Gulp! The ATM Gulped My Credit Card! What Now?

articles Living, Working, Retiring

Melville King

Years ago at my car bank in Texas, the befuddled ATM swallowed my credit card. I immediately pushed the call button and told the teller answering that the machine wouldn’t give me my card back. She said wait, and in two minutes a guard came running out of the bank, opened the machine with a key, punched three or four different combination locks and handed my card back to me.

He then courteously asked me if I had processed my withdrawal. I said no. He checked a few more things, closed up the machine and told me to try again. I did. It worked. The guard waited until everything was hunky dory, then apologized for the stupid machine and went away.

Does the same thing happen in Mexico? Don’t you believe it!

Yesterday, I went to the biggest bank in town. I stuck my card into the door. It opened with that obnoxious buzzzz that you always get and I was alone facing that glorious dispenser of cash. I stuck my card in the slot. It disappeared. The standard display popped up offering me Español or Inglés. I chose Inglés. Then I chose the standard answers for withdrawal (Can you do anything else except make a withdrawal?), then credit card, and then the amount and then I confirmed the amount. Please wait, said the machine. And I waited, and then I waited some more, and then I waited until I broke down and pounded on the glass door to get the attention of the guard walking around the lobby. The guard didn’t look up. I panicked. The machine sat there saying “WAIT” and before I could do anything foolish, it made noises: I could hear it counting cash. It quit counting. I waited some more. Nothing. I pounded on the door again. The guard was deaf. I pounded on the machine; you always kick machines or beat them when they don’t work. It worked. It spewed out my cash. Four hundred pesos short. O damn! I pushed the receipt button. It worked. Out came my receipt for the amount it had given me, but not the amount I had requested. Would wonders never cease? Oh well, I could live with that. But then I waited for the, “Do you want another transaction, or to quit?” display so I could either go back for my missing four hundred pesos or just give up and take my card and go.

But of course, I got neither the display nor the card. The ATM gulped my card! What now? Pushing every button on the machine did no good. Pounding on it did no good. Kicking on it did no good. Pounding on the glass door with the guard just the other side did no good.

Heck, without my card I could never get back in, but I went out and into the bank to ask an officer to do something, anything!

Did I get help? Well, no. The first officer I talked to said “Un momentito” and disappeared behind a locked door. He never came back. Finally another officer finished what he was doing and asked me if he could help me. “Yes!” I said, “the cajero automático tragó my tarjeta.”


“Oh”, he said smiling. “That happens all the time. What you have to do is write your bank and ask them to send you a new card.”

“But my bank is in the United States. It will take two weeks to get here. Why can’t you just open the machine and give me my card back?”

“We’re not allowed to open the machine. Besides, when the machine swallows a card it destroys the private identification number (NIP in Spanish), and the card is then useless.

That didn’t sit well with me. I blew my top!

“But, if you want, you can come by tomorrow morning at 10 AM and we’ll give you the destroyed card. Can we expect you tomorrow?”

The next morning I entered the bank, somewhat calmer, and very surprised to find my card waiting for me when I had really expected a whole day waiting for it to be delivered. On the way home I stopped at a different ATM, pushed the card into the door slot; it opened. I pushed the card into the ATM, and when asked, entered my PIN (NIP) number. The machine purred and clicked like a well oiled clock. Out came my missing $400 pesos.

If somebody advises you not to believe everything you are told in México, even from a “reliable” source, act on this advice. Your life will be a lot easier. !Viva México! Adios. Jerezano.

Published or Updated on: November 23, 2007 by Melville King © 2008
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