ATM card stuck in machine

My ATM Was Swallowed, Credit Card Hacked in Thailand

I’d like to think of myself as a seasoned traveler, but that didn’t prevent the double whammy of travel woes—my ATM was swallowed, while my credit card was hacked in Thailand last year.

ATM-Eating Machine

I had just arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport. As advised by the backpacker forums, I went straight to the underground floor (B Floor) next to the Airport Rail Link, Suvarnabhumi Station, to withdraw cash from an ATM machine. There were several machines to choose from, and I chose the TTB Bank (TMBThanachart) machine. There were two other foreign tourists in line. The man in front of me was complaining about the service charge, so I empathized and made some small talk with him. When I was the only one left, I inserted my BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) ATM card and withdrew half of my allotted pocket money.

escalator view in floor B of Suvarnabhumi Airport
En route to Floor B of Suvarnabhumi Airport to find the “reputable” ATM machines

There’s a standard ฿220 service fee (₱354 or US$6.25) for every ATM transaction all over Thailand, so I planned to withdraw only thrice during my entire trip. This was the first.

I took a photo of the screen that showed me the amount I was getting, including other bank info. The machine dispensed a wad of cash, which I counted while waiting for my card to come out.

My card did not come out.

The erring ATM machine. This TTB Bank (TMBThanachart) ATM machine on the left swallowed my ATM card in Bangkok. The bright side: no money was stolen.

Panic-stricken, I checked every nook and cranny of the machine, and looked around to see if there was another dispensing slot. My anxious mind played a million scenarios in my head. Did the two guys before me grab it? Did a pickpocket grab it quickly without me noticing? Did it fall and someone picked it up? Was the machine tampered with by skimmers?

I saw a guy manning the tour booth a few steps from the ATM machine. “Help, please! I think the machine ate my card!” I said.

He told me not to worry. “Just wait,” he said. “This always happens. The machine is slow.” So I waited.

After what felt like an eternity, I accepted that there was no card coming out. He pointed at the TTB mini branch in front of us and told me to ask for their help.

The TTB bank tellers told me there was nothing they could do. “We don’t have the key,” one girl said. I argued and said they can’t just let this happen without helping. They insisted that they had no access to the ATMs and I would have to call the TTB hotline and wait for them to help. They refused to help me call the hotline.

I asked the kind man from the tour booth to help me contact the TTB hotline. He used his phone and spoke to them in Thai. He seemed frustrated with their canned responses. He was put on hold for what seemed like another eternity. Eventually, he put the phone down. He said they are not sure when they can send a person to open the ATM for emergencies. They only come when they need to refill the ATM.

I asked him if this happened a lot and how long he’d been working in that zone of the airport. “One year,” he replied. He said he’s seen many tourists like me lose their ATM in the machine.

“Did anybody from the bank ever come to open the machine and help people get their captured cards back?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

What To Do You When Your ATM Is Swallowed, Eaten, or Captured (Choose your verb!) Abroad

Call your bank’s 24-hour hotline. I called BPI. I was too frazzled to Google the toll-free international hotline, and my paranoia told me, “What if someone actually stole the card and is on a shopping spree now?” Knowing that I would be paying for exorbitant telecom fees, I called the Philippine hotline.


The BPI customer service girl was kind enough to calm me down and assure me that my card hadn’t been used fraudulently yet. She blocked my ATM card for me. She said I had two options after that:

1. Go to a proper TTB bank (or any bank) in Bangkok, tell them about what happened, and let them assist me in getting a temporary card in lieu of my BPI ATM card. That would take several days.

2. Just wait until I return to the Philippines to get the replacement ATM card.

I chose option 2. I still had a working credit card in my wallet, the baht I was able to withdraw, and emergency US dollars I could exchange. I was good for the rest of my trip.

I found months later that most ATM machines destroy cards once they have swallowed them to prevent fraud. Nobody told me this, not even the TTB and BPI people!

Credit Card Hacked

After my 16-day Thailand adventure, I was back in the Philippines. It had been almost two weeks since my return flight to Manila. I was asleep when a 4am text message woke me:

“Thank you for using your primary BPI card ending in —- at eDreams amounting to ₱75,414.72.”

I jolted out of bed. “Not again!” I screamed, blaming the Menehunes that seemed to hex me. I Googled and found that eDreams is an online travel agency based in Spain. How the heck did my credit card details travel all the way to Europe? I called the BPI hotline to tell them about this fraudulent spending.

They reversed the transaction immediately.

My 2-Week Thailand Itinerary

I asked the customer service girl how this could have happened. Given my travel history, she said that I could have used a WiFi connection with weak or compromised security.

I did a facepalm a la Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. I did connect to several free hotel and mall WiFis (Don’t we all?!), and my last hotel did not have a password. I also remember entering my credit card details to purchase something online while using those free Wi-Fis. Yes, I know. I didn’t think it would happen to me. I was more worried about pickpockets in person when I should have also worried about e-thieves.

I’ll chalk this up to experience.

What To Do When Your Credit Card Gets Hacked

I’m assuming that you’re smart enough to have a multi-step verification for your credit card—which means that you have extra layers of protection before the amount is charged. In my case, when purchasing online, the bank will send a code to my mobile phone, and I need to enter the code on the website before the transaction gets through.

I also get a text message for every successful credit card transaction. For some people, they get an email notification.


Either way, when you get a notification about a transaction you did not make, call your bank immediately to reverse the transaction. After that, they will cancel your credit card and issue you new a new one with a new card number.

I got my replacement card a week later.

Lessons Learned

After those incidents, I’ve been using my ATM and credit card with extra caution. On top of the usual security measures like ignoring scam messages and calls, not clicking suspicious links, and covering my card numbers with masking tape (washi tape, in my case!), I have added the following rules to prevent card trouble:

1. When buying tickets from a big machine, I use cash only. There’s no guarantee that any personnel can open the jammed ticket machine or ATM machine for you.

2. As much as possible, I use only the ATM machine at the actual bank during office hours, not the standalone ATM machines. The bank employees are within reach in case of emergency.

3. I only use my ATM or credit card for tiny POS machines or mall cash registers where a small section of my card will be swiped or inserted, and I can watch everything from start to finish. POS machines can’t swallow credit cards!

Bangkok Travel Souvenir: Personalized Passport Holder

4. When doing online transactions, I don’t use the free WiFi or even the hotel WiFi with a password. When traveling to another country, I usually get a local SIM card or personal pocket WiFi that I don’t share with anyone. I now only enter my credit card details when my computer or iPhone is using cellular data or personal WiFi.

5. On my iPhone, I keep a full list of my bank’s phone numbers, including the international toll-free hotlines. I want easy toll-free access in case of emergency.


6. When traveling, I don’t rely on just my ATM. I have other backup money sources, like a credit card and US dollars. I remember meeting fellow travelers who mocked me for still doing the “old school” US dollar exchange like a boomer dad. They told me that the ATM is all travelers need. Well, my US dollars saved me after my ATM was swallowed in Thailand. I’m embracing my inner dollar-exchanging boomer. Cheers, Pa!

7. I no longer save my credit card details on my computer apps, not even my trusted booking sites. I don’t mind having to retype my credit card details over and over again for every transaction.

8. I clear my browser cache regularly.

Has this ever happened to you? Share your stories and tips in the comments section!

Featured photo (by Alexander Fox | PlaNet Fox from Pixabay)


  1. OMG, Kate! What a nightmare to have your card eaten by an ATM machine. I’m so sorry this happened to you but the experience has further honed your savvy in dealing with such a situation. In my travels, I go “old school” and never use ATM machines. I carry cash and one credit card (plus a photocopy of my passport) and never use public Wi-Fi’s unless a password is required. Anyway, thanks for this useful article. Hope those Menehunes stop bothering you!

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