So you have a brand new gift card. Congratulations! You're ready to start spending, but for some reason the retailer is asking for a PIN. The PIN, or personal identification number, is typically located on the back of a physical card or in the same email that discloses the electronic gift card number. Although the PIN can't be used to retrieve money from a gift card at an ATM like a debit card, cardholders must present the PIN to check the card balance or get a replacement card.
Visa and Mastercard Gift Cards
Mastercard gift cards typically do not come with a PIN and most Visa gift cards do not. In the few instances in which a Visa gift card has a PIN, it is either the last four digits of the card number or a personal PIN added by the cardholder. That PIN will not appear on the card itself. If the card does have a PIN, you may be able to change it to make it uniquely yours. This is especially beneficial if you plan to use the card over an expanded time period.
PIN by Another Name
American Express gift cards do not come with numbers identified as a PIN. Instead, they come with a four-digit number American Express calls a Customer Security Code. The CSC is on the card front directly above the 15 digit card number. Discover gift cards use a three digit number it calls the Customer Identification Number, which is located on the back of the card.
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Gift cards issued by department stores typically have a PIN. It is usually found on the back of the card underneath an area that must be scratched off to view. For example, this is where you can find the PIN for Aeropostale, REI, Sephora and Ulta gift cards. This scratch-off area helps prevent the number from being stolen before the card is authorized. Some Walmart gift cards don't come with PINs. You'll only be able to use these gift cards in the store, since Walmart.com requires a PIN as an additional security measure.
If an electronic gift card comes with a PIN, it's listed in the email with the card number. If the retailer allows cardholders to choose their own PIN, the instructions to do it are in the email and on the retailer's website. Choosing a PIN can usually be done online or over the phone.