Cash machine swallowed your card?

Cash machine swallowed your card?

Here are the steps you need to take if the cash machine swallowed your card.

Have you ever put your debit card into an ATM, expecting to withdraw cash, only to be faced with retention?

First of all don’t panic, we know it can be scary in the moment but there are ways to get round this issue. Secondly, do not jump to conclusions, there are multiple possible reasons why your card could have been retained and we’re going to talk you through them.

Possible reasons the cash machine swallowed your card:

Issued by the bank (this is more common than none) – possible reasons why:

  • Your bank suspected some sort of fraudulent use.
  • You have an insufficient balance.
  • You might be using a faulty/damaged card.
  • Your card has expired.

ATM related – possible reasons why:

  • ATM software/server error.
  • Inability to process the card due to damaged reader.
  • Incorrect PIN entries.
  • Lebanese Loop – this is a scam where criminals place a thin strip into the card slot that stops your card from reappearing.

It’s important that the first thing you do is ring your bank, if you contact the ATM provider they are only going to refer you back to your bank. If you’re having a card retention problem at the ATM follow these next steps…


If there is a problem with the cash machine, it may well spit your card back out eventually, especially if it reboots, so just give it a couple minutes.

Whilst you’re waiting, you could use this time to check that particular ATM for any possible security breaches or tampering… here’s how:

  • Try to move the pin keyboard – by doing this you can check if it’s part of the ATM or if it’s loose, suggesting a possible skimming device…
  • Use the same technique, try to move the plastic section that surrounds the slot for your bank card.
  • Briefly scan the area to see if there are any little cameras nearby.

For more tips on staying safe at a cash machine, check out our recent blog.

If you spot something that’s not quite right, notify your bank, the police (if you’re really concerned), or there will be a customer service number on the ATM for you to get in touch with the cash machine company so they can investigate.

If you haven’t found anything criminalising, you still need to get in touch with your bank, they will be able to tell you why your card was ceased.

Take notes

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

You will need to keep a record of what time your initial transaction began, where the ATM location is and the ATM’s reference number, which should be displayed on it. Your bank will ask you for this information so that they can investigate what happened to your card so don’t forget your bank details!

Admit defeat

Unfortunately, in all likelihood, if the card hasn’t come out by now you will not get it back, at all. For security reasons, all cards – from any bank – that is retained by a cash machine is bound by the card issuer and card scheme rules to destroy the card immediately to prevent fraud.

Back up cash and new card

We hope you followed our first instruction about contacting your bank… if you didn’t you need to get on the phone and cancel your card and order a new one as soon as possible. Whilst you’re on call you should ask them what your options are too, if you can head into the bank to withdraw cash whilst you’re waiting for your card to deliver, but take a form of I.D!  

It could take several days for your new card to arrive so having back up cash is a necessity! Barclays, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) all have systems that allow you to withdraw cash without your debit card… so scope out your options because you will not be left stranded!

So if a cash machine swallowed your card, just remember these 4 simple steps :

  1. Record all details
  2. Report to your bank – get old card cancelled
  3. Order a new card
  4. Get some back up cash

Good luck! And remember, don’t panic… help is always on the way.

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