The ATM ate my deposit! What do I do now?


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It’s one of life’s major OMG moments: An ATM takes your cash or check and miscalculates or doesn’t acknowledge your deposit. It’s best to move quickly, document the details of the event, and contact your bank immediately.

What exactly are the best steps? Find out here. An error with an ATM deposit can be exasperating, but you’ll learn how you can work toward getting your money and your sanity back. Read on for details on:

•   Why an ATM might not accept your deposit

•   What to do when an ATM takes your money

•   Alternatives to depositing checks in an ATM

•   Tips for using an ATM

Reasons Why an ATM Might Not Accept Your Deposit

What if you’re faced with an “the ATM took my money but did not deposit it” moment? Know this: Despite the potential for an occasional ATM fee, these machines are a convenient way to make cash and check deposits. There are hundreds of thousands of ATMs in the United States, helping customers skip the line at a bank branch when making deposits and withdrawals, check their balances, and transfer funds.

But even machines make mistakes. While a cash-eating ATM is not a common disaster, you could one day find yourself in a shocking scenario, saying, “Hey, that ATM took my money and didn’t deposit it!”

Here are some of the unfortunate ways an ATM deposit can go wrong:

•   Misread your check amount. An ATM’s Optical Character Recognition (OCR software) may have read the handwritten or printed amount on your check incorrectly.

•   Miscounted the cash amount. If you deposited $800 in cash and the ATM only registers $600, there’s an obvious issue.

•   Power outage. A sudden power outage can cause a technical glitch to occur during the transaction. The unfortunate timing can mean a real headache for you.

•   Deposits are too much. It may feel like your lucky day if an ATM erroneously deposits an extra $20 in your account, but you are legally obligated to report it, or face consequences down the line.

Recommended: ATM Withdrawal Limits: What You Need to Know

Quick Money Tip:Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts will pay you a bit and help your money grow. An online bank account is more likely than brick-and-mortar to offer you the best rates.

What to Do if the ATM Takes Your Money

A money-gulping-ATM can make you feel as if you’ve been robbed. Fortunately, there’s no need to call the cops. There are actionable things you can do to gain power over the situation.

Here’s what to do if an ATM eats your deposit:

•   Don’t panic. The situation is fixable. The calmer you are, the better you’ll be able to think and communicate the problem to a bank employee without getting angry.

•   Note the time. When dealing with an ATM malfunction, time is of the essence. Make note of the time of deposit. It can be wise to write it down.

•   Note the place. You’ll need to know the address/branch info of the ATM when you file a report, especially if you’re at a branch of your bank you don’t normally frequent or at a stand-alone ATM with no bank employee to help you.

•   Snap a photo of any error message, whether it appears on the screen or on a printed receipt. You may need to submit it as evidence.

•   Report the incident to an employee right away if possible. If you are at your bank branch, approach a customer service representative immediately.

•   Call your bank. If you are not at your bank, contact yours right away using the number on the back of your debit card. Or look on the ATM itself for a customer-service phone number for the machine’s owner.

•   Be patient. Under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, your financial institution is obligated to investigate the ATM mishap within 10 days (45 days if the bank is willing to credit the missing fund amount). They are required to notify you in writing once the inquiry is resolved.

•   File a complaint. If you are struggling to get your funds back, you can contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau  (CFPB). They can help by connecting with your bank to get a direct response and resolve the issue.

Remember: If an ATM took your money deposit, keep your cool, and take immediate action, whether in person, by phone, customer service chat, or email.

Alternatives to an ATM for Depositing Checks

ATMs have been a historically reliable way for customers to deposit cash and checks. They’ve evolved to perform a myriad of functions, including paying your mortgage or making cardless ATM withdrawals via an app and QR code.

But if you want to completely avoid the possibility of an ATM taking your money, there are alternative ways to deposit your dough.

•   Remote deposits. Most banks offer a mobile app that allows you to take a picture of your checks with your smartphone and deposit them. You can skip a trip to an ATM or bank branch and avoid any ATM fees or other charges.

   That said, mobile banking isn’t 100% reliable. Make sure you hold on to your checks until the deposit clears in case there’s an error or issue.

•   Go to a teller. It might sound pretty old-school, but handing your cash to a bank teller vs. a machine can provide a sense of security. Tellers can also perform other services, such as providing your balance so you don’t go over your withdrawal limits.

   The cons of a teller? You may have to wait in a line, and there’s always the slight potential for human error.

Tips for Using an ATM Safely

There’s no way to know when an innocent-looking ATM will go rogue on you. But you can take steps to protect yourself in case an ATM deposit encounters issues, as well as practice certain ATM safeguards against other security threats.

•   Let the camera see your cash. If you are in a secure setting, try to count your money where the machine’s camera can catch it when depositing cash at an ATM. Having the recording can add to your body of evidence if an error occurs.

•   Get that receipt. It may feel like a waste of paper, but having a receipt of the transaction will be valuable in case of an ATM misfire.

•   Ask for a check copy. Many ATMs can provide you with an image of your check on the printed receipt.

•   Protect your PIN number. Be aware of who’s watching when you punch in your PIN. Don’t share your PIN number with anyone.

•   Look out for card skimmers. Scammers are using card skimmers — small, plastic devices placed over a card scanner that can steal your debit card information. Double-check anywhere you might insert a card, including ATMs, grocery stores, and gas stations; if something looks off, head elsewhere.

The Takeaway

If an ATM accepts your cash or check without depositing your funds or registers an incorrect amount, don’t worry! Take a breath, gather evidence, and report it to your bank immediately. Doing so will improve your chances of a quicker resolution and getting the money back where it belongs — in your account.


What should you do if an ATM eats your deposit?

If an ATM eats your money without depositing the correct amount, note the time and location, get a transaction receipt or photograph any error messages, and contact a customer service representative right away.

How often do ATMs eat deposits?

While there is no exact data on how often ATMs eat deposits, most of the more than 10 billion ATM transactions that occur in the U.S. each year happen without incident.

Is it possible to prevent an ATM from taking your money?

It is typically beyond your control to stop an ATM error. The only way to avoid one is to use a bank teller or make remote deposits.

Learn More:

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.
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How many bank accounts do you really need?

How many bank accounts do you really need?

You read that right, I have six bank accounts that I use on a monthly basis. I have had more in the past and the number of accounts fluctuates depending on what is going on in my life. Keep reading to see why I have six bank accounts and why you may even need more!

fizkes / istockphoto

It is extremely important we have a structure built for our personal finances in order to be successful with them. I went years with having two bank accounts. One checking account and one savings account. Money was directly deposited into my checking and I paid for all my bills out of there. If there was any money left at the end of the month, I might move some of it to my savings account.

Needless to say, when I managed my finances this way I was going nowhere fast. I wasn’t saving really anything and I spent what I made. As long as there wasn’t a negative balance in my checking account at the end of the month, I was happy.

It turns out, most people manage their finances this way. I was normal and didn’t know any better. Now that I’m older and (hopefully) wiser, I now use a minimum of six bank accounts – and sometimes more!

Before I go into the “why”, let me show you how my current bank account system is set up…

My first account is my checking account. After all my pretax money is taken out of my check for retirement, health insurance, and my health savings account, the money is directly deposited into my checking account.

Ryan Luke

At the beginning of the month, my wife moves money around into each separate savings account. By moving the money at the beginning, it forces us to stick to our budget for the remainder of the month, which isn’t hard if you incorporate a simple monthly budget template into your financial planning.

Most people manage their money in a backward manner. At the end of the month is when money is moved. Whatever is left in the checking account is then disbursed into any liabilities or savings. The problem with this method is it is too easy to overspend. Just like when I was younger, I usually spent what I made because the money was easy and accessible.

If you move your money at the beginning, it makes it much more difficult to overspend if you don’t have the money in checking to begin with. This is where strict discipline on credit card usage is a must. Credit cards make it too easy to spend when you run out of money.

This is why I recommend using cash throughout the month if you have issues with credit cards. Leave the cards at home when you go to the grocery store or shop online: How Frys Pickup (formally Click List) Saves Me Money

serezniy / istockphoto

After the money is deposited into checking, we move a portion into a vehicle fund. This fund is only for vehicle maintenance and for future vehicle purchases. I am anti-car payments so we save up and buy our cars with cash. Due to my wife and I driving older vehicles (one is 12 years old, the other is 13 years old), they periodically need repairs that can be a few hundred dollars. By contributing to this account each month, we have never needed to put a vehicle repair on a credit card.


The third savings account is our vacation fund. This is obviously our favorite fund and one we make sure we put money into each and every month! By having a set amount of money deposited into this savings account, we pay for our vacations with cash.

By doing it this way, we can enjoy our vacation and not feel the pain of credit card debt when we come home from vacation. We love our vacations so we make sure it is one of our top priorities to fund this savings account.

Our fourth savings account is our emergency savings and six months of expenses fund. Luckily this savings account is fully funded so we no longer contribute to it. It sits there making little to no money in interest.

I’m all about investing money and it hurts to know that this account is worth 2%-3% less each year due to inflation. However, this is a savings account and not an investment. It is there to protect us against emergencies or unexpected major expenses. Insurance for life is a good way to think about it. Insurance costs you money – investments make you money. This savings account is my insurance.

designer491 / istockphoto

The fifth and sixth savings accounts are also two of our favorites. Each month my wife and I get a certain amount of “fun money.” This is money that we can spend without feeling any guilt. If I want to use my money to go get beer and wings with my friends I can. If she wants to spend it on her hair and nails, she can with no questions asked.

We each need a certain amount of money to spend without feeling guilty. If you are in debt, you know how frustrating it can be to stick to a budget without any room for fun. It’s like a diet. If you have no cheat days, how many people are really going to stick to a diet for any amount of time? Give yourself some wiggle room to splurge a predetermined and budgeted amount on yourself. Even if it’s only $20 dollars a month!

Right now we are at the lowest number of accounts we have had in our marriage. Depending on what our goals are, we may have more accounts depending on what we are saving up for. This structure actually works very well and is not confusing once you get the hang of it. We have built up a routine of moving money on a monthly basis in order to set ourselves up for future success.

bernardbodo / istockphoto

I also rely heavily on my side hustle. I work a side job outside of my main employment to add more money to our goals. By doing this, we are able to fund our separate accounts faster. All of my side job money goes to the extra accounts and none of it is used for bills. If you get into the habit of overspending and using a side hustle to pay the bills, you are one injury away from defaulting on your loans. Avoid this slippery slope!


If you are in debt, your account structure may look a bit different. Here is an example of how your account and payment structure may look:

You may be wondering where the vacation fund went. Depending on the amount of debt you have and your future plans, you may need to go without a vacation for a year or two. Before you unsubscribe from all my emails and close my web page, hear me out.

Ryan Luke

If you continue to spend money on vacations or other things that delay your debt payoff, you may never truly free yourself from debt. If you sacrifice a couple of years now to get out of debt, you will be able to take many more exciting and financially stress-free vacations in the future. Avoid punishing your future self by spending money you don’t have today.

If you need more help getting out of debt, please check out my related articles:

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by


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