ATM swallowed your card? Here's what to do

Updated on 20 November 2018 | 0 Comments

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 a number of 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. In which 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, what type of machine it is – does it have a specific logo on it saying it is a certain’ banks machine – 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 one they have swallowed them to prevent fraud.

Look out for the six signs it has been tampered with

Get cash and order a new card 

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 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 or Tesco-branded. 

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 – If your bank is worried about suspicious activity on your card it may mean an ATM swallows your card

ATM error – There may be no problem with your bank account or card, it could be that the cash machine you are using 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.

You insert your card and enter your pin while the scammer watches to get your pin number. Then your card doesn’t reappear and you think it has been swallowed. After you walk away the criminals fish your card out and go on a spending spree.

This is why it is important you call your bank and report the problem straight away.

That way 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. 


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