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Your rights when withdrawing cash from an ATM

publication date: Jan 2, 2013
author/source: Dean Dunham

Dean DunhamOver the past few years it feels like we have heard one shocking story after the other involving banks treating its customers really badly, sometimes even fraudulently. This time HSBC and RBS/Natwest are in the spotlight for the practice they adopted when customers forgot to take money from an ATM that they had withdrawn.

1.    What is this about?

Amazingly it is actually very common for people to withdraw money from an ATM but then to forget to actually take it from the machine. There are many reasons why this may happen, but the stories that we have heard have included:

  • I got distracted by a text message and by the time i had responded the money had gone back into the machine
  • I got talking to someone in the cue behind me and when I turned back to the machine the money had gone back into the machine
  • I was really tired and simply forgot to take the money before walking away.

ATMs are programmed to automatically swallow the money back after 30 seconds if it has not been taken, which is meant to be a security feature.

2.    What has been happening to the money?

Up till last year, HSBC and RBS/Natwest were not crediting the money back to the customer's account when it was swallowed back to the machine. Instead they report that they have been simply holding the money in a "dormant" account. However, these banks have now changed their respective practices and now do credit the money back. They have therefore announced that they will look back at records dating back to 2005 and find out which customers are due a refund and then contact them.

3.    If this happened to me what should I do?

 Contact your bank immediately and tell them:

  • how much you attempted to withdraw
  • what the date was
  • where the machine was

They should then deal with your claim.

4.    What if I ask for £20 from the ATM but it gives me £10?

If this happens to you follow the steps above immediately. It is also important that you report the matter to YOUR bank and not the ATM provider, if it was not one of your bank's ATMs.

5.    What if the bank refuses to deal with it?

If the ATM has taken your money back before you have had a chance to take it or has not given you the right amount of money and either of these facts are not accurately recorded on your bank statement, the bank MUST give you your money back. This is your right. If they do not you can make a claim to the Financial Ombudsman, who are the organisation that deal with complaints about banks and other financial organisations. Simply follow their instructions on how to make a claim.

It really is shocking that these banks have been storing customer’s money in a dormant account. Why would they do this as opposed to just paying the money back as they should have done?? There can be no plausible answer to this and the banks must be dealt with seriously in this respect. This story also highlights again that we need tighter regulations of the banks and we need it now. 

For more information on your rights when using an ATM or in relation to any other legal or consumer matter log on to Dean’s website.