ATM swallowed your card? Here's what to do

Updated on 20 November 2019 | 1 Comment

It’s surprisingly common for an ATM to swallow your card, but do you know what to do if the cash machine refuses to return your bank card?

Have you ever put your debit card into an ATM, seeking to withdraw cash, only to find it's been swallowed?

Whether it’s a problem with the machine itself, or your bank, or your account, there are many reasons why a cash machine may decide to keep hold of your card.

If this happens to you, here's what you should do.

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Wait for a few minutes

If it is a problem with the machine, then it may well spit your card back out eventually, particularly if it reboots.

So, the first thing to do is wait by the machine for 10-15 minutes to see if it spits your card back out.

You could also use this time to check for signs that the ATM may have been tampered with by criminals. If this is the case, you should alert the police and your bank immediately.

If not, and the machine is attached to a bank, and you have someone with you, one of you could go in and ask them to check if there is a problem with the machine, while the other waits in case the card reappears.

Take notes

After 15 minutes, if the machine hasn’t spat your card back out, it’s time to start taking notes.

You need to keep a record of what time it is, the type of machine, whether it has a specific logo on it that means it belongs to a certain bank – and if it has any reference numbers on it.

Also, note down where the machine is.

Your bank may ask for this information, so they can investigate what happened to your card.

Give up on that particular card

Unfortunately, in all likelihood, you aren’t going to get the card back if the machine hasn’t spat it back out within 15 minutes.

That’s because most cash machines destroy cards once they have swallowed them to prevent fraud.

To give you peace of mind, some banks' mobile phone apps will let you freeze the card there and then so you don't need to worry about someone using it once you leave.

Six signs that a cash machine has been tampered with

Debit cards. (Image: Shutterstock)

Get cash and order a new card 

Next, you need to contact your bank to explain what has happened and order a new card. It could take several days for your new bank card to arrive.

In the meantime, there are a number of ways you may be able to access cash until your new card arrives.

Barclays, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) all have systems that allow you to withdraw cash without your debit card.

NatWest and RBS allow you to withdraw up to £300 if you are an online or telephone banking customer. When you call to order a new card, you can ask for an emergency cash code to use to withdraw cash from an ATM.

NatWest's Mobile Banking app will let you withdraw cash from an ATM, but only if it's NatWest, RBS or Tesco-branded. 

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NatWest's mobile app can help you get cash without a debit card (image: NatWest)

Barclays allows customers to withdraw cash using an Android smartphone if they have registered.

You can also normally withdraw money in-branch without a debit card, as long as you have a valid form of ID, such as your passport.

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Why was it swallowed?

Cash machines swallow cards for a number of reasons:

  • Incorrect PIN: If you enter the wrong PIN repeatedly, an ATM may hold on to your card;
  • Chip and PIN problems: If the chip on your card is damaged, an ATM might swallow your card;
  • Suspicious transactions: In some cases, your bank may be worried about suspicious activity on your card, causing the ATM to keep hold of your card;
  • ATM error: There may be no problem with your bank account or card, but it could be that the cash machine has suffered a glitch;
  • Lebanese Loop: This is a scam where criminals place a thin strip into the card slot on a cash machine that stops your card reappearing.

The Lebanese Loop is when insert your card and enter your PIN while the scammer watches to get your PIN. When your card doesn’t reappear, you'll probably think it has been swallowed.

After you walk away, the criminals fish your card out and may go on a spending spree.

This is why it is important you call your bank and report the problem straight away to ensure your card is cancelled before the criminal manages to get hold of it.

Looking for a bank with better customer service and security? We've listed the top performers

Person using ATM. (Image: photocritical/Shutterstock)

How to report a lost or stolen card

Bank of Scotland

  • UK contact number: 0800 028 8335
  • Call from abroad: +44 (0) 131 454 1605
  • Card can be reported through mobile and online banking


  • UK contact number: 0800 400 100
  • Call from abroad: +44 2476 842 099
  • Card can be reported through mobile and online banking


  • UK contact number: 0800 0 15 15 15 
  • Call from abroad: +44 113 242 8196
  • Card can be reported through mobile and online banking


  • UK contact number: 0800 085 2401
  • Call from abroad: +44 1442 422929
  • Card can be reported through mobile and online banking

Lloyds Bank

  • UK contact number: 0800 096 9779
  • Call from abroad: +44 170 227 8270
  • Card can be reported through online banking only


  • UK contact number: 0370 600 0459
  • Call from abroad: +44 1268 500 813
  • Card can be reported through mobile and online banking


  • UK contact number:  0370 600 0459
  • Call from abroad: +44 1268 500 813
  • Card can be reported through mobile and online banking


  • UK contact number: 0800 328 6700
  • Call from abroad: +44 1908 237 963 (debit cards) or 0800 328 6700 (credit cards)
  • Card cannot be reported through mobile and online banking

All phone numbers listed operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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