What Happens After the ATM Ate Your Check Deposit

I was too trusting of the nifty ATMs that take checks without an envelope. I used the ATM outside our cafeteria at work to make deposits many times. I never had any problem, until last time.

I usually deposit printed business checks. This time it was a handwritten personal check. The machine took it, tried to scan it but it had problems. It was supposed to spit it back if it doesn’t like the check. After making some noise, it gave up. It printed a slip saying:

We encountered a problem returning your check. Please contact your financial institution.

The machine belongs to a different credit union than the credit union I have account with. I wasn’t sure which institution "your financial institution" was referring to. I called the credit union that owns the machine. I thought they would give the check back to me after someone collected the deposits from the machine.

No. The rep said I should really contact my credit union even though my credit union has nothing to do with the machine that malfunctioned. I didn’t get to the step where I would enter the deposit amount or select depositing to checking or savings. She said there are established procedures for these things. If a customer of her institution had a similar problem she would know exactly what to do.

I called my credit union next. Sure enough the rep said I called the right place. The procedure is called an ATM dispute. He asked me what happened and the amount of the check. He then entered the dispute for me. I was able to see the dispute in online banking.

On the second business day after I reported the incidence, I received a provisional credit in my account for the amount of the check. The provisional credit means the credit union took my words for it for the moment but if they can’t corroborate my report they will deny my claim and take the money back out.

Because the check deposit was only for $30, I wasn’t too worried. I thought I would let the system and established procedures work its way. Three weeks later, I called customer service when I saw the status of the claim is still "in process." I was told they still don’t have the final result yet. The next follow-up would be in another three weeks. That would be six weeks after the incidence.

Too be honest as much as I like Alliant Credit Union, I’m disappointed in its handling of this. It can’t be that hard for the institution that owns of the ATM to see that the machine was out of balance with an extra check unaccounted for. If the industry established procedure is for me to contact my own institution, then Alliant should chase it down for me. The thought of possibly losing a larger deposit due to a malfunctioned ATM just knocked down my confidence in both the machine and the process.

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  1. TJ says

    This happened to me once, I didn’t think it was a big deal, but I have since switched to using US Bank to deposit checks since apparently they dont charge any fees.

  2. slug | sunkcostsareirrelevant.com says

    I’ve never deposited by ATM. Seems much easier to just deposit by phone like I do through Capital One (ING). This way I get to keep the check, and I don’t have to drive to an ATM. Often the check goes through within minutes.

  3. Jim says

    I didn’t know you could make deposits at ATM’s other than those at your own bank. Heck, I remember back when you could not make deposits at out of state branches of your own bank. It’s probably best to make deposits at your local bank whenever possible.

  4. foss says

    either they take deposits by phone or they aren’t my (online ) bank

    I’ve had issues with ATM deposits and the hassle isn’t worth it (for $30 no biggie, but of course, that can be a year’s interest these days!)

    this is 2013 not 2003

  5. Ben says

    You know Alliant Credit Union has a mobile deposit app now for iPhone? You don’t have to use an ATM anymore… they are also my primary bank.

  6. Harry says

    Ben – Yes I know. I preferred to use the ATM because it scans faster. Sometimes the mobile phone app doesn’t like the picture and I have to retake and resubmit a few times.

  7. Bucky says

    just be glad you weren’t using B of A. I read a story where a guy accidentally typed the wrong amount for the check deposit, then was accused by B of A of fraud!

  8. Al says

    US Bank took my ATM deposit for $3000. 8 days later and at least 10 phone calls later I still do not have my money. I wrote the computer generated check from my business account to my personal account. I can see that USBank has been paid. The check was cashed and funded several days ago but they do not seem to want to deposit those funds into my account. They keep telling me they have up to 10 days before they have to make a provisional deposit. I even went to the branch and they had the physical check in their hands at the bank but would not credit my account for the deposit. Seems to me I should be able to fine them and charge all kinds of fees like they would if this situation was reversed. Thank you USBank!

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