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What To Do If the ATM Eats Your Card?

What To Do If the ATM Eats Your Card?

If your card is swallowed, do not ignore it or leave it for a few days until you have time to deal with it. Not only may this compromise the security of your account, but it may also lead to your details being stolen, and may also implicate you in any malfeasance/misgivings that take place after your card is lost.

Your insurance company may also be less willing to repay your lost money if it shows you didn’t act as soon as possible.

There are certain things you should do right away when your card is swallowed. You may never need to use the information, but it is always good to have the information in case you are asked by your bank, the ATM machine operators, the police, or your insurance company.

Tip: have a travel-friend bank! Before you travel is to have an account with a banking institution that offers fraud & travel protection on your debit card. You’ll also want a bank that will willingly rush ship you a new replacement ATM card around the world, if you need. For example, checking accounts like BVVA Checking with good protection.

Tips for SAFE ATM Usage (and to reduce chances of ATM problems)

  • Tip – Do not be one of those people who take their cards on holiday without checking when they expire.
  • Tip – If possible, use an ATM inside of an actual bank branch or outside of the bank branch. This is especially a good idea if you are traveling abroad and using ATMs. There is less risk of fraud if you use an ATM inside a bank and if the ATM eats your card, you can simply talk to one of the bank tellers to resolve the issue.
  • Tip – Sometimes if there is an error during your transaction, your card may be ejected when the error resolves itself, or when the machine is rebooted.
  • Tip – Do not keep all your cash in one place and on one card. Plus, keep at least a little paper cash around in case your card is swallowed or accounts are frozen.
  • Tip – If you are abroad, take your passport with you because they can use it as ID to verify your identity with the bank.
  • Tip – In some countries is may be a good idea to use ATMs during the day because sometimes an employee may be able to retrieve it for you.

If an ATM Eats Your Card While Abroad

This is not a good situation as there may be language problems and it may be difficult to fix the problem on the spot, especially if the ATM is not attached to a bank but in some other location.

If you are not in your home country, the situation is more difficult as you may be dealing with language problems and it may not be easy to call up the bank company on the spot.

To minimize risk, we suggest you USE an ATM outside of or, even better, inside of an actual bank while traveling abroad. If the ATM eats your card, you can simply walk into the bank or call for assistance — the bank will be able to resolve the issue on the spot. If this is not possible and your card gets eaten by an ATM somewhere away from the actual bank (like an airport, mall, outside a convenience store, etc), then follow #1-3 below.

Make sure you have a backup ATM card linked to the same account or a different bank account. If one ATM card gets eaten or lost, you STILL can access your bank account and get money.

How to Prevent ATM card issues while abroad

  1. Use ATM’s inside of a bank branch lobby. If the ATM card gets eaten, you can enlist the bank staff to resolve this for you. This is MUCH easier than trying to resolve the issue if the ATM is in a remote area. So use ATM’s attached to an actual bank if you can.
  2. Enlist the help of a local to contact the number on the ATM / ATM Bank. If you are in a foreign country, you may not be able to call the ATM company/bank branch yourself. If you are in a public area such as the metro, mall, airport — try contacting the local security or help desk. They may be able to contact the bank atm for you and explain the situation. IF there is no security around or help desk close, you may have to ask people around you for help. Ask a local to call the contact number on the ATM if you don’t have a working phone AND the language is not your own.
  3. Know your bank’s policy regarding ATM card problems while abroad. If you have ATM card issues while abroad, it’s a good idea to know your bank’s policy regarding this. Will they send you a new card in a reasonable amount of time for example.
  4. Consider using a Travel Credit Card while abroad, especially when making large purchases. Credit cards have better protection, better exchange rates, and can be rush replaced within a few business days. If you want to use it like debit card, preload the credit card with money (above your monthly balance0 and use it like an ATM card to withdraw the cash.

What Exactly You Should Do If an ATM Eats Your Card

1) Wait 10 minutes for The ATM to Restart

Recently, this very situation happened to me — I used my ATM card while traveling abroad (Thailand) and the machine froze with my card in it. I was preparing to call the bank number on the ATM but waited about 10 minutes first. After ten minutes, the machine restarted and my ATM card was spit back out. Needless to say, I did not put my card back in.

As annoying as it may be, I suggest you wait 10 to 15 minutes FIRST before doing anything. There is a good chance the ATM machine software will reset on its own and your card will spit back out. Obviously, this is not guaranteed, but it pays to be patient and hope that the machine will reset.

2) Take Note Of The Time, Place, and Location

If waiting for 10 to 15 minutes does not resolve the issue, well move on to this.

Note down the time the machine swallowed your card and try to be as specific as possible. Note the date, the place you are, and the type of machine (if possible). For example, is it an ATM outside a bank and/or controlled and branded by the bank, or is it a stand-alone ATM in the street, or an ATM in a mall. Does it have a name, brand logo, and/or any other details?

Is there a number you can call on the machine itself, or any helpful information that may be relevant? If so, you should make a note of it and have a quick look at the ATM to see if it has been tampered with. You may want to use your phone to take a picture of the ATM and the numbers on it so you can show a bank later.

3) Contact the Bank/Account Provider And Claim

The bank or institution you use will have its own rules and own definitions. Some will say you have to raise a claim with the bank, others will say that you have to raise an inquiry, and some may say your account is frozen and freeze your account until the matter is resolved.

It is not wise to contact the ATM provider unless the bank you use and the ATM provider are the same company. In this case, your problem may be resolved a little quicker. When you raise the issue with your bank, they will often contact the ATM provider, but if you raise it with the ATM provider, then they will refer you to your bank and/or account provider.

If you can’t find the bank associated with the ATM, look for the contact number on the ATM (there usually is) and call it for support. You may be able to get a technician to come to the location right away and deal with the issue. 

4) Dealing With Bank Policy

You have to understand that every bank and account provider has their own way of dealing with swallowed cards. Some banks will destroy any cards that are swallowed by their machines. If you lose a debit or credit card, you should be able to cancel that card over the phone almost 100% of the time, but you may need to remember your telephone banking passwords and such.

There are some banks and accounts where you can cancel your cards over the Internet, and some allow you to cancel or freeze your cards with your mobile. It is also highly likely that you can cancel your card by walking into a branch and having the staff cancel it for you.

5) Contact Your Financial Ombudsman

Every developed country and/or state has some sort of regulatory body that may be approached if it is taking too long to fix your issue. It usually takes around 15 days to get your problem fixed.

Sometimes you may get lucky and get your card back the day after, or may cancel your card and get a new one after a week. If there is an investigation, it will usually take around two weeks, and if you need a refund of sorts, then it will probably take 15 working days.

If you have been trying and trying and still haven’t had any sort of luck or success with your bank and/or account provider, then go to the regulatory body that deals with this sort of thing, which is usually some sort of financial ombudsman.

6) Try To Figure Out Why Your Card Was Swallowed

There are times when a machine has been tampered with and is actually running very slowly, which may make a person believe their card has been swallowed when it is really taking its time to get out. There are also times when the eject function is weak and only pushes out the tip of the card to the point where it is hard to see. There are also other machines that want you to put your fingers into the indent to pull out your card.

There are times when ATMs are tampered with so that they reject and spit out your card after a few minutes, so it may pay to stick around for a little while and see if others are able to use the machine.

In the US your card is often ejected far sooner than in Europe, where your card is often rejected after all operations have been concluded. There are some countries that use more pin numbers or less pin numbers and you may have just entered the wrong pin a number of times. There are also times when the exchange rate muddles the issue and you accidentally take out more than you meant to, or reach your withdrawal limit without realizing.

Replace Your ATM Card

Sometimes the best thing to do if you lose your card in the ATM is to immediately call your bank and order a replacement card. The replacement card will usually arrive within 3-5 days of your phone call, so if you can hold off pulling out cash for the next few days you should be able to survive.

Even better, if you have time just visit your local bank branch and they will give you a replacement card on the spot. This is ideal if you are not abroad and have access to your banking service. However, if you are abroad, it can be harder to get an atm card replacement, especially if you are not going to be in one location for a period of time.

Regardless of the situation, call your bank directly and ask for help. They have a number of things they can do like Rush delivery you a new card. You might have to pay the fees for delivery (usually you don’t), but you will be able to get a replacement card within a week time.

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Traveling to another country? What to do if you lose your debit card while abroad

About The Author

Ben Todd

Ben was a seriously broke graduate student with bad credit who after finding himself rejected for any sort of credit card or loan for most of his adult life, finally decided to get his financial life in order. ' He spent several years reading as many financial advice books and blogs as he could. And suprisingly, Ben found he actually LIKED the topic of personal finance; after fixing his own finances, starting his own successful work at home website business, and using his earnings to get out of debt, created to help others do likewise!


  1. Patrica

    The ATM ate my card and kept my card. How do I get my card back.

    • ALAN

      YES IT ATE mine as well

      Wht I do now pls assist

  2. Gary


    • Ingrid Carpenter-Kling

      ingrid on the 25th of November 2018 at 10:00 am the Atm ate my card

  3. atm sales Alaska

    Due to machinery fault it can happen, so there are chances you can see the board or any kind of notice being put on the ATM machine which instructs not to use it. If somehow your ATM is stuck in machine, then you can call emergency help line number.


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