ATM errors

When it comes to dispensing cash, how often do ATMs make errors? Anyone ever been shorted? Anyone received more cash that requested? In either case, would the bank know who was the recipient of the extra cash or who was shorted?

If the money magazine was loaded incorrectly, the wrong denomination of bill may be ejected, or through mechanical error, the wrong number of bills may be ejected.

The former happened to me once. I received an extra $20. I called and got it corrected.

Where I work used to have ATMs that would dispense $20s and $5s. The drawers can mixed up and I got $45 extra dollars. My bank records showed only $15 withdrawn whereas I got $60. I called security and they told me to call the bank who owned the ATM. I spoke several times with Wells Fargo and with my own credit union. Wells Fargo said that they would correct the error. Years later I’m still up $45.

I once had an ATM not give me any money after going through a transaction. I talked to the owner of the store and he said not to worry about it because the machine would “know” that I hadn’t gotten the cash - didn’t believe him, but it turned out he was right and the money was never debited from my account.

A couple friends of mine in college noticed some extra bills sticking out of the machine when they withdrew some money from a drive-up machine. They got two or three extra twenties, I think. No, they didn’t tell anyone about it.

I had an ATM only give me $20 when I requested $40. I simply contacted my bank and they credited the missing $20 back into my account.

Obviously, the machines can have mechanical errors where they give out more or less bills than they should. And there can be human errors, like mixing up the $5 & $20 drawers when filling the machines. So problems happen.

The machines know how much was supposed to be given out in total, and often can show which customer was the first to have a problem. And the logic in the machines reports when they have jams or other problems, or if it is out of cash when the total says there should be some left, or vice versa. Then the machine will report a problem to the bank, and a human will investigate it.

Most of them are videotaped now, so the bank can check the tape, and often see the customer getting or not getting the money (and maybe even banging on the machine then). So they have ways to investigate. And they do, because this really annoys customers (and they start to go to tellers instead of ATM’s, which costs the bank a lot in added staff). They will go to the extent of phoning all the customers after the last known ‘good’ transaction and asking them if there was a problem – I’ve actually received one of those calls. And they take your word for it, if it matches with the overall total the machine is off. It’s a fairly minor amount to the bank, to clear up the problem and keep customers happy.

Same happened to me once.

I had this happen, too. I tried to withdraw $40 on the way to work and the machine spit out a receipt but no cash. When I got to work I called the bank to report the issue. It had already been fixed.

I’ve had this happen to me a couple of times - the machine churning away with no cash forthcoming - and both times it showed with a debit and subsequent credit transaction right next to each other on my account. The second time it happened the refund was made in the few minutes it took me to walk to another machine.

Maybe because I was using a 2nd party machine, but the one time I was shorted I had to take the receipt in to my bank and they had to verify the overage in the machine from the other bank before they credited my account. It was all same-day, but I still had to make a trip to the nearest branch. Grumble.

They’re a lot better than they used to be - the manufacturers have just been making incremental refinements to the handling of small pieces of paper over the years.

Most ATMs now will count the cash twice - once as it comes out of the canister into a holding bin, then again as it moves to the hopper where you pick it up. I’ve witnessed this process in action - I once had an ATM going through the usual noises, then it briefly displayed something like “Second count fault” then it changed to “Transaction Canceled,” ejected my card then went out of service.

If you report a small discrepancy like being short $20, your bank may well just pay up without any questions as it takes time to investigate ATM errors, and if you go off and file what’s called a Reg E claim, well, there’s paperwork.

This is unlikely to happen for currencies where the dimensions of the bills vary with their denomination. This feature has increasingly been adopted by major currencies (the euro, Australian dollar, Swiss franc, pound sterling, etc.).

I was working in Spain once. (Duquesa Costa Del Sol)

It was shortly before the Easter holiday and in one ATM machine obviously the trays had gotten mixed up. (20 Euro and 50 Euro)

If you asked for 80 Euros then it would issue 200EUR. ( 4 times notes from the programmed 20 EUR tray) which now contained 50 EUR notes)

Well it seemed that it didn’t take long for people to catch on to this, and as it had been filled for an expected holiday weekend rush its not an exaggeration to say the bank must have lost hundreds of thousands of Euros. There were queues of people when I went to the location on the sunday morning to buy my sunday newspaper ( it was located outside of a newsagents)

I mentioned the big queue to the paper sales girl and she just smiled and said she thought there was a problem with the machine. The whole street was covered in withdrawal receipts.

The first rumour of this started on the Friday and judging by the queues it was still dealing out extra cash right up to the following Tuesday.

It hit the news the same week and that one machine had dispensed 300,000 EUR. It was only closed down when it had run out of money.