What to do if an ATM can’t read my card?

What should I do if an ATM can’t read my card?

If ATMs can’t read your card, you more than likely need to get a replacement. In the meantime, see if you can manually enter your card information. Some ATMs may allow you to input your card number, expiration date, and CVV number.

The CVV number is the card verification value on the back of your card’s signature line. It is usually a three-digit code.

Aside from manually entering your card’s details, you can try cleaning the chip or magnetic swipe. 

Let’s examine some of the different actions you can take.

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What to Do if an ATM Can’t Read My Card?

Sometimes an ATM won’t read your card if you’ve run into a broken ATM or card reader. You can troubleshoot this by trying more than one card.Try using a debit and credit card with the same bank. It’s highly unlikely both of them have a problem with the chip or magnetic stripe.

If you find a problem with a specific ATM, report it to the bank. Then, move on to another ATM.

This is the beauty of banking with a larger or well-known institution. They usually have more than one ATM location.

But for argument’s sake, let’s say you only have one card and a single ATM machine to go to. You’ve made several attempts to put in your card and keep getting error messages. If there’s a bank rep working nearby, ask if the machine will let you manually enter your card information.

When it’s after hours, see if there is an option to key in the card’s details. If there’s not, you’ll need to call your bank for a replacement card. No one wants an ATM card they can’t use.

Should I Try to Fix a Demagnetized Debit Card?

It’s possible an ATM can’t read your card because it’s demagnetized. That means the machine can’t pull the card’s chip or magnetic strip information. You can confirm a card demagnetized by trying to pick it up with a magnet.

If the card’s not attracted to the magnet, the magnetic material is worn down. Some people have success with placing Scotch tape over the strip or chip. Others can fold a plastic bag around the card and get it to swipe.

However, many of today’s ATM machines require you to place the card entirely in the slot. The slot grabs hold of the card for a few seconds while reading the chip. In most cases, a plastic bag is not going to work well.

That’s why it’s recommended you not try to fix a demagnetized card. It’s better to reach out to the card issuer to send a replacement. Explain to them that the card is demagnetized and ATM and POS machines cannot read it.

Some banks and card issuers will send you a sleeve or plastic cover. This can help protect your card while it’s in your wallet or pocket.

Card protectors prevent not only demagnetization but also the buildup of debris. Sometimes dirt and debris can stick to the chip or magnetic stripe. This causes card read errors in ATM and POS machines.

Besides a protective cover, try applying a bit of diluted rubbing alcohol. Use wipes or a Q-tip to apply a bit of the solution over the magnetic stripe or chip. Let the card dry and try it again.

Can I Type in My Card Number at an ATM?

It’s becoming more challenging to find an ATM or POS machine that will let customers enter card numbers. This is due to an increase in fraudulent activities and stolen card numbers.

Think about it. It’s easy to get someone’s card number, expiration date, and CVV number. If a machine lets someone manually enter the card information, it’s usually a clerk.

So, you may be able to pull this off if you can hunt down a bank teller. This will limit you from using your card in the ATM outside a bank’s operating hours. You’ll also need to find an ATM that’s tied to a branch location.

A clerk will ask to see your card and will probably need to override the machine. This is usually done with a key, an operator code, or both. Since this can lead to delays for you and other customers, it’s best to order a replacement card.

However, you will need to enter your PIN manually when you use your card. This is something you’ll need to do or provide to the teller. Tellers and bank employees don’t like to ask for customers’ PINs for security reasons.

You can sometimes get around this by asking to process the transaction as a credit rather than a debit card. By choosing credit instead of debit, you can enter your billing zip code instead. But some debit cards and machines do not accept this override. 

What If My Card Gets Stuck?

When some machines can’t process a card, they hold on to them. Essentially, the card gets stuck in the ATM until someone clears the error or puts in the right information. This is becoming rarer as most ATMs will produce an error code and cancel the transaction. 

But if your card does get stuck, report it to your bank immediately. They’ll cancel the card so someone else can’t use it. If there is a bank rep nearby, let them know what happened.

They may be able to take the machine apart and retrieve your stuck card. This is in their best interest since no one else can use the ATM until your card is out.

Summary: What to do if an ATM can’t read my card?

When an ATM doesn’t read your card, it’s frustrating and results in anxiety. You wonder what’s wrong with your card and how you’ll get the money you need. However, it’s a simple error with the ATM or the card itself in most cases.

Your bank or card issuer will be happy to send you a replacement once you report the problem. Just reach out to the customer service department.  

You can try to fix a demagnetized strip or see if the ATM will allow you to manually enter in your information. However, this is a temporary solution and you will need to get your card replaced.


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John is the founder of TightFist Finance and an expert in the field of personal finance. John has studied personal finance for over 10 years and has used his knowledge to pay down debt, grow his investment portfolio, and launch a financial based business. He is committed to sharing content related to personal finance based on his experience in his career, investing, and path towards reaching financial independence.