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How to get your money back when ATMs fail (in China)

SCRIPT: In a busy bank in Xiamen, China. You need to deposit money, the bank is crowded and you don’t want to queue up with the rest of the customers AND you can’t speak Mandarin, so you decided to deposit money via the ‘lone English speaking’ ATM inside the bank.

PROBLEM: After depositing eg RMB (Chinese currency) 2000.00 in increments, the ATM malfunctioned, ‘spitting out’ your receipt (sometimes it doesn’t!) and did NOT add or record your transaction.

  • Where did your hard-earned money go?
  • What should you do, how to get help, and can we really do something about it?


It’s normal to become paranoid at this point, thinking it was all a ‘trick’. Well, actually, it’s not a trick by one of the bank tellers who manages the computer systems. Here are the steps to keep your sanity and free yourself from paranoia, in this scenario:

1.) Don’t forget to get the receipt for the actual ATM transaction. If you made incremental deposits, there would be a receipt for each incremental transaction; if you made two separate deposits, you’ll get two receipts, etc. Now you’re wondering, what if I forgot or lost those transaction receipts OR what if the machine doesn’t even make a receipt? There’s not much we can do with that printout of the receipt right now EXCEPT stand by and find “human” help and…

2.) Try not to leave the bank or walk away from the ATM, by no means at this time – This step is very important! I’ll tell you why later.

3.) Look for the nearest bank security guard; most of them are parked near ATMs.

4.) Call the security guards (wave your hand while saying hello), let them come to you and the ATM and let them know what happened; If you can’t speak any Chinese, feel free to speak. in English or your own language, but use manual language in conversations.
If the security guard doesn’t understand what you are talking about, he will probably look for the supervisor for you. Well, if the supervisor isn’t available and they can’t seem to get it…

5.) Walk away from the ATM and then go find a manager or assigned bank representative; most of them are sitting or standing in the bank lobby, wearing suits and an ID, and most of them could speak ‘broken’ English which comes with a higher IQ than the security guard you just met treat: )=

6.) Take the bank manager or representative to the ATM where the incident occurred and tell your story from there.
Once again, you’re asking “Why should I drive them around in that useless ATM?” That’s the trick! You need to get proof that the failure actually happened. This is your “digital receipt” if you don’t have the paper copy of the transaction receipts. Most ATMs are closely monitored through either hung or hidden security video cameras and this is one of those last resorts where you can prove to the bank that you were the actual person who deposited the money at that ATM. faulty automatic, when the fault occurred. People may find your action strange, so keep that in mind.

Keep the ‘film shooting technique’ to yourself for now, you will use this “tool” at the right time.

What do we do next?

7.) After you’ve taken the bank reps on a round trip to the pointless ATM for a few ‘film shots,’ it’s time to insist on asking the rep to check if their cameras or video systems were able to capture the ATM incident. Give them your closest time estimate when the incident (failure) occurred.

8.) After the bank representatives check their video systems and find you and them on their ‘inside movies’, they will probably turn off the faulty ATM and check your bank records in their system.

9.) After checking, you will be asked to bring the original records you used to open your accounts. Your passport is one of the most important documents for things to run smoothly with banks in China. Make sure you take your old passport with you if you have a new one now and you used the old passport to open your bank accounts before.

10.) If you cannot immediately return to the bank or produce the original records requested by bank representatives, insist on obtaining paper or electronic copies of the written statements that the incident occurred at this specific bank before you leave the bank and do a return. AND don’t forget to get an ID card from the bank representative who is helping you with this problem.

Everything should work fine and you will get your money added to your deposits, but then, I know you have one last question:
What if the bank’s video system was unable to ‘capture’ the incident? How else can I get proof that I made the ATM transaction? The best way to avoid this is to let bank representatives check your IT administrator’s database systems. The transaction should have been a ‘Commit’ transaction recorded by the bank’s database software systems.

I hope this article will benefit all of us and make us more confident with our travel and life in China. stay cool this summer!


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