“41% of online adults have shared the password to one of their online accounts with a friend or family member.
39% say that they use the same (or very similar) passwords for many of their online accounts.
25% admit that they often use passwords that are less secure than they’d like, because simpler passwords are easier to remember than more complex ones.” (Pew Research, Americans and Cybersecurity)
Are you guilty of any of these password bad habits? There’s no shame in it—as you can see, you’re not alone.
But there’s always room for improvement, and now’s the time to start. Here are 4 tips for creating the strongest possible online banking password to keep your account safe.
What Password Should I Use? 4 Easy Tips to Create a Strong Online Banking Password
1. Make a long password.
Don’t stop at six characters, even if that’s all that’s required by the platform.
“A lowercase, six-character password takes a hacker around 10 minutes to figure out. Add four more characters, and you extend the time of that heist by 45,000 years,” tech expert Kim Komando says.
You could even go so far as to have a sentence as your password. Create a simple phrase and use it instead of a short, easy-to-crack word.
Interested in learning more about online banking best practices? Read our guide:
2. Use uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols.
Gone are the days when you could get away with “password” as your password (which some people still use—yikes). Most sites require you to use all of those elements above, and even if they don’t, you really should do so on your own.
But doesn’t that make it more difficult to remember, and therefore easier to get locked out of your online banking account?
Well, you should write down the password somewhere if you think you’ll forget it (we’ll get to that in a bit), but LearnVest has a clever way for creating complex passwords that are easy to remember.
They suggest picking something like your favorite song lyric, then taking the first letters of each word and using them to create a password, all while mixing cases and substituting symbols for letters.
For example, let’s use “twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are” as our lyric. You would take the first letter of each word and get:
To make it even more complex and secure, let’s mix in lowercase and uppercase, and switch out some letters for symbols and numbers:
And voila! We have a really strong password that will be easier to remember than a random jumble of letters, even though that’s what it looks like.
Keep in mind, though, mixing uppercase and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols doesn’t mean “Password123!” would make a good one. That leads us to our next tip.
3. Don’t use your kid’s name or common words.
If you use personal details such as your child’s name or your sports team, that makes it easier for someone who knows you to guess your password.
Along those same lines, you shouldn’t use common words for your password because it’s easy for hackers to crack.
You might think that sounds unlikely—it would take them years to try all the different words and combinations out there.
But in reality, they have the tools to shorten the process down to a matter of days, if not minutes. It’s kind of a fascinating process—it’s what’s known as a dictionary attack.
In a dictionary attack, hackers use programs that speed through a list of common words (like a dictionary) to try to break into your account. The programs take massive amounts of words and throw them at your password until the right combination clicks into place.
So if your password is “buckeyes” or something similar, you might want to think about changing it.
Related: 9 Bank-Related Scams to Avoid
4. Use separate passwords for every account.
It may be tempting to use the same one for a group of online accounts so you don’t have to remember each and every one, but it’s much more secure to have different passwords for different accounts.
Even if you create a super strong password for your online banking account, using it for other accounts weakens its effectiveness.
Final Advice: Storing Passwords
We’ve gone over how to create a strong password for your online banking account, but what’s a safe way to store them? Because let’s face it, the strongest password is one even you might have trouble remembering.
You have a few options. It may sound old-fashioned, but there’s nothing wrong with writing your passwords down on a piece of paper, so long as that paper is kept in a safe place. There’s some debate about this online, but typically for home users, it’s okay.
The argument against it is that if your house is broken into, the thief might find your sheet. But really, in that scenario, you have bigger problems to worry about.
Another option is to use an online password manager to store all your passwords. That way, when you go to your online banking account or another password-protected site, the password manager can fill it in for you.
However, if it’s a shared computer or a laptop that you take everywhere with you (and therefore might one day forget at the coffee shop), you might want to rethink this.
Additionally, when you’re using a public computer, a good safety practice is to say “no” when a browser asks you if you’d like to save your password. That way, the next user won’t be tempted.
More Online and Mobile Banking Tips for You
We’ve gathered some of our best online and mobile banking tips in one comprehensive guide. If you’d like to learn more about online banking best practices, how to keep your account secure and more, check out How to Get the Most Out of Online and Mobile Banking.
Also, while you keep your account secure with a strong password, you can rest easy that your bank is taking security measures on their end to protect your information. At Mercer Savings Bank, we use the latest technology to encrypt your data and have security measures in place to make sure your account is locked up tight.