Depositing plain cash with ATMs?
August 29, 2009 4:34 PM   Subscribe

How safe is it to deposit plain old cash into a bank's ATM?

This seems like a really strange question, but follow along with me for a bit.

Ever since I've gotten my bank account (at Chase) my mother has dissuaded me from making deposits, especially just cash, into ATMs. She insists that I can't trust them for such a procedure because the machine's contents are removed by people who don't work for the bank (on that note: is that even true?), and that I'm going to get robbed at some point.

Being teenage and all, I think my mom's theory on this is baseless. The one time I suggested that might not be true and that I'd just like to save everyone some time and just slip it in a deposit envelope, she gave me a disapproving look and said "Fine, do what you want, it's not my problem if you get robbed."

I've never heard such a thing happening to anyone, and I likely would have, because who wants their money getting swiped? But the idea got into my head and I've always used a clerk behind a desk to make a deposit in person. Personally, I'm getting extremely tired of it and I think it's wasting my time, not to mention the hapless clerk I have to ask to deposit the cash (especially when I just want to throw in $10 and no checks). I'll probably always use a desk clerk for large deposits involving several kinds of money, though.

So, should I really believe my mother's reasoning?
posted by Askiba to Work & Money (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've deposited a couple hundred dollars cash into Chase ATMs over the years and have never had a single problem. My mom tells me that I shouldn't deposit checks into one either, but I ignore her, and so far I've been fine.
posted by coppermoss at 4:39 PM on August 29, 2009

Do you think banks would install ATMs at extraordinary cost everywhere if they were hotbeds of theft and larceny that reducing the amount of money that they receive from their customers? Your mom is crazy. Use the ATM.
posted by Jairus at 4:41 PM on August 29, 2009 [15 favorites]

As a datapoint (though this refers to Spanish banks)...

I tried to pay €500 into an ATM here. It took some of the money, spat some back out and asked me to reenter it, which was my only option at the time. It took a bit more, spat some out and repeated. Then, when I had €180 in my hand still, the machine shut down and reopened about 5 minutes later with the pay-in facility disabled.

The bank was closed, so I went in the next day and told them I had lost €320 in the machine - it hadn't been credited to my account, and because the transaction hadn't completed, I had no record or slip. The guy went to check if my money was found, came back with €200 in crumpled, folded, creased notes and said "This is €200, you said you lost €320, so this isn't yours..."

The ATMs can't be opened when the bank has customers in (apparently), and yes, at least here in Spain, it seems to be the Security Company who open them, not the bank employees.

Basically, there were no records at either end - mine, or the banks. I can only imagine that going into the bank in the morning and pretending to have lost a random amount of money in the ATM is a regular occurrence, because they didn't believe that €200 was mine.

I made a serious fuss, and the next day all €320 was credited to my account. I can only imagine they opened it that evening again, looked harder, found another crumpled €120 and thought "Oh, that guiri must have been telling the truth after all."

But I'm never using those machines again!
posted by benzo8 at 4:50 PM on August 29, 2009

My mom used to manage a bank branch (not Chase, but a similar national chain) and, though I don't remember the details, they had a whole official procedure for dealing with ATM deposits. I can ask her for specifics if you'd like, but the take-away message is: don't worry about it. Everything has rules and cameras and multiple people around keeping everything honest.

(But don't feel bad about wasting the clerks' time. That's their job. Your depositing $10 is no different from someone else coming in to get a roll of laundry quarters in terms of their time.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:51 PM on August 29, 2009

Not really related, but it's sort of a data point: my husband put a check into a deposit envelope and put it into the night depository. Later that month, several of our checks bounced and we found out the original check had never been deposited. After several days, the bank discovered the envelope had somehow slipped behind a desk and they resolved the whole thing.

Now that was a check, not cash. No idea what would have happened with cash.

New question back to you - in the area I live, the Chase bank has been removing all the ATMs which accept envelopes and replacing them with ATMs which take the checks and cash directly (no envelope). They scan the surface, read the denomination, and print your receipt with an image of every sheet of paper that you just deposited. Are any of your branch offices doing that? Can you check if they will be soon? Maybe just put up with your mom until they do.
posted by CathyG at 4:53 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

If the ATM is attached to the bank staff, it's the bank staff that empties it. Your mom's belief may come from the fact that in many banks, if you screw up your PIN number and the machine "eats" your card, the staff cannot return your card to you, even with proof of identity, for security policy reasons. My understanding is that it goes into a locked box or something otherwise inaccessible to the staff.

FWIW I deposit cash into ATMs all the time, and have never had a problem.

There is an opportunity for discrepancy if bills get stuck together and miscounted, but hey, you could encounter data entry errors at any point in the process that would affect your balance.
posted by desuetude at 5:12 PM on August 29, 2009

CathyG: The transistion seems to be slow. In response to the recent national campaign several of the machines I've seen have "Please use deposit envelopes in these machines!" signs taped to atms.
posted by Askiba at 5:24 PM on August 29, 2009

Honestly, in any situation where there is not a full audit trail, the bank is much more concerned with their employees stealing from them. So something like an ATM where you just say how much money you put in the envelope has strict procedures around it on their end.
posted by smackfu at 5:38 PM on August 29, 2009

I wouldn't put more than 1,000 into one.

However, I did have really good experience once though. I mistakenly put the wrong amount on the deposit slip....I put it around $550 and wrote $350 and even keyed in $350 into the amount on the ATM. Don't ask me how I did this.

I was convinced it was gone but about a month later they credited my account with the remaining $200. So whoever counting was super honest. Especially since there were enough loose bills that they could have easily pulled out a couple and it would have quickly matched the $350 amount that was supposed to be there.
posted by rdurbin at 5:57 PM on August 29, 2009

I work at a smallish bank, 150 branches in small towns, and I think we have a lot more trouble with deposits made to tellers than at ATM's. Each teller transaction has tickets that have to run through and balance, and it's pretty easy for the teller's cash in ticket and your deposit slip to read for 100.00 when it should be 1000.00 and screw up your account. Or for you to write the wrong account number, or have the machine read your 8 as a 3. I spend my whole day fixing those mistakes.

But, with the ATM, it already knows your account number and knows how much money you've said you're depositing. And then it's just the teller's job to double check that the cash and checks in the machine balance the machine total. Still room for mistakes, but not as many.

And at our banks, it is primarily the branch staff that does the emptying of the machine, although the "remote" ATM's at supermarkets or stand-alone drive-ups may be emptied and balanced by Dunbar or Wells Fargo.

The only reason I wouldn't use an ATM, is that you aren't always credited as quickly as if you use the teller. And if your balance is low, that's something to be careful of.
posted by saffry at 6:20 PM on August 29, 2009

She insists that I can't trust them for such a procedure because the machine's contents are removed by people who don't work for the bank (on that note: is that even true?), and that I'm going to get robbed at some point.

Apart from the bank staff and Wells Fargo/whoever, the machines contents can also be accessed by techs from Diebold or whoever services the machine.

(Husband used to be a service tech for Diebold ATMs - can tell stories about literally having his face where the ATM screen should be and people still trying to use the machine...)
posted by stefnet at 6:33 PM on August 29, 2009

I don't like to deposit checks or cash into ATMs because there seems to be little recourse if something goes wrong. Here is Horror story #1 and horror story #2. I know I read something, somewhere, where someone has deposited cash when the bank has closed, the ATM malfunctions, and there is no record of the cash deposit.

A banker suggested that it is best to avoid depositing in an ATM when possible.
posted by oceano at 6:43 PM on August 29, 2009

I know I read something, somewhere, where someone has deposited cash when the bank has closed, the ATM malfunctions, and there is no record of the cash deposit.

Except of course the envelope full of cash with your name written on it inside the ATM.
posted by odinsdream at 7:44 PM on August 29, 2009

But the idea got into my head and I've always used a clerk behind a desk to make a deposit in person.

There is a third option, assuming you're old enough to drive and you do drive... you can use the drive-up, if your bank has one.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:30 PM on August 29, 2009

it is best to avoid depositing in an ATM when possible.

Actually he says this because deposits through the ATM are likely to be held longer. The anonymous banker says nothing about losing your deposit.

I think keeping your deposit slip until you know the money is in your account is enough. (Although I typically don't deposit cash. That, I keep and spend.)
posted by zinfandel at 8:51 PM on August 29, 2009

I worked at a bank many years ago. Depositing at a bank ATM was actually better than using a teller window. Two of us (a manager and a senior teller) would open up the little closet door that led to the back of the ATM and collect the envelopes. Then we would go into one of the safe-deposit rooms, lock the door after us, and seperate the deposits into cash and checks (that's what the little holes on the envelopes are for, so a person can see what's inside). The envelopes were checked to make sure an account number printed on the envelope. The ones with checks went directly into the big deposit bag that goes directly to the processing center. The cash envelopes were opened, one at a time, and deposited- the teller doing the depositing, the manager double-checking the work. When everything was done, the cash was reconciled and counted and went to the vault.

So an ATM deposit either went straight to processing (pick up in my branch was 3:30, so anything before then went in same day) or was entered by one person without distractions and a manager checking their work. Far less teller error than standing in line on a busy day while a teller tries to process as many people as possible.
posted by dogmom at 9:19 PM on August 29, 2009

I once lost $540 in cash to an ATM. Actually, it was to an unscrupulous bank employee. Here's what happened:

I put $600 into the deposit envelope. I put my name and everything on it, in the appropriate blanks. But, there was no blank for amount, so I didn't put that on.

Then, I told the ATM to do a deposit. When it asked for the amount, I typed 6-0 and pressed enter. I may have confirmed it, but I actually don't think there was that step. So, the ATM had a record that I had deposited $60 instead of $600.

I realized my mistake when it printed the receipt. And I thought, "Oh, well, this isn't really a big deal. They'll count it, realize that I missed a zero, and credit me with the rest of the transaction."

A week later, my $60 transaction cleared, but there was no sign of the other $540. I called the bank, and they said that they had received only a $60 deposit. I asked them to start an investigation, but they refused, claimed they wouldn't be able to identify who counted the money, and accused me of trying to game them.

Long story short: some fuckhole at the bank got $540 because I pressed zero one too few times.

I don't make deposits at the ATM anymore. Not in cash. Not in checks. Nothing. I want to see the person's face, read their nametag.

FUCK! this shit still makes me angry.
posted by Netzapper at 9:27 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, since we're giving anecdata here, I'll add my own. I have not made a deposit inside a bank (or to a drive-through, for that matter) since probably the early nineties. Usually I'm depositing checks, but sometimes cash. I have never lost any money in all this time using ATMs. I think using the ATM is as safe as any other system that still ultimately has humans at one end.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:55 PM on August 29, 2009

I've never been concerned with safety. However, ATM cash deposits typically take 24 hours or more to post to your account. So, if you know that a $700 bill will be deducted from your account at midnight and you only have $600 in your account, it's best to walk up to a bank branch and hand your cash to a teller, who will make the deposit immediately available.
posted by halogen at 2:06 AM on August 30, 2009

I don't mind depositing checks in a Chase ATM, because you can print off the check images instantly. I've never had a problem.

But it really fucking scares me to deposit raw cash into one.
posted by Precision at 2:50 AM on August 30, 2009

Try finding the camera and waving your cash or check in front of it before you put it in.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:07 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

People "deposit" "cash" into ATMs all the time as a means of having "money." I am using scarequotes because these people are really depositing NOTHING. They make up a deposit slip that says the amount they want, and they punch it in, and if they make it before the ATM's cut off time, depending on the bank, they have "money" -- until such a time as the ATM is processed and the balance of the account is adjusted to reflect the real amount of the deposit, i.e., zero.

If you deposit checks, someone some where has a record of that check, namely whomever issued it. So if you do not get credit for that check in your account, you can find a copy of it, show it was made out to you, endorsed by you, whatever, and then the bank can look at the check and figure out where it went (or now, more often than not, an electronic image of the check). If you deposit cash, there is no record of what cash you deposited, and even if you photocopied the bills and recorded the serial numbers, I highly doubt anyone would care if you came in and said, BUT YOU SHORTED ME $10. Because so many people really, really do lie about depositing cash in ATMs.

So, on the off chance something happens to your deposit (because those machines are tabulated by humans at the end of the day, and humans fuck up), I would avoid depositing cash at an ATM. Simply because it's pretty easy to do it the other way or just spend the damn money out of my pocket, and it's going to be really hard to prove that I made a deposit of real money at all if something DOES happen.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:16 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

One more for never depositing in ATMs at all. Bad experience with a deposit envelope falling sideways or something inside and not getting found for two weeks or so. Long enough for checks to bounce.

Give me tellers, every time.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:06 AM on August 30, 2009

The new Bank of America envelope-less ATMs also take cash. They count the cash when you insert it into the deposit slot and display a count of how many 5s, 10s, 20s, etc... you put in. You can check that count against your deposit and your receipt will show the same data, plus your cash will post to your account at close of business the same day. This certainly seems like a pretty "safe" option, as the receipt from the ATM ought to be basically equivalent to the receipt from a teller deposit.

That said, I rarely deposit cash. If I made a living selling goods for cash I probably would, but usually I'm using ATMs to take cash out and to deposit the occasional check, which I do in the ATM without any real worry.
posted by zachlipton at 7:50 AM on August 30, 2009

For what it's worth, I've deposited hundreds of dollars in cash into ATMs over the years - and tens of thousands in checks - and never had a problem. Of course, now I just angered the Ancient Gods of Automated Banking and am completely screwed.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:10 AM on August 30, 2009

I've deposited thousands in cash for more than 20 years with never a problem too. My bank does not "hold" the money so I can use my debit card immediately to purchase what I need.
posted by saucysault at 12:05 PM on August 31, 2009

« Older College & Fin Aid Issues   |   Why are Slim-Fast shakes in steel cans rather than... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.