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ATM eats card (what do you do?)

What steps do you need to take if an ATM eats your card? Thanks!

Posted by
8889 posts

Go to the nearest branch of the bank owning the machine, and explain what happened.
That is why it is a good idea to use machines at banks and during their opening hours, at least until you have done enough transactions to have confidence your card will work. They then have immediate access to the machine.
Some banks have machines inside the bank, that way they don't have to be weather-proof. These may still be accessible when the bank is closed.

It is also a good plan to have a back-up card. If there are two of you, carry different cards (different accounts). Also applies to credit cards. That way, if one person looses their cards, you can get those blocked, and the other persons cards still work.

Posted by
9419 posts

We each carry debit cards for two accounts plus Visa, MC, and Amex just in case of compromised accounts. Last year my VIsa was compromised in the first week of an 8-week trip but my husband's was still fine, thank goodness. Redundancy is helpful in case you cannot recover that card the ATM ate!

Posted by
20625 posts

I think the probability of the ATM eating your card is extremely low. We have never had it happen in all the years of travel and usage. But it can. One note of caution. When the card is returned, grab it - do not wait a second - the ATMs are programmed to swallow the card if it is not removed in a short period of time. I don't know the exact time but 20 to 30 seconds is a good guess. That problem has been reported here. It is a theft protection issue. If the ejected card is just sitting there the ATMs assumes you forgot to remove it so as a protection it sucks it back in. So pay attention.

Posted by
5019 posts

Sound advice above. Redundancy, eggs not all in one basket.

Me and my spouse now travel EACH with multiple credit cards (all three flavors, Visa, MC, Amex, though Amex acceptance is spotty), and TWO debit cards (each), each associated with separate accounts at different credit unions. Bases covered!

All that said (since the above probably strikes terror in some), I have never, ever had a debit or credit card sucked into an ATM, and I've traveled pretty widely, and tried out all kinds of cards in some very sketchy-looking machines in remote corners of the world.

The worst results I ever faced were machines that simply rejected the card (with some incomprehensible message on the screen in characters I can't read), or in one case, where the ATM spat out a stack of bills two inches high, to my astonishment (initially I wondered if I had just drained my entire bank account, but I soon figured out that the Indonesian Rupiah isn't worth very much - currently about 14,000 to the dollar - and my giant stack of money was really only enough for one night at a nice hotel). Paying for things in cash there can require many bundles of bills.

So, yeah, best practice is to use an ATM at a bank, which is open at the time, but you won't always be able to have that ideal situation. IME, in Europe, the ATM experience these days is usually pretty much the same as it is at home. No need to worry inordinately about card-eating machines. Just use common sense (watch for "skimmers" just like at home) and you should have no issues at all.

Posted by
5704 posts

We have had ATM cards eaten in Italy and China. We went to the banks whose machine was the culprit and also cancelled the card with our bank at home. New cards were FedExed to us but we also had another ATM Card to use..

Posted by
16827 posts

Some flavor of ATM eating card has happened to me three times since May 2015, but I've spent over 13 months in Europe during that period and made hundreds of (small) ATM withdrawals that were without problems.

  • Salamanca, Spain: Machine dispensed the requested money but did not eject my ATM card. I pressed Cancel and the card was returned.

  • Salamanca, Spain (different machine--what are the odds?): Machine dispensed momey but retained card. Cancel button did nothing. ATM was displaying the greeting screen, so I took a deep breath and requested another withdrawal. I received the additional money and my card was returned.

Both of those Salamanca machines looked sort of old and decrepit. I wondered whether there was a problem with their sensors. Probably best to avoid machines that look like old technology.

  • Lyon, France: i inserted my ATM card, but it was as if the ATM didn't sense that action. The screen did not change--no greeting, no choice of languages, no prompt for PIN. The Cancel button did nothing. Fortunately, this happened during banking hours at an ATM mounted in the exterior wall of a bank (I got smarter after the Salamanca incidents), so I just went inside and reported the problem. I had to produce my passport and sign something, but I had my card back in a few minutes.

The above experiences notwithstanding, you are a lot more likely to run into an ATM that wants to charge you a fee (which it will disclose, allowing you to halt the transaction) or a machine that tries to convince you to have the withdrawal recorded in dollars (at what will be a very poor exchamge rate) rather than in the local currency. In the latter case, just choose the local currency.

Posted by
5008 posts

I had one eaten at an ATM on the outside if a bank in a small German town on a Sunday evening. I went to the bank first thing next morning and they were able to open it and retrieve card. No explanation. My lesson was to plan ahead and use the ATMs during business hours when possible. I also take out the maximum I can at each ATM visit, to minimize the number of transactions.

Posted by
59 posts

Take some cash to start with. Then you can take your time looking for an open bank atm or a newer atm.
Ive only had problems with my card not being accepted.... I also forgot to call my bank and tell them I was leaving the state and country so they froze my card hehe but being stranded without money ... I say take some cash and also back up cards. Also dont use your check card anywhere but atms. Use a lower limit card for venders. Ive also had money stolen out of my account.

Posted by
2500 posts

We do what many others here do and only get money from an ATM attached to an open bank or one we can return to on the next open day. We've had our card "eaten" too and had to go inside the bank to have them retrieve it for us.

Posted by
661 posts

We had a card “eaten” in a small town in central France. The ATM machine had actually slightly separated from the wall, creating a space that ordinarily wouldn’t have been there. I didn’t know this when I stuck my card in, and somehow the card fell in the space. While I was trying to get some help, another customer lost his card, just as I had. I was using a machine inside the bank building but the employees were unable to get into the ATM area. I was told that I would have to wait until they came to fill the machine again, which would be several days.

Leaving my card in these circumstances didn’t seem like a good idea. I called to cancel it. A few days later, I got an email from the bank that they had my card. I told them to cut it up. I think the card would have been fine without canceling it, but I decided it would be better not to risk it.

So, it can happen. We had another card, so we were fine. We were towards the end of our trip, and in small towns, so we did not attempt to get a replacement.

Posted by
3807 posts

I had my card eaten here at home once - I managed to put it in the machine just as it went down for servicing - luckily, I was just able to pop into the bank and they fished my card out for me - so not totally unheard of.

Posted by
20625 posts

One additional thing I will try to do besides using an ATM attached to a bank during opening hours, is to use it just after someone has successfully used the ATM. If it works for them, it should work for me. And I know I have made a couple of people nervous because I will hang back waiting for them to finish using the ATM even though the ATM terminal next to them is vacant. My old engineering background causes me a lot of problems.

Posted by
2811 posts

Go to the nearest branch of the bank owning the card, and explain what happened.
They then have immediate access to the machine.

Not my local bank branch; and the machine was inside the building. I had used the card on a weekend to deposit a check, and both the card and check were eaten. So I went back on Monday, and the bank was able to print a new card on the spot. But getting the check deposited took over a week. I asked if someone could just go into the room behind the machine and get the check, but I was told that someone only comes to access the machine twice a week, but luckily for me the next time was later that day. But the next day I was told that the matter had to be processed through their fraud unit, which would take 3-5 days.

I've never had my debit card eaten while traveling, though. Hopefully if it ever happens, the resolution will go smoother.

Posted by
3282 posts

Go to the nearest branch of the bank owning the card, and explain what happened.

Kind of difficult to do when you are in Europe and "the bank owning the card" is back in the US.

If you meant "the bank that captured the card" that can be done, and many will return the captured card if you can prove the card belongs to you.

Posted by
8 posts

I carry my trusty American Express card. Their offices are helpful. I also carry some AE Travelers checks.

Posted by
8889 posts

I meant "the bank owning the machine". corrected - sorry.

Posted by
123 posts

We just returned from a two-week trip to Europe. It has never happened to me, although I get nervous every time I put my card in. The trend seems to be towards ATMs that take your card and return it when the transaction is over, as opposed to ATMs where you "dip" your card and it never leaves your hand.

I have accounts with a commercial bank and a credit union, and carry ATM cards for both. First choice is the credit union card, because there are no fees. The commercial bank card is my backup.

I advise to carry the phone numbers of your banks when you travel (not the 800 number, which won't work outside the U.S.) It came in handy when my wife's bag was lifted in a London pub several years ago. I called the bank and got them to overnight a new card (fortunately, it was early in the trip).

I concur that you should always use cards attached to a bank, although it's not always possible to take money out during business hours.

Posted by
20625 posts

.... I carry my trusty American Express card. Their offices are helpful. I also carry some AE Travelers checks. ....

Ken, I know you are trying to be funny but it is a disservice to inexperience travelers. The AE card has very limited acceptance, most AE offices have been closed, and travelers check are not accepted anywhere any more. Stick to you debit card.

Posted by
8889 posts

The trend seems to be towards ATMs that take your card and return it when the transaction is over, as opposed to ATMs where you "dip" your card and it never leaves your hand.

I have never seen a machine where you "dip your card", must be a North American thing. Every machine I have ever used (in Europe) works so:
1) Insert card. Card is drawn into machine (you can no longer see it).
2) If it detects it is a foreign card it offers you a choice of languages. If it is a local card it continues in the local language
3) Type in PIN, type in amount.
4) Card comes out of machine. You must remove the card, or it will not give you your money.
5) Money, and optionally receipt, dispensed.

I read somewhere that some machines gave your your money and then your card, but too many people accidentally left there cards behind. So now it does the card first, and won't give you the money until you remove the card. People are less likely to forget the money.

Posted by
3282 posts

The "dip" machines are a US thing. Those are being modified to use chip cards finally because of the US's late arrival with those. The decision was made to retain the dip process even for chip cards because it is something the users are used to. You still don't have your ATM card completely swallowed by the machine, but you have to leave your chip card in the reader until it tells you to remove it. Mag stripe cards you just insert and remove.

Most US machines also do not capture your card. Too much work for the bank to properly dispose of them. Since the card never goes all the way into the machine, it can always be retrieved by you.

Other than that, the process in the US is identical to what Chris stated with chip cards.

Posted by
20625 posts

All of the US Bank and the credit union we have in the Highlands Ranch area consumes the card and doesn't return the card until you punch the command, Return Card. Others may work different but that is pretty standard from what I have experienced locally. I cannot remember using a ATM that only dipped the card.

Posted by
5308 posts

Not a card-swallowing ATM story, but I DID have a card swallowed by a toll booth in France -- pushed the button for help and was told they would send someone out from a central location (within a half hour)
They changed the signals on that lane so the people behind us knew it wasn't working, and we just sat there until the service technician arrived to open the box. Glad we weren't on our way to an airport!!

Posted by
3282 posts

Chase ATMs in Highlands Ranch are DIP machines, if you have a mag stripe. DIP with leave it in the dipper until told to remove the card if CHIP. Haven't had reason to use others so don't know if the BofA, Key Bank, etc. DIP or swallow.

Posted by
1039 posts

I made a mistake when using my ATM card in Varenna, Italy. After completing the transaction, my card was ejected and I proceeded to count my money rather than taking the card from the machine. After one minute, the card was sucked back into the ATM machine. Unfortunately, there were no instructions in English and the bank was closed. I tried to make sense of the Italian instructions and fortunately I pushed all the right buttons and my card came back out. The moral of the story is to take the card out of the machine first and then the money. Also, try and use an ATM machine at a bank when the bank is open for business. They might be able to help get your card back.