(Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
(Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

Three little-known facts about ATMs

  • The process of cash withdrawal has become much simpler, given that the machines are automated
  • To prevent users from removing the card, the ATM pins it down and holds it while the transaction is underway

ATMs have made life immeasurably easier for many of us. Now, when you need cash, there is no need to go to a bank branch and wait in line for a teller to issue you bank notes. Instead, you can simply pop into one of the many ATM kiosks of different banks scattered around most cities and towns and dip your card and type in your PIN to collect cash.

While the process of cash withdrawal has become much simpler, given that the machines are automated, they function according to a set of instructions, and if you are not fully aware of the process, you could lose money. We list three of them.

ATMs don’t retract cash

Earlier, ATMs used to have a cash retraction facility, which meant that if the cash dispensed by the machine was not collected within a stipulated time period, it would be swallowed back by the machine and the account would not be debited. But the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) instructed banks to discontinue this facility in 2012 after repeated incidences of fraud.

So if you forget to collect your cash, it will stay at the mouth of the machine and can be taken by whoever uses the machine next. Remember, the bank or ATM operator will take no responsibility for your loss. But most ATMs do emit a high-pitched beeping noise after the cash is dispensed to alert you, so that you don’t forget.

You can damage the card

Some older ATM machines used to take debit cards in for processing, and a common complaint was that the machines would swallow the card. This is no longer a problem since ATM machines have been recalibrated. Now that most debit cards have been upgraded to chip-based ones, you need to insert your card to initiate a transaction. Once you do that, the card latches to the machine and cannot be removed until the transaction is complete. To prevent users from removing the card, the ATM pins it down and holds it while the transaction is underway. If you try to remove the card, you would need to apply some force as something is clamping down on the card. You will be able to remove the card, but the process may damage the card, particularly its chip portion. To avoid this, take note of the red LED light blinking in the card slot. When the transaction is complete, the LED light turns green and you can safely remove your card.

Mid-way disruption

Suppose you key in your PIN, enter the amount and are waiting for your cash, when the ATM screen suddenly goes blank or displays an error message. Don’t panic. An ATM can go out of order for various reasons, including technical glitches and electrical faults, but the responsibility lies with the operator of the machine.

If a transaction is not completed, ATMs are programmed to cancel it and credit the money back into your account. However, if your cash wasn’t dispatched, but your account is debited with the amount, make a note of the transaction in your bank statement and approach your bank. If the issue isn’t resolved, you can register a complaint with the banking ombudsman.

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