The ATM Just Ate Your Deposit. Now What?


The United States is filled with ATMs. According to Statistic Brain, there were 425,000 of these machines in the country as of March 29, 2017. Statistic Brain also reported that the average ATM in the United States saw 800 transactions every month.

With all of these machines and all of these transactions, it wouldn't be surprising if every once in a while an ATM ate a consumer's cash or check deposit without crediting their account or providing them a receipt. The question is, what should you do if this happens to you?

Contact your bank ASAP

Don't just ignore what happened. Contact your bank, and do it immediately.

If you are standing outside your own bank when this happens, using one of your financial institution's ATMs, simply go inside and explain what happened. Your bank can correct the situation on the spot, crediting the deposit to your account and issuing you a paper receipt verifying the funds.

That's the simplest solution. But what if you are using a stand-alone ATM that's not near your bank branch? What if you are using an ATM not even run by your bank and it swallows your deposit without recording it?

Again, this is frustrating, but don't panic. It's imperative to call your bank immediately. Use the number on the back of your debit card to contact your bank and explain the situation to the customer service representative. The bank will usually credit you for the deposit and perform an investigation. If it determines that you actually did deposit the amount you claimed, it will finally deposit that amount in your account, removing the credit. The time it takes for this to happen will vary depending on your bank.

Does this happen often? That's difficult to say. There are no statistics available on how often ATMs eat deposits without crediting consumers' accounts. But what isn't hard to determine is that consumers use ATMs often. A 2017 banking study said that 61 percent of consumers visited an ATM at least once a month. That leaves plenty of room for potential ATM grabs. (See also: 6 Big Ways ATMs Are Changing)

The alternatives

If you want to avoid the chance that your ATM will eat your deposit, you do have other options.

If you are depositing cash, your only real alternative is to visit a bank branch in person and make the deposit with a teller. This might be an inconvenience, depending on your bank's branch locations and their hours, but it's safer to hand your cash deposit to a teller than it is to stuff it in an envelope and deposit it in an ATM that could make a mistake.

If you are depositing a check, you have more options. Yes, you can deposit your check in person with a teller if you want to avoid the ATM. But you can also sign up with a bank that offers mobile deposit. Using your bank's smartphone app, you can take a photo of your check and deposit that check right into your account from anywhere.

Just be aware that mobile banking isn't foolproof, either. Hold onto your checks after you deposit them until you see the money appear in your account. Your bank might send you a message saying that it couldn't read the photo, or that there was an error. You'll have to snap another photo of your check to try again.

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