ATM Swallowed My Card. What Do I Do?

Follow these instructions if an ATM swallows your card. 


These days, it’s become common for ATM machines to swallow debit and credit cards for different reasons. If you were performing a cash withdrawal at an ATM and your card was destroyed, you may wonder what you’ll need to do afterward. Below are a few steps that will either help retrieve your card or allow you to obtain a replacement. 

Why ATMs Retain Cards

ATMs can retain cards for the following reasons: 

  • You’ve entered your PIN incorrectly three successive times
  • The chip on your card is faulty
  • The ATM may have a malfunction
  • The ATM has been tampered with to commit fraud, such as card skimming – where a small device is placed into the card slot that collects personal information from each card put into the machine.

Consider Waiting around for a Short While

If there’s a problem with the ATM that swallowed your card, there may be a chance that it will spit it back out a few minutes afterward – especially if it simply needed to reboot itself for any reason. As such, it’s a good idea to wait around for even 10 to 15 minutes – just in case your card is returned to you again. 

This is also the ideal time to take a closer look at the ATM to see if there are any signs that the machine may have been tampered with by criminals. If you spot any signs of tampering, you should contact your bank immediately to stop any further transactions from being processed on your card.

If there are no visible signs to indicate that the ATM was tampered with, the unit is attached to a physical bank branch, and they are still open, you can pop inside to determine whether there are any issues with the ATM at the time. In some cases, an employee may be able to retrieve your card, but usually only if it belongs to the same bank as the ATM, you’ve just used. 

Take Notes

If the ATM has not returned your card after you’ve waited around a while, it’s time to note the time that your card was swallowed. You’ll also need to note the bank or institution that the ATM belongs to, the location of the ATM, and any reference number it may have displayed on it. Your bank will usually ask for this information when you report that an ATM has retained your card, so ensure that you write everything down as soon as possible. 

Cut your Losses

If your card isn’t returned within the 10 to 15-minute window, chances are that you won’t be able to retrieve it anyway – especially if it’s an ATM that doesn’t belong to your regular bank. In cases where the ATM doesn’t belong to your bank, chances are that your card will be destroyed to prevent it from being used fraudulently by anyone else. 

Take Advantage of your Bank’s App

These days, most banking institutions have dedicated apps that their customers can use to perform several different transactions without even going into a physical branch. This can often include stopping your card if an ATM has retained it. The sooner you contact your bank or report the loss via your bank’s app, the less chance of any fraudulent transactions being processed from your account. 

In cases where you need cash urgently, and your bank’s ATM has retained your card, you will still be able to go into a branch to request some money – provided that you have some photo ID with you at the time.

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