Last month I was in San Francisco and decided to make a trip to an ATM. Usually, I use my own bank so I don’t incur surcharges. However, I was doing a bunch of errands to get ready for my Dallas trip and decided another ATM was more convenient.
I inserted my ATM card into the machine and that was the last I saw of it. The terminal never provided instructions, but kept displaying advertisements. I hit various key combinations to try to get the machine to display instructions or eject my card.
I found the toll-free service number on the ATM and called for help. After speaking to the rep for 20 minutes, I was informed that I would not be getting my ATM card back. My first thoughts were that I wouldn’t be getting my card back that evening as no one knew when the technician would get to fixing that machine.
Actually, what the customer service rep was trying to tell me was that my card would be destroyed. This didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy as I was flying out of town in two days. I was politely informed that this bank’s policy is to destroy any card that is lost in a machine that is not from the issuing bank. As example, if you lose Bank A's card in Bank B’s ATM, Bank B will destroy the card. Apparently, this is common practice.
At first, I was in disbelief that my card would be destroyed. It seemed like I was being punished. However, when you think about the policy it makes sense. It’s probably the best way to limit liabilities for the bank and customer especially if they don’t have my contact info.
I’ve probably used ATMs several hundred times and never had a problem. As a result of this incident, I will think twice about where and when I use my bank card. Here are some tips you might consider:
1. Use your bank’s ATM machines. This will limit your card getting destroyed if the ATM malfunctions and can’t return it.
2. Try to use the ATM during banking hours. Most banks can get access to their machines during business hours.
3. Store the service number that appears on the back of your ATM card either in your cell phone or PDA. You may also want to have your account number in a safe place too as many bank phone systems require you to enter your account number before speaking to a rep.
4. See if the ATM displays their customer service number. Yes, the machine will spit out cash without a decal. In my situation, the support rep gave me an internal phone number to reach that bank branch in the morning in case they retrieved the card.
5. If you do lose your card, contact your bank for a replacement card. Most likely you will get a new PIN in a separate notification.
I hope this scenario won’t happen to you, but it does raise some interesting questions. Would you have a backup card if you were traveling? Would you have the phone numbers you needed? I suspect the scenario is worse if you lost a credit card in the ATM machine.
Related Security Article
Last Updated (Friday, 18 June 2010 17:09)