What to do if an ATM doesn’t dispense your money (but still charges you)?

Did you just use an ATM and when it came time to collect your cash there was nothing was in the cash tray, or not the full amount you requested? You looked at your bank account and the funds were taken out? Don’t panic! You will be able to get reimbursed.

Automation has greatly improved our lives and reduced the need to drive to a bank branch and interact with the teller every time you need cash. However, even though automated teller machine technology has came a long way and ATMs performs thousands of transactions flawlessly, every now and then a problem will still occur. The machines are not 100% perfect and as with anything – sometimes errors occur.

Why does this happen?

It is almost always because a crinkly or torn bill will get jammed up in the ATM’s dispenser. The dispenser may dispense two crisp $20s and then the third one had a small, sometimes imperceptible tear. The grabbing mechanism of the ATM’s dispenser unit grabs a hold of the bill and it tears and jams up the mechanism inside, stopping any further bills from being dispensed.

Example of a “Bill Jam” because of a torn bill:

Fortunately, the ATMs also have a multitude of sensors in them that report exactly what happened during the transaction, so if the money you requested didn’t get dispensed, the machine will know! It records exactly what happened during your transaction to the ATM’s internal log/journal.

So anyways, what do you do if this happens to you?

  • Immediately call the phone number listed on the back of your debit card and tell them that you did not get your money and you’d like to dispute the transaction.
  • Record the exact time, date, and location of the malfunction.
  • Keep any receipt the ATM has given you.

DO NOT ask the staff at the location to give you the money that you didn’t receive! They just host the ATM at their business.  It’s usually not their ATM or cash inside and even if it was there is a formal dispute/refund process in place to avoid scammers who just go around tricking business owners by saying “give me money, the ATM didn’t” and there is no actual proof.

Here is what takes place during the formal dispute/refund process. 

  1. You call your bank / card-issuer and file the dispute.
  2. The bank communicates with Visa/Mastercard (the card network associated with your card), saying the dispute happened.
  3. The bank’s network will communicate to the ATM processor by filling the Regulation E claim.
  4. The processor informs the person/company who manages that ATM.
  5. The ATM technician has 10 days to go to the ATM and print out the log/journal
  6. The journal receipt shows the exact details of that transaction (which were recorded by the ATM’s internal sensors).
  7. The ATM technician submits the log/journal details to the processor.
  8. The processor shows the bank proof that the full amount of money was indeed not dispensed.
  9. If the claim is valid, the money is refunded to the cardholders bank account!

And that’s it! You can see that with this process there is 100% proof of what happened during the transaction and if you truly didn’t get your money then you will be fairly refunded. This detailed process exists because unfortunately there are a lot of people who try to lie about transactions – about 40% of dispute claims are NOT valid!