What to do when your card gets stuck in an ATM machine


It wasn’t that long ago that I had the unfortunate experience of having my bank card stuck in an ATM machine, and had to go through the rigours of retrieving it. This post is to help people who have gone through a similar fate, and are unsure about what happened or what to do. First, it is worth noting that while in the past, a member of bank staff could have helped open the machine and retrieve the card, this is no longer the case. All cards swallowed by ATM machines of other banks (even for no fault of yours) now have to be retained and destroyed, for reasons discussed later in the post. So for example, if you bank with GTBank and your ATM card was swallowed by a FirstBank or Diamondbank ATM,  it is usually a waste of time waiting at the bank to retrieve the card. If however your experience has been different, please let me know in the comment section.


In Nigeria, ATM cards tend to get retained by machines for one or a combination of technical reasons: power fluctuation, network connection interruption, system reboot etc. So if ATM machine temporarily loses power after you have correctly entered your PIN, it is then unable to make a link between the information you have entered and the central system, and this causes an error which can cause the card to get stuck.

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There’s also a possibility of your card being stuck as a result of unfamiliar withdrawal patterns detected, which might imply fraud. Card usage patterns such as entering the wrong PIN too many times or withdrawing large sums in a relatively short space of time might all be classed as ‘unusual activity’ which causes the card issuer to place a marker on the card. For example, someone withdraws an average of ₦5,000 each week and suddenly purchases goods worth ₦100,000 online and on the same day tries to withdraw ₦100,000. Depending on the card issuer or the bank involved, this might be enough to place a marker on the card. In some countries, law enforcement agencies are able to liaise with financial institutions to place markers on cards of suspected criminals.
When a marker is placed on an  card, the card will be retrieved by any ATM it is used at. These are preventative measures on the part of banks with the aim of getting the card owner to visit the branch in person and verify that recent transactions linked to the card are all authorised and legitimate.


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First and foremost, immediately inform your bank. You will need to phone your bank, with the details of the ATM where the card got stuck. You will then need to visit your bank in person, with a form of identification (A national ID card or International passport will be sufficient) to prove that the card was not being misused by a 3rd party, and also to get a new card issued. For security reasons, most Nigerian banks will usually treat stuck cards as a “3rd party compromise” and destroy the cards to prevent misuse.

[Related: How to withdraw from a Diamondbank ATM without your card]

Be aware that most banks will charge you a card issuance fee of about ₦1,000 to retrieve the card and it will take about 5 working days to receive your new card which will be sent to the branch where the complaint was raised.

I personally think that especially in cases where a technical malfunction has caused the error, the customer should not be charged.

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I'm an grammar-obsessed writer with a passion for finance, innovation, lifestyle design, tech, healthy eating and who knows what else. Nothing makes my day like a nice, chunky comment on one of my posts to sink my teeth into. So go on, make my day :-)

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