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
Since 2013, Visa and Mastercard gift cards began utilizing PIN numbers. These numbers are not located on the card. Instead, customers must call the number on the back of the card to use the automated system to enter the card's 16-digit card number. Next, you'll need to input the card's expiration date and three-digit security code, which is located on the back of the card. The system will then allow you to select your own four-digit PIN code.
Read More: How Visa Gift Cards Work
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 Card Security Code. The CID 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.
As of April 30, 2015, Discover no longer issues Discover gift cards, but gift cards issued prior can still be used at locations that accept Discover cards.
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 come with PINs, however, if you want to use a gift card without a pin, you'll only be able to use them in the store and not online, 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.
Read More: How to Get a Pin for a Debit Card
- American Express: Gift Card Terms and Conditions
- Discover: Discover Gift Card
- Discover: Using a Discover Gift Card
- Mastercard: Mastercard Prepaid Cards
- TD Bank: Gift Cards - Frequently Asked Questions
- Federal Trade Commission: Paying Scammers With Gift Cards
- Giftcards.com: Set/Change PIN
- Walmart: Finding Your Walmart Gift Card PIN
- Restless Financial Improvement: Visa and Mastercard Gift Cards Now With PIN Code
- National Retail Federation. "Holiday shoppers plan to spend 4 percent more this year." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- Research and Markets. "United States Gift Card and Incentive Card Market Intelligence and Future Growth Dynamics (Databook) - Market Size and Forecast (2015-2024) - COVID-19 Updated." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- Audit Analytics. "Gift Card Breakage – (ASC 606)." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- Office of the New York State Comptroller. "DiNapoli: Read the Fine Print on Your New Gift Card." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- Visa. "Reloadable Visa Prepaid Cards." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- Amazon. "Gift cards." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- Cardpool. "Sell unwanted gift cards for up to 92% cash back." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- CardCash. "Sell your unwanted gift cards for up to 92% cash back or trade for more." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- Raise. "About us." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- St. Jude Children's Hospital. "How to donate your unwanted gift cards." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- CharityChoice. "Choose Gift Card Merchant." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Charitable Contribution Deductions." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- Office of the New York State Comptroller. "DiNapoli: Remember to Read Fine Print on Gift Cards This Holiday Season." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
- KPMG. "Unclaimed property rules for gift cards, gift certificates in Colorado, Washington State." Accessed Aug. 6, 2020.
Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.