What to do if your card gets stuck in an ATM?

What should you do if your card gets stuck in an ATM?

Call your bank or their customer service number if your card gets stuck in an ATM. The bank will provide you with instructions, send someone to help, or freeze your card so it cannot be used. You can also try to remove the card with a paperclip, but this may damage your card.

Maybe the restaurant you want to go to is cash only or you realize that you need some extra cash for emergencies. You head to the closest ATM, put in your card, and…nothing. The ATM has swallowed your card and it does not appear to be coming back. What to do if your card gets stuck in an ATM? 

There are several reasons why an ATM “eats” your card. Learn why this happens, what you can do, and steps that can minimize your chances of it happening again. 

Key Takeaways

  • Call your bank during normal business hours or the customer service line for 24/7 support. Your bank’s customer service agent will walk you through the best steps to retrieve your card.
  • In some cases, the card will be returned within 10-15 minutes of being swallowed.
  • Look for signs of ATM tampering and do not leave the ATM until the bank rep tells you it’s ok to do so.
  • ATMs can take your card for a variety of reasons, such as human or machine error. ATMs will commonly eat your card if you report the card as lost or stolen and then attempt to use it.

TFF22-101 - What to do if my debit card got locked in an ATM

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How To Get A Stuck Card Out Of An ATM

There is no doubt that ATMs have made life easier, but what about when things go wrong? 

When your card gets stuck in an ATM, it is easy to become stressed out. Luckily, you can do several things to get your retained card back. 

Talk to someone at the bank if you are at an ATM during a bank’s normal business hours. Sometimes they can remove cards at the moment or get someone to open the machine. They will at least know to look out for it and close the machine so no one else uses it if you can not retrieve your card.

Banks have business hours, but ATMs are open at all hours. You can still call your bank’s customer service line because it is available 24/7, and they will likely let you know the best course of action. Do not leave the ATM until you have finished talking to the customer service rep. 

A unique way to deal with a retained card is to try a paperclip. Several videos on YouTube demonstrate how to get a card unstuck if you’re feeling like MacGyver. 

However, it should be noted that this does not work on all ATMs and could cause more damage. Below is a video demonstrating the process:

The following tips are things you should do whether you are using the ATM during or after business hours. 

1. Wait a few minutes.

Before you do anything drastic, wait a few minutes to see if the ATM eventually spits out the retained card. Ten to fifteen minutes is a reasonable time to see if your card returns. 

2. Call the customer service number. 

Whether you were using the ATM during or after business hours, always call your bank or credit card company’s customer service number to let them know that your card was swallowed. 

Sheila, who works for Bank of America’s customer service line, said a rep can help you decide the best next steps. 

“A bank customer service rep can block a card or figure out the best way to get it retrieved,” Sheila said. 

A blocked card means you will get a completely new card from your bank, which can either be mailed or picked up at your local branch. If you want to retrieve your card, then it is best to contact the bank branch whose ATM you used. 

3. Take notes on the ATM. 

Your best bet is to take note of everything if you are confident that your card is stuck in the ATM. Notes to take include: 

  • Time attempted to use the ATM
  • The ATM model number (if visible)
  • Location of the ATM and affiliated bank or store
  • Any other identifying features of the ATM 

Your bank is likely to ask about these things, so it will be helpful to them if you already have this information at the ready.

4. Make sure that the transaction is canceled. 

Before leaving the ATM, make sure that you canceled your attempted transaction. Most standard bank ATMs will automatically cancel the transaction after a period of inactivity, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check. 

Why Did The ATM Swallow My Card?

There are a few reasons why an ATM would take your card. Some can be easily remedied, and others require the help of others. 

1. Mechanical Error

Sometimes an ATM gets unplugged accidentally or loses internet connection for unknown reasons. In either case, the machine will not be able to function correctly and can eat your card. 

Another mechanical error can occur if you have a chip on your card. An ATM might read it as an error and not give the card back if the chip is unreadable or is damaged.

2. Human Error 

The machine can also take your card if someone takes too long at the ATM. Dillydallying on how much to take out or making too many wrong guesses for your PIN code can trigger an ATM to keep your card. 

Another reason the ATM could retain your card is if you blocked your card or reported it as lost and forgot to update your bank. When the bank notices that a card is being used, but was reported lost or blocked, then that raises suspicion. 

3. Criminal Activity 

Some criminals can mess with ATMs so that they keep your card. Once you leave, they will open up the ATM and grab your card. There is one scam called the “Lebanese Loop” where a criminal puts a thin strip of plastic in the ATM slot to block it from coming out. 

Can An ATM Take Your Card? 

If you’re wondering, “Did an ATM take my card for security reasons?” then know that this could happen. An ATM can take your card if your bank believes there is suspicious activity on your account.

Whether they have noticed an expensive purchase or some of the security measures were broken, banks are at liberty to keep the card for your safety. The easiest way to fix this is to call your bank, and you can confirm that things are alright on your end. 

If you use a bank-affiliated ATM, the vendor that cleans it out will usually get it to someone who works at the bank. You will be contacted personally if you have an account with them. If it is a bank that you do not have an account with, they will usually reach your bank to hand it off. 

Most banks will shred any cards that are not picked up within the following business day. This is great for security but not great for you if you realize you lost your card a few days later. 

Things To Not Do If An ATM Takes Your Card

Now that you know the best things to do if an ATM takes your card and doesn’t give it back, here are some things that will not be helpful. 

1. Do not just assume your card is lost.

Do not assume all hope is lost if an ATM eats your card. Wait by the machine for a bit to see what happens. See if the machine is connected to a power source. Many standard bank ATMs have a toll-free number to call or an emergency button to press if something goes wrong or you need help. 

2. Do not leave the ATM without talking to someone. 

Like the previous point, try all your options before assuming the worst. It would be best to talk to someone, whether it is your bank’s customer service line or a bank teller inside.

If you have someone with you, ask that they watch the ATM while you go inside to get help. Stay by the ATM while you talk on the phone, so you can watch for suspicious activity if you are alone. 

Steps To Take To Minimize The Risk Of Your Card Being Taken Again 

Hopefully, having your card get stuck in an ATM will only be once in a lifetime, but there are things you can do to ensure that it does not happen again.

1. Have Your PIN Number Memorized 

Knowing your PIN will help avoid your bank locking you out of your account and retaining your card. Since this number is the key to accessing your secure information, you will always want to keep it on hand. 

2. Check Out The ATM For Any Tampering 

As mentioned before, criminals have myriad ways to tamper with ATMs so that they will eat your card. Notify someone at the bank if you notice anything off or strange about an ATM. You can also call the police if the bank is not open.

Follow these tips to check for signs of tampering and verify an ATM is safe for use.

Summary: What to do if your card gets stuck in an ATM

Don’t worry if your card gets stuck in an ATM. The first thing you should do is call your bank or bank’s customer service number for support. The bank representative will walk you through the steps necessary to retrieve your card. You should also wait to see if the card returns itself and look for any signs of suspicious activity.

Make sure your bank’s representative tells you it’s safe to leave the ATM. The bank may freeze your card so potential scammers can’t use your card without your permission. Use the buddy system if you need to leave the ATM for any reason.

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.