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4-digit catastrophe

Daniel was out shopping when he dropped his wallet. Someone picked up the wallet and went on a shopping trip of their own. In the wallet was Daniel’s credit card, to which Daniel had stuck a post-it note with the PIN for the card.

The thief withdrew the maximum he could, $300, from Daniels’s credit card before discarding the wallet.


Daniel contacted his credit card provider for a refund of the loss, but the provider declined this request as their terms and conditions explicitly tell users to not keep any record of their PIN with their card. As such, keeping the PIN with the card was a breach of the credit card provider’s agreement with Daniel.


We agreed with the credit card provider and decided that Daniel keeping his PIN number with his credit card was a clear breach of the card’s terms and conditions. The provider was within their right not to refund the money taken.


We told Daniel that the best option for him was to discontinue his complaint and use this experience as a lesson for the future. Although unhappy with this result, Daniel accepted that he shouldn’t have written his PIN down and certainly shouldn’t have kept it with his card.

Insights for consumers

There are many ways to keep your credit and debit cards secure:

  • sign your credit card as soon as you receive it
  • keep an eye out for odd-looking devices on ATMs or PIN pads – you could be at risk of being skimmed. Skimming is when fraudsters use a device to copy your card’s details
  • cover your PIN when entering
  • get receipts for your transactions and then check those receipts against your statements
  • if you need to destroy an expired card, or one you no longer want, make sure you cut through the magnetic stripe and the signature
  • never write down your PIN or share it with anybody.

If you suspect that your PIN number has been compromised, tell your card provider straight away. It may also be possible to put a temporary block on the card yourself using a mobile app or via internet banking.

You will never be asked for your PIN by your bank or credit card provider.