It’s one of life’s major OMG moments: An ATM takes your cash or check and miscalculates or doesn’t acknowledge your deposit. It’s best to move quickly, document the details of the event, and contact your bank immediately.
What exactly are the best steps? Find out here. An error with an ATM deposit can be exasperating, but you’ll learn how you can work toward getting your money and your sanity back. Read on for details on:
• Why an ATM might not accept your deposit
• What to do when an ATM takes your money
• Alternatives to depositing checks in an ATM
• Tips for using an ATM
Reasons Why an ATM Might Not Accept Your Deposit
What if you’re faced with an “the ATM took my money but did not deposit it” moment? Know this: Despite the potential for an occasional ATM fee, these machines are a convenient way to make cash and check deposits. There are hundreds of thousands of ATMs in the United States, helping customers skip the line at a bank branch when making deposits and withdrawals, check their balances, and transfer funds.
But even machines make mistakes. While a cash-eating ATM is not a common disaster, you could one day find yourself in a shocking scenario, saying, “Hey, that ATM took my money and didn’t deposit it!”
Here are some of the unfortunate ways an ATM deposit can go wrong:
• Misread your check amount. An ATM’s Optical Character Recognition (OCR software) may have read the handwritten or printed amount on your check incorrectly.
• Miscounted the cash amount. If you deposited $800 in cash and the ATM only registers $600, there’s an obvious issue.
• Power outage. A sudden power outage can cause a technical glitch to occur during the transaction. The unfortunate timing can mean a real headache for you.
• Deposits are too much. It may feel like your lucky day if an ATM erroneously deposits an extra $20 in your account, but you are legally obligated to report it, or face consequences down the line.
Recommended: ATM Withdrawal Limits: What You Need to Know
Quick Money Tip:Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts will pay you a bit and help your money grow. An online bank account is more likely than brick-and-mortar to offer you the best rates.
What to Do if the ATM Takes Your Money
A money-gulping-ATM can make you feel as if you’ve been robbed. Fortunately, there’s no need to call the cops. There are actionable things you can do to gain power over the situation.
Here’s what to do if an ATM eats your deposit:
• Don’t panic. The situation is fixable. The calmer you are, the better you’ll be able to think and communicate the problem to a bank employee without getting angry.
• Note the time. When dealing with an ATM malfunction, time is of the essence. Make note of the time of deposit. It can be wise to write it down.
• Note the place. You’ll need to know the address/branch info of the ATM when you file a report, especially if you’re at a branch of your bank you don’t normally frequent or at a stand-alone ATM with no bank employee to help you.
• Snap a photo of any error message, whether it appears on the screen or on a printed receipt. You may need to submit it as evidence.
• Report the incident to an employee right away if possible. If you are at your bank branch, approach a customer service representative immediately.
• Call your bank. If you are not at your bank, contact yours right away using the number on the back of your debit card. Or look on the ATM itself for a customer-service phone number for the machine’s owner.
• Be patient. Under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, your financial institution is obligated to investigate the ATM mishap within 10 days (45 days if the bank is willing to credit the missing fund amount). They are required to notify you in writing once the inquiry is resolved.
• File a complaint. If you are struggling to get your funds back, you can contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). They can help by connecting with your bank to get a direct response and resolve the issue.
Remember: If an ATM took your money deposit, keep your cool, and take immediate action, whether in person, by phone, customer service chat, or email.
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Alternatives to an ATM for Depositing Checks
ATMs have been a historically reliable way for customers to deposit cash and checks. They’ve evolved to perform a myriad of functions, including paying your mortgage or making cardless ATM withdrawals via an app and QR code.
But if you want to completely avoid the possibility of an ATM taking your money, there are alternative ways to deposit your dough.
• Remote deposits. Most banks offer a mobile app that allows you to take a picture of your checks with your smartphone and deposit them. You can skip a trip to an ATM or bank branch and avoid any ATM fees or other charges.
That said, mobile banking isn’t 100% reliable. Make sure you hold on to your checks until the deposit clears in case there’s an error or issue.
• Go to a teller. It might sound pretty old-school, but handing your cash to a bank teller vs. a machine can provide a sense of security. Tellers can also perform other services, such as providing your balance so you don’t go over your withdrawal limits.
The cons of a teller? You may have to wait in a line, and there’s always the slight potential for human error.
Tips for Using an ATM Safely
There’s no way to know when an innocent-looking ATM will go rogue on you. But you can take steps to protect yourself in case an ATM deposit encounters issues, as well as practice certain ATM safeguards against other security threats.
• Let the camera see your cash. If you are in a secure setting, try to count your money where the machine’s camera can catch it when depositing cash at an ATM. Having the recording can add to your body of evidence if an error occurs.
• Get that receipt. It may feel like a waste of paper, but having a receipt of the transaction will be valuable in case of an ATM misfire.
• Ask for a check copy. Many ATMs can provide you with an image of your check on the printed receipt.
• Protect your PIN number. Be aware of who’s watching when you punch in your PIN. Don’t share your PIN number with anyone.
• Look out for card skimmers. Scammers are using card skimmers — small, plastic devices placed over a card scanner that can steal your debit card information. Double-check anywhere you might insert a card, including ATMs, grocery stores, and gas stations; if something looks off, head elsewhere.
If an ATM accepts your cash or check without depositing your funds or registers an incorrect amount, don’t worry! Take a breath, gather evidence, and report it to your bank immediately. Doing so will improve your chances of a quicker resolution and getting the money back where it belongs — in your account.
What should you do if an ATM eats your deposit?
If an ATM eats your money without depositing the correct amount, note the time and location, get a transaction receipt or photograph any error messages, and contact a customer service representative right away.
How often do ATMs eat deposits?
While there is no exact data on how often ATMs eat deposits, most of the more than 10 billion ATM transactions that occur in the U.S. each year happen without incident.
Is it possible to prevent an ATM from taking your money?
It is typically beyond your control to stop an ATM error. The only way to avoid one is to use a bank teller or make remote deposits.
Photo credit: iStock/MIGUEL ANGEL PARTIDO GARCIA
This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.
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