The other day I received a new ATM debit card in the mail from my bank. The card came with a sticker saying to either call the 800 number or simply use the card at a bank ATM with the existing PIN # to activate it. Having recently called an activation number for my credit card and getting transferred to a live agent that tried to upsell me on several "features", I opted for the ATM method of activation.

So the next time I'm at the ATM, I enter my 4 digit PIN using my new card--the same PIN I have used for years. The system says the PIN was entered incorrectly. (Thinking for a moment I had used the wrong ATM card, I tried my PIN number for my joint checking/savings ATM card). Also incorrect. I was afraid of getting locked out, but I tried the original PIN once more in case I just fat-fingered it the first time. No luck. So I went inside the bank.

Once inside I explained the situation and asked if they had changed the PIN on the new card. The bank says no, and assumes that I have forgotten my PIN. I was sat down at the desk of a helpful woman who proceeded to read through what services I was using and try to push CDs and mutual funds on me. No thank you, please just fix my PIN number. So I enter a PIN into the keypad. I tried using my existing PIN. The banker told me it was rejected because it was either a repeating pattern or a year starting with 19 or 20. Ah, interesting. Not rejected because it was a previous PIN on my account. But funny, I've had that PIN for years and never been told that. And why couldn't the ATM machine give me a helpful message like, "Hey we changed our requirements, and you must reset your PIN inside the bank". The root of the problem: my old card was a WAMU debit card. Now I am holding a Chase debit card. Same account number, but new bank (thanks to the merge). So I enter a new PIN that matches their stricter requirements and go back outside to the ATM.

I enter the new PIN, and a new screen with red letters comes up saying to take your card to a bank representative inside immediately. Great. So I go back inside and explain the error. Someone else takes my card and says they will look into it. Moments later a third person I have not seen yet comes by the chair I am sitting in (sporting an annoyed look I am sure). "May I help you?". "I'm already being helped, thanks". "Oh, are you the ATM card guy?". Yup, yup that's me.

I get called up to the counter, and am told that my card has now been locked out for too many wrong attempts. They ask what I was doing, I explain that I was trying to activate my card and the PIN wasn't working, so I had it reset. Apparently they can not reset a card that has been locked from the branch, so they call someone.. saying how this guy forgot his PIN and locked his card and it's not activated either so can you please activate and reset the card. They do not care that I knew my old PIN. I attempt to tell them about my sleuthing, but they don't catch on to the fact that their bank system was rejecting a PIN I had been using for years, with no warning or help since my PIN was apparently in a rare subset of numbers that met WAMU's requirements but failed Chase's.

Do they let everyone that was a WAMU customer with a PIN similar to mine fall into this trap? Are the bankers not warned or trained that this possibility exists? The letter I got with the new card made no mention of WAMU customers possibly having invalid PINs. I tried to bring it up to multiple people at the bank but they were just concerned with how stupid I was for both forgetting my PIN and locking myself out by trying multiple times. I take this as a huge procedural failure.

Then to make the story better, they told me that even corporate headquarters could not reset the card because you can not activate a locked card, and you can not unlock an unactivated card. Catch-22. So I was told to wait 24 hours for the lock to be automatically removed, then call the stupid 800 activation hotline to activate the card.


This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want??¦HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great! chatroom software
James Morgan - Puritan Financial Advisor
Then to make the story better, they told me that even corporate headquarters could not reset the card because you can not activate a locked card, and you can not unlock an unactivated card.