000,000,000,000) different possibilities. If you choose a unique, long password, it can be a very secure way to protect your information (unfortunately, many people do not choose strong passwords).

PINs and passwords both have their place in keeping our identities secure, but they do have core differences. Whichever option you are presented with to protect your personal information, be sure that you make it strong, and private to minimize your risk.

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