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What to Do if an ATM Eats Your Deposit

Contact your bank immediately and provide deposit details (such as location and amount).
Aug. 10, 2018
Banking, Banking Basics
If an ATM Eats Your Deposit, Contact Your Financial Institution Immediately
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Did an ATM really just eat your deposit? Others say they’ve been in the same boat. If an ATM takes your money, here’s what to do:

1. Stand your ground and contact your bank

Your first move should be to alert your bank or credit union, which will investigate before crediting your account. Although it may not come naturally to some people, the name of the game is keeping your cool.

When Tennessee business owner Linda Murray Bullard found herself in this “horrific" situation, she immediately reached out to her bank.

I refused to move before I contacted the bank.

Linda Murray Bullard, Chattanooga, Tennessee

When the ATM “chewed up my money, I refused to move before I contacted the bank and spoke to a live person,” says the Chattanooga resident.

Standing in front of an ATM that just ate your cash deposit without crediting your account or issuing a receipt can leave you feeling helpless, and even hopeless. Just ask Linda Murray Bullard, who recently found herself in that situation.

“A horrific experience!” says Murray Bullard, who owns a business consulting firm in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Bullard eventually received her credit, but she had to act fast. If an ATM takes your money, here’s what you can do.

Stand your ground and contact your bank

Your first move should be to alert your bank or credit union, which will investigate before crediting your account. Although it may not come naturally to some people, the name of the game is keeping your cool. For Murray Bullard, that meant staying put and immediately reaching out to her bank.

“When it chewed up my money, I refused to move before I contacted the bank and spoke to a live person,” she says.

I refused to move before I contacted the bank and spoke to a live person.

Linda Murray Bullard, Chattanooga, Tennessee

“The lady assured me it would be corrected the next business day and someone would call me as soon as it was corrected. They did just what she said, and my deposit was credited.”

» If you use ATMs frequently, here are the top banks for avoiding ATM fees and getting fees reimbursed

How common Bullard’s experience is isn’t clear. The ATM Industry Association doesn’t have data that would show the scope of this issue, according to Michael Lee, the group’s chief executive, who says he hasn’t “heard of a single reported case of this happening.” The American Bankers Association didn’t respond to requests for comment when asked about such incidents.

Murray Bullard, however, certainly isn’t alone: Based on scores of online message board discussions on the topic, cash-hungry ATMs aren’t a completely unheard-of phenomenon. And considering that 68% of Americans use ATMs at least once a month, according to a 2014 Nielsen study, it’s worth knowing how to respond to this potentially frustrating situation.

2. Confirm that your bank performs an investigation

Shane Allen, media relations director of Personal Trainer Food, a Fort Worth, Texas-based company that helps consumers create healthy meal plans, found himself in a similar predicament a few months ago when he tried to deposit $800 at a Capital One cash machine.

“The ATM took the cash and printed out a receipt saying there’d been an error, and that I should call a certain phone number,” Allen says.

His bank assured him that it would look into the situation when he called and credited his account for the time being.

“They warned me that they would investigate all the deposits that day,” Allen says, “and if for some reason they determined the deposit was less, they’d take it out of my account.”

A month later, Allen received a letter in the mail saying the bank had completed its investigation and determined that he had, in fact, deposited $800.

“Overall, I think they handled it very well,” he says. Capital One didn’t immediately respond to a request for a comment.

All transactions are logged, and we utilize our logs to research these transactions. If a problem results in any account fees, we will credit their account for those fees.

Kristopher Dahl, Wells Fargo spokesman

If an ATM eats your deposit, you should contact your bank immediately, says Kristopher Dahl, a spokesman for Wells Fargo. That will spur an examination of the incident.

“I can’t share much information about the investigation process, but all transactions are logged, and we utilize our logs to research these transactions,” Dahl says, adding that those instances happen rarely. “If a problem with an ATM results in any account fees, we will also credit their account for those fees.”

3. Note the time of the transaction, gather evidence

As well as eating cash, ATMs also swallow checks on occasion, as Natalie Nicole Gilbert can attest to.

“If you must use an ATM and it goes awry, note the time of the failed deposit,” says Gilbert, a Los Angeles-based musician who recently tried depositing a check worth about $1,000.

Because she didn’t usually use that particular account to make deposits of that size, the transaction “tripped a security feature that suspected potential fraud,” Gilbert says. As a result, her financial institution froze her funds while trying to verify that the check was valid.

“It was particularly inconvenient, as I’d intended to pay my rent that month with that check, and the hold didn’t release for another week or more after my rent was due,” she says.

Gilbert recommends that customers take smartphone pictures of the error screen on the ATM if one comes up during a botched transaction. She adds that people may want to copy the serial numbers on bills before inserting currency into a machine. The more evidence you can gather, the better.

Responding quickly is crucial

Although faulty ATMs can make you feel extremely powerless, the ball is very much in your court to fix the situation. Act quickly to get credit for your money.

Fed up with your bank?

If you’re looking for a better customer service experience, better rates or lower fees, check out our top-rated banks and credit unions.

Top Overall Banks

Ally Bank

NerdWallet has rated this bank:
    • Over 43,000 ATMs, strong customer service
    • 1.90% savings APY
Discover

at Discover,

Member, FDIC

Discover Bank

NerdWallet has rated this bank:
  • Over 60,000 free ATMs, cash-back rewards
  • 2.00% savings APY

Chase Bank

NerdWallet has rated this bank:
  • Large ATM and branch networks, great sign-up bonus
  • 0.01% savings APY (effective 6/15/18; rates are variable and subject to change)

Top Overall Credit Unions

Alliant Credit Union

at Alliant Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

Alliant Credit Union

NerdWallet has rated this credit union:
  • Over 80,000 free ATMs, interest checking available
  • 0.65% checking APY

Connexus Credit Union

NerdWallet has rated this credit union:
  • High 1.75% APY on checking balances up to $25,000
  • Reimburses up to $25 in ATM fees a month
  • Eligible to apply with a $5 charitable donation
First Tech Federal Credit Union

at First Tech Federal Credit Union,

Federally insured by the NCUA

First Tech Federal Credit Union

NerdWallet has rated this credit union:
  • More than 5,000 shared branches
  • Competitive interest on checking account
  • Eligible to apply with $8 charitable donation

 

Tony Armstrong is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter @tonystrongarm and on Google+.

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