ATM Safety and Security Tips

Updated: September 9, 2020

Recent news has reported people losing money in their savings account because of ATM skimming.

ATM skimming is when thieves use hidden electronics to steal the personal information stored on your card and record your PIN number so they can make a duplicate card and withdraw your cash on another machine.

Banks are, of course, doing their best to protect consumers, but I believe you should also do your part in making sure that your hard-earned money is safe and secure.

Here is a list of ATM safety and security tips.

Withdraw only from safe and secure locations.

This means avoiding ATMs that have no or little people around, and machines that are in dark or hidden corners.

Before approaching an ATM, scan the area first if there are suspicious people around. It also helps to have someone accompany you.

Minimize your transaction time.

Be quick with your ATM transactions and avoid lingering around. This means having your card already in your hand before approaching the machine, and immediately putting the card, cash, and transaction slip into your pocket, bag, or wallet and leaving promptly.


Inspect the machine before using.

Pull or tug the card slot, check the number pad if there are wobbly or loose parts, and inspect the booth for unnecessary attachments.

A vandalized or tampered ATM is a sign that a skimming device might have been installed there – so just leave and find another machine.

Cover your fingers when typing your PIN.

Even if there’s a shield over the keypad, it’s still better to cover your fingers with your other hand when typing your PIN.

Afterward, place your fingers on top of other numbers (but don’t press them), while waiting for your transaction to finish. This will mislead thieves who might use infrared scanners afterward to detect heat signatures on the number pad.

Never forget your card and transaction slip.

Before leaving, double check your ATM card to make sure you have it, and always get your transaction receipt.

Keep the piece of paper and dispose it somewhere else, not on the trash bin beside the machine.

Don’t ask or accept help from other people.

If you need assistance on your transaction, call the bank’s hotline. If you can’t, just cancel the transaction and leave – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

If the machine is beside the bank and it is still open, cancel your transaction first and then go inside and ask for assistance from the bank manager.

Don’t count your money in front of the ATM.

This is a sign that you withdrew a lot of money, which gives a visual cue to hold-uppers observing the machine.

Just get your cash and count it somewhere secure and private. You can always call the bank later if there’s a discrepancy in the amount.


Report misplaced or lost cards immediately.

When you notice that your card is missing, call the bank immediately to have it blocked. This will cost you a few hundred pesos for the card replacement, but it’s better to pay that fee than to lose more money from thieves.

Having peace of mind is your priority.

Don’t share your PIN.

Your PIN is not meant to be shared with others, even your spouse. If you really need someone to withdraw money for you, then immediately change your PIN after.

Be smart with your PIN.

Use a PIN that’s meaningful to you but DO NOT USE DATES such as birthdays and anniversaries. Choose a meaningful word and use it’s “number pad” equivalent.

For example, if you love cakes, then your PIN could be 2253 (CAKE) or 452253 (ILCAKE which means “I love cake”). This would make your PIN easier to memorize and harder to guess by others.

How about you? Any other ATM safety and security tips you can share? Give them below in the comments section.

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Photo credits: chrisgold and catatronic


  1. I have 3 ATM cards/accounts – savings, “wallet”, and “coin purse”.

    “savings” = money that will never be withdrawn (like emergency fund; this card was never used in an ATM except for activation)

    “wallet” – money that will be spent/withdrawn within a few weeks/months (5k and up; this card was also never used in an ATM except for activation)

    “coin purse’ – Always contains at least 3k, plus money that will be withdrawn WITHIN THE DAY (basically my only card that is regularly used in an ATM)

    Whenever I need to withdraw, I just transfer funds (thru online or mobile banking) from “wallet” to “coin purse” at most 1 day before I go to the ATM

    Thus the only card that may be skimmed is “coin purse” – which most of the time just contains 3,000 PhP. Assuming no one cracks my online and mobile password, then the rest of my funds are safe.

  2. I think I should keep all of these great tips in my mind whenever I use atm machine. Thanks for writing this article Sir Fitz! I think you deserve a big hand of applause since you never disappoint us in every articles you write. 🙂

  3. Great tips Sir Fitz! I personally think that having a good pin and using your common sense every time you withdraw money can save you and your ATM card from trouble.

  4. Several times, we have had discrepancies when withdrawing cash using my international (US based) cards. The very first time, my brokerage firm that issues the card canceled the transaction, and within days my funds were returned to the account and a new card was in my hand via FedEx. More recently (14 months ago) my wife withdrew funds to pay for a small family gathering to celebrate our second anniversary. Additional withdrawals appeared that I contested. In the end, the local bank refuses to provide the correct information to my brokerage firm in the US so that my funds will be returned. The bank does admit that there were not enough funds left for the additional withdrawals that I had to cover but again, they refuse to work with my brokerage. We know for sure that something is going on beyond my problem. The ATM was removed from that location and the explanation from the bank is: “too many complaints about missing money from that machine.” Honestly, there are days I think it is safer to keep money under the mattress rather than to trust local banks.

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