Survey: How much time do you waste resetting your passwords?

A recent survey by ExpressVPN explores how often people forget their passwords and how much time they waste resetting them—time that could be better spent boosting mental and physical well-being.
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What would you do if you had just under four minutes to spare? Would you pop a bag of popcorn in the microwave, answer a couple of emails, read a few pages of your favorite book, or spend some quality time with your loved ones?

Of all the scenarios that came to mind, we doubt that resetting your password was one of them. However, according to a recent survey conducted by ExpressVPN, the average person spends three minutes and 46 seconds resetting a password each time they forget it.

While sacrificing a few minutes may not seem like a big deal (we’ve all been there), the majority of respondents we surveyed admit to following “forgot my password” steps a lot more often than they’d like.

Jump to…
Why do we forget passwords?
People waste hours each year resetting passwords
The passwords we forget the most: banking
Password recovery & damage control
Resetting a password is a top frustration
Time better spent
The easiest way to keep track of your passwords

Why do we forget our passwords?

There are certain practices that can increase our chances of forgetting our passwords, and not all of them are bad:

  • Setting passwords that are complex in an effort to make our accounts more secure
  • Having to remember numerous different passwords across various platforms
  • Relying so heavily on biometric logins to get into our digital accounts that we forget our manual login details 

We’ve been resetting our passwords for decades, and the need isn’t going away. It is still a safe and easy way for websites to let you access your account when you’ve forgotten your password. But that means more time is lost as more of our lives move to the digital sphere. For many of us, it’s necessitated the use of password manager services. 

To better understand the consequences of having to reset a forgotten password, ExpressVPN surveyed 8,000 people across the U.S., UK, France, and Germany. Together, this group provides insight into common password use, as well as what we could all be doing with time lost to forgotten passwords.

People waste hours each year resetting passwords

While across four countries the average time to change a password was three minutes and 46 seconds, Americans take the longest, with 37% saying it takes over four minutes to change each password and 7% taking over 10 minutes.

When asked about frequency, we found that 52% of U.S. respondents reset their passwords at least once a month—with similar findings in France (53%) and the UK (50%). But Germans seem to forget their passwords less often, with only 35% needing to reset at least once a month.

Chart showing how often respondent reset their passwords

Of our U.S. respondents, 21% say that they reset their passwords more than once per week, with 14% admitting to resetting their passwords at least once a day. The latter figure tallies up to a staggering 26 hours spent each year for an individual. 

Worse yet, 4% of Americans admit to having to reset their forgotten passwords more than four times per day, which adds up to an eye-watering 103 hours per year. 

The passwords we forget the most: banking

You need to make an urgent online money transfer. You boot your laptop, pour a cup of coffee, then settle into your favorite chair, ready to log in to your banking app. Except you can’t. It’s been so long since you last logged into your account that you’ve completely forgotten what it is. 

For a large portion of those surveyed across all four countries, this situation is all too familiar. Close to 30% cite online banking as the type of website or app for which they are most likely to forget their login passwords—more so than social media (24%), online shopping (16%), utility sites and apps (9%), and online gaming (8%). 

A pie-chart explaining where respondents spend the most time resetting their passwords

Interestingly, only 7% of those surveyed report work accounts as being the ones that they have to reset most often. This is likely because users must log in to their work accounts frequently, preventing them from forgetting their passwords. Another possible reason is the common use of password managers or single sign-on services at work, both of which allow users to access numerous accounts by remembering just one password. 

So, what are we doing when we forget a password?

Password recovery & damage control 

While passwords are easily forgotten, over three-quarters of survey respondents are confident about knowing the answer to security questions they had previously set. Be that as it may, there are plenty of other hurdles users encounter when a password is forgotten.

Over 76% of U.S. respondents reveal that they’ve been locked out of their accounts after inputting a password incorrectly. This could mean different things depending on the account: waiting for a period of time before being allowed to try again; being forced to reset; having to contact the company via other methods like phone or email.

The percentage of U.S. respondent who have been locked out of their accounts after guessing an incorrect password

It’s not always straightforward what to do next. A total of 48% of U.S. respondents say that they’ve asked a friend (10%), family member (16%), or a customer support representative (21%) for assistance when forgetting a password.

When they do manage to reset their forgotten passwords, over 40% of American, British, and German respondents say that they manually create an entirely new, unique password or do so with a random password generator—which is the best practice. The French we surveyed, however, prefer to take an easier approach (albeit a less secure one) by making a minor change to their original password when resetting it to a new one.

Despite it being strongly recommended that you should never recycle passwords, 16% of German, 12% of French, and over 10% of American and British respondents admit to reusing a password from another account when resetting a forgotten one.

Resetting a password is a top frustration

What’s more frustrating than having to constantly reset a password? For our American, British and French participants, not much.

Most of those surveyed (35%) cite a slow internet connection as the only thing they consider more annoying than forgetting an online password. This frustration is followed by resetting a password just to be told that it can’t be the same as their old one (25%).

Conversely, the majority of German participants find a slow internet connection (34%), losing their car keys (34%), and sitting in traffic (25%) more frustrating than forgetting an online password (19%).

Frustrating moments ranked

It’s ingrained in most of us to despise doing tasks that we consider a waste of time. That’s because we inherently know that it’s time that could be better spent elsewhere. But where exactly?

Time better spent

We asked our respondents what they’d do if they got the time from resetting their passwords back. The majority of them say they would:

  • Spend time with family and friends (30%)
  • Read a book (16%)
  • Go for a short walk (14%)
  • Do some life admin (12%)
  • Try a new hobby (8%)

So, instead of feeling the onslaught of fear, anxiety, and frustration that comes with forgetting a password, most of us would instead prefer to participate in activities that contribute toward our mental and physical well-being. Makes sense.

The only caveat? Close to 32% of respondents believe that resetting a password is a normal part of life, while another 20% feel that there’s nothing they can do to avoid having to reset passwords. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

The easiest way to keep track of your passwords

For the better part of the last two decades, we’ve been told to formulate complicated passwords that contain a random string of uppercase and lowercase text mixed with symbols, because they would be harder to crack. This resulted in passwords like “KJaerz&53$*647>” becoming the holy grail of authentication.

While we can debate the merits of adding symbols and whether something like “correct horse battery staple” is just as good, one thing is for certain: passwords should be long (we recommend 17 characters) and unique (not repeated across accounts). The problem is remembering them. Strong passwords are virtually impossible to remember, especially when you have numerous ones.

Enter the password manager. Not only do experts consider password managers the most secure way to store passwords—thanks to strong encryption—but using one allows you to only remember a single primary password, which will give you access to all your other passwords. 

Additionally, most password managers automatically prefill login fields for sites and services that you use, providing greater convenience. 

So, what’s the easiest way to remember your passwords? It seems the answer is not having to remember them at all. 

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