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What to Do if an ATM Eats Your Deposit

By Emily Greenhill Pierce · February 27, 2024 · 7 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What to Do if an ATM Eats Your Deposit

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.

Key Points

•   If an ATM takes your cash or check and doesn’t deposit it, stay calm and contact your bank immediately.

•   Note the time and location of the incident, take a photo of any error messages, and report the incident to a bank employee.

•   Consider alternative methods for depositing checks, such as using a mobile app or going to a bank teller.

•   To use an ATM safely, count your money where the camera can see it, keep transaction receipts, and protect your PIN number.

•   If an ATM mishap occurs, take immediate action, gather evidence, and report it to your bank for a quicker resolution.

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 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.

The Takeaway

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.

Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

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.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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