I recently got the PIN sorted out on my credit card; in the UK we have needed a Personal Identification Number to use a debit or credit card since February this year, but of course I haven’t bought anything in a real shop since then. I was thinking about this and my cognitive dysfunction and thought I would share my thoughts in case it might be useful to anyone else.
I should explain that there is very little information which I know at all times without having to think about it. For example, the way I remember my name is to picture the top left-hand corner of a sheet of lined A4 paper. The very first thing I think to do when presented with a sheet of paper is to write my name on it – something I would have been doing several times a day throughout my school career. I consider what it is I need to write in that corner and I remember what I am called. Which only takes a brief moment.
So obviously, I can't just glance at the PIN the bank sent me and hope to remember it next time I'm in a shop. But I've never had any problem with the PIN I use to get cash from the machine.
First off, you are much more likely to remember a PIN when you have chosen it yourself; if you have memory issues or dyslexia, there's probably not much point in trying to memorise whatever random numbers you were initially sent by the bank. Phone them up and pick your own number.
Some people have numbers they learnt as children which have no relevance today, but stick in the mind very easily; your parents' Co-Op number for example, or part of your first phone-number.
Failing that, the simplest method is to pick a significant year in the second millennium AD; 1066, 1492, 1603, 1812, 1984 etc. I imagine the bank would advise against using the year of your birth, marriage etc..
1812 and 1984 are particularly good because, in my mind at least, each is associated with a historic event, a book (War and Peace and 1984) and most crucially, a memorable piece of music (Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and David Bowie’s 1984). And yet others are unlikely to guess this, unless those dates have any particular personal significance.
The other, less easy, but more secure method is to chose a sequence of numbers which represent some simple maths like 3721 (3 x 7 = 21). Similarly 9218, 6488, 6713 and so on. This gives you something more to work with than just four random numbers, and if you forget one you can still work it out. For example, if all I can remember is 369_. Well, I know that three and six can’t be made into anything with a 9 in that position and I don’t have enough room for the 12 which would be the next number in that sequence. Thus, it must represent 36 and 9 and the only sum I’ve got room for is 36 / 9 = 4, so 3694.
For extra measure, do write it down, as part of a made-up phone number in an address book, or as a pretend price for something you have taken a note of. But make sure it isn’t too prominent or obvious wherever it is.