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Dispense error: Reason to check your money after ATM withdrawals

Omodele Adigun

Cash dispense error occasioned by technical glitch, cash jam or power failure sometimes cause Automated Teller Machine(ATM) to malfunction and dispense incomplete amount requested or fail to dispense cash at all.

It is always advisable to cross check the amount you cash out before leaving an ATM site in case the entire sum is not dispensed so that you won’t be short changed by your bank.

What could cause dispense error?

An ATM can malfunction and cause a dispense error for a number of reasons ranging from mechanical errors arising from the ATM itself, software issues affecting operations of the ATM, and network and communication failures.

Any of the listed malfunctions can cause an ATM to debit your account without dispensing physical cash to you. One can, therefore, see from the foregoing that a dispense error is not totally avoidable.

What is cash dispense error?

An ATM dispense error occurs when your account has been debited for a certain sum of money but an equivalent sum of cash was not dispensed by an ATM. The error can occur when you use your card at your bank’s ATM or at the ATM of another bank and it can be a result of any of the following scenarios:

Your account is debited for the intended sum of money you want to withdraw but no cash is dispensed by the ATM.

Your account is debited for twice the sum of cash dispensed by the ATM.
Your account is debited for the intended sum of money you want to withdraw but a lower amount of cash is dispensed by the ATM i.e. the entire sum is not dispensed by the ATM.

More often than not, an ATM should auto-reverse a dispense error immediately and where your card has been used at your bank’s ATM, auto-reversal should take place within 24hrs. Where auto-reversal did not happen at all, an ATM dispense error can present frustrations to a cardholder especially considering the fact that you’re out of cash, your account has been debited and you now have to chase the recovery of your money. It is, therefore, important to understand ATM dispense error and steps to take in resolving it in case you experience one.

How to minimise dispense errors

Check the physical condition of the ATM before using it. If suspicious, don’t use it.
Check the condition of your card. If it is damaged, it may cause a dispense error. The ATM may also swallow your card, presenting another round of frustrations on its own. You may want to use your card on your bank’s ATM where possible as it may be quicker to process a refund where the error is from your bank’s ATM.

Use an ATM that has a queue of people waiting to use it. It may be the one working satisfactorily at that moment. If no queue when you get there, you may ask the last user or security officials around for the ATM(s) in good working condition.

Carry out a non-cash transaction on the ATM such as checking your account balance to confirm the machine is responding well before doing a cash withdrawal transaction.
Carry out your cash withdrawal transaction by following the ATM instructions as improper sequence of instructions may create transaction errors that may cause the ATM to malfunction and cause dispense error.
Resolving dispense error

It is important to always request a receipt for any withdrawal you make at an ATM as the receipt would provide valuable information such as the transaction date, time and the identification number of the machine. A receipt would also help prove your case by assisting the ATM owner with useful information in effectively carrying out an investigation into your complaint.

Report the error to your bank

Wherever an ATM dispense error occurs, your bank is the place to report such error. You should get in touch with your bank quickly to ensure a timely resolution and refund of your money. Your bank will procedurally request you to fill a dispense error complaint form to report the withdrawal failure.

Fill dispense error complaint form

You will typically be asked to provide some details including your name, card number, account number, date the error occurred, amount involved, location of the ATM and owner of the ATM amongst other details. Ensure all information required are completely and truthfully provided.


This will depend on where the dispense error occurred.
Where the error occurred at an ATM owned by your bank, it is expected that your bank would initiate the resolution of the withdrawal failure immediately the failure is observed and your account credited. Resolution of this type of error should not be later than two working days (48hrs) of the date of the transaction.

Where the error occurred at an ATM owned by another bank, your bank will have to contact the bank that owns the ATM and in this case, the resolution timeline is a bit longer because of the investigations that will have to be carried out by the other bank. Resolution of this type of error should not be later than four working days (96hrs) of the date of the transaction.

Complain to the Consumer Protection Department of the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN). If your complaint is not resolved within the resolution time indicated, you should report the incident to the CBN. Please see how to file a customer complaint to the Central Bank of Nigeria for necessary guidance.


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June 2018
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