First ATM Problem in 8 Years

Yesterday, I was at the SuperMarket El Rey in Plaza El Terronal. I used the ATM at Banco Universal to Make a withdrawal of $200. The machine made all the noises like it was getting the money and then a message appeared saying it didn’t have enough money and to try later.

I then went to the other ATM in El Rey and requested the same amount. I got some message that made me think the machine was not working.

I walked over to HSBC and tried one more time. This ATM told me there was not sufficient funds in my account. Now I knew that the first machine had registered the withdrawal and just hadn’t given me the money. Grrrr!

I walked back to Banco Universal and it was not open. All other banks were open, but not this one. So today my schedule has an appointment to return to Banco Universal and issue my complaint.

I have printed my bank statement showing that it removed the money from my account and have called my bank and put in a dispute for the money.

I guess an ATM problem every 8 years is not too bad, but I was not in the mood for it yesterday.

UPDATE October 18, 2911 – I met with a very nice lady at Banco Universal, Sujeily Cedeno. She said it would take from 5 to 8 days for their bank and the bank in the U.S. to reverse the transaction. I expect, based on that conversation, that everything to be resolved within 10 working days. My bank in the U.S. had said it should be 3 to 5 days to see the money back in the account.

UPDATE October 20, 2011 – I just checked my account, this morning, and see that the missing funds have been replaced. I had called my bank on the 17th, so I think that was very good response.

28 thoughts on “First ATM Problem in 8 Years

  1. This is a very common problem in Panama, it happen to us in the super baru atm and it took me over 6 months to get the money back in the account. It took me threating to write a letter to the Superintendencia de Bancos, Consumer protection and other entities to get my problem resolved within a week. Took my letters to the bank manager, and they decided to ask me for another week to resolve my situation, and the send the letter if nothing happen. They resolved my problem. But it took me over 6 months to get my money. I wish you the best, the best advise I have if don’t use a highly traffic area to do you withdraw or just go to the bank if you can.
    Best of luck

  2. this happens here and I have only been able to get my money back from my bank overseas. The banks here are no help and waste of time. It took my 45 days but my bank took care of the problem. This problem can not be avoided and no one can help here in Panama. Just wait for your bank to deal with them and they should take care of your problem.

  3. It is a common problem anywhere in the world, even in the USA. I once deposited a tax refund check for $20, properly endorsed, in my checking account at Bank of America using an ATM on a Sunday. The ATM failed to print a receipt and when I made a balance inquire the deposit was not shown as made. I figured that the bank would catch the error and that the money would be credited to my account the next day. The next day the $20 were still not showing in the account, so I filed a dispute form. After two weeks of not hearing from the bank, I went back to find out what the problem was. They told me they could not find any records of the deposit being made and that no overage was found. You may think that why bother for $20 bucks, but for a starving college kid, that is a lot of money, so I insisted on having my money credited to the account. A week passed and nothing happened. Finally, after I decided to take the complain to the next level, the money was credited to my account the following morning.

    There used to be a time when banking in Panama was a very easy thing to do, with very much no restrictions. But now the banks are becoming more reluctant to solve this issues promptly to avoid being victims of fraudulent transactions, in particular if it involves cash withdraws from accounts abroad. From my own experience, when this issues involve local banks, they are resolved very easily. But when the transaction involves a bank abroad, resolution can be time consuming. The few times when I have any difficulties with transactions in Panama, the banks have being very helpful in resolving the matter and even suggested ways to avoid this kind of inconveniences.

  4. You’re lucky if this has happened to you so seldom. I’ve had three credited ATM withdrawals with no money, and one withdrawal where I was shortchanged $20 in about 4-1/2 years. In all four instances the Panama bank at which the ATM was located said they could do nothing, that I would have to seek recovery through my U.S. bank. I have heard but not verified that if you use the ATM at the Panama bank where you have an account and are seeking to withdraw money from that account (as opposed to a withdrawal from a U.S. bank), the bank will refund your money on the spot. But most of us have reasons not to have a Panama bank account or, if we have one, not to put much money in it. The CLAVE system stinks. It’s way, way too error prone.

  5. I would imagine that Bonnie is talking about any bank in Panama……an English friend of mine had the same problem at Credicorp Bank, a bank with which I do bizniss, and try as he would, he could not solve the problem here…….and it was a lot more than $20…….he had to wait until he got back to London to sort it out…….and this is not the first time I have heard of the problem with Credicorp……they tried to charge me $15 for a letter, which I needed from one of my banks , to get a contract with Claro……I went to Banco Nacional and got it for free…….Ive got an ATM debit card from Banco Nacional de Costa Rica, which is free, like the States or England, but as far as I know, there is no bank here in Panama that gives u the debit card as a courtesy…….if there is one, pls advise………..

  6. I had the same problem with an HSBC ATM seeral years ago. I got no money but was charged for a $500.00 withdrawal. I went to an officer at the HSBC bank and she took all kinds of information and said that the problem would be resolved in a week. Aftera week I returned and (of course) she said come back in another week. This prompted me to write to my bank in the US and they credited my account with a $500.00 loan and said they would do an investigation and resolve the matter within 30 days.They did. Upon returning to HSBC for the second time, all i got was double talk with the bank officer telling me that she could not give me a resolution time. What’s really pathetic is that all the banks in Panama use a company called Telered and the banks get a tally every week so if there is an overage or shortage, they’re aware of it.

  7. This has happened to me too. I have been trying for a long time trying to find out why. There are sensors in the money path to verify that the cash requested made it to the exit slot, then your account is debited. It appears this has been disabled. My best guess is that has to do with fraud prevention with the onus being put on the client. I don’t have an account here so I can not really pursue it. I can tell you this is not how the software works in the US at the large multinational bank where I worked extensively on ATM software.

  8. I use AMERIPRISE ( banking arm of American Express) Not only do they pay
    interest (albeit not a lot) but they also reimburse the $3.00 the ATM charges. When I had a similar experience to Don Ray’s, I was told the local bank could do nothing to help me however a quick call to my bank remedied the problem within 24 hours!

  9. By “Panama bank,” I mean a bank located in Panama. There are some small differences between them, in my experience, but they’re all crummy. The only distinct advantage I’ve found, comparing one to another, is that Global doesn’t charge for the deposit of a U.S. check. But it takes about three weeks to clear, so you have to plan ahead. Of all the banks here I’ve dealt with here, there are smiling faces up front with the promise of great customer service, but behind the scenes they are slow, slow, slow and extraordinarily error prone. Put these two together, and you’ve got headaches, headaches, headaches. It also must be written into Panama banking regulations that you never tell the customer the whole truth.

  10. I wrote this earlier but I will post it again in the interests of your topic:

    I used a Banco Nacional ATM just about a month after I started living in Panama, January 2008, when I was at the Doleguita Romeo. I asked for $500 and got nothing…. but my bank account was charged nonetheless.

    I went to Banco Nacional and received no help or cooperation at all. All they had to do was to balance the ATM as they do daily and see that they were over. I went there twice and all I got was a run-around. They never notified me about anything although I filled out their paperwork. They claimed it was my bank, but why then do they ask for me for paperwork and ask me to wait and talk to their complaint officer?

    I asked my American bank for help and they tried but received no cooperation either
    from either Banco Nacional or the Clave Network.

    I tried further with friends and contacts who worked at Banco Nacional. They all seemed helpful and hopeful that I would get my money. But when I checked back with each party in the subsequent months, they were withdrawn and were unfriendly.

    I am convinced that Banco Nacional just confiscated my money. Great way to bank!

    To this day, I have never entered their bank again nor have recommended Banco Nacional to anyone, especially Extranos, citing my experience. I have asked other North Americans about similar experiences and it has always been pretty much Banco Nacional that has such troubles with their ATM practices.

    Maybe someone reading this with some compunction and ties to this bank can yet rectify a inequity and amend this situation.

    I subsist on a fixed income and this money was a considerable loss at the time.

    On a subsequent note, I have never had any problem with Banco General, while
    HSBC and Banco Universal at random times state that my ATM card is problematic.
    When I go to the Banco General ATM immediately following this, my card works just fine.


  11. Personally, I would never have an account in the national bank of Panama. Banco General has been good and I would consider Global. I really hope there is never a need For me to open a Panama account again.

  12. This debit with no cash given has happened to me at four different banks here, using cards from different US banks. There is no technical reason this should happen. Again this won’t be fixed until somebody digs into why the client has to jump through hoops to get their money back.

    I think it is a dirty secret the banks here have that they have a fraud problem and the best way for them is to disable the software to allow debits with no cash dispensed.

    Some time back one extranjero actually went to the police in Panama City and filed a denuncia for theft by the bank. In effect they took his money without consideration, which is a violation of contract law.

    NB: It is up to your bank to process the reversal, not the bank where the ATM was used. So they are getting chumped too, as it cost them to get your money back to you.

  13. Just let me chime in with my 2 cents worth. Had the no money problem at an HSBC machine in Boquete last year. Same thing; made all the sounds, door opened and nothing came out, machine froze and displayed error message I thought it was an isolated incident, but after this i see its endemic. I did eventually get my $500, in about a month, but took my bank in Netherlands to get them to finally credit me. I was most upset that the machine did not spit out a receipt either. They had to audit the machine so i know they knew it was out of balance the next day, and the usual paperwork had to be submitted. My bank suggested that from now on i use ATMs only at a bank here where i have an account to make the crediting process easier. Thankfully i have not had to test that yet, but i now know that its just a matter of time. Thanks for these helpful posts

  14. Yep Me too. Twice for $500 and once for $300. HSBC took responsibility for one of the $500 dings saying there was ATM problems that day. The other 2 times my stateside bank credited my account within a few days.

  15. I suppose the best answer to this is to keep some cash in one’s Panamanian bank and withdraw money only from a teller. A Panamanian friend says that’s the only way she and her husband operate, having had it with the ATMs here.

  16. The only way to solve this problem is calling your bank and place this claim. Since I returned back to Panama I kept my US Bank account and get cash through the ATM Networks in Panama. I have had this problem at least 3 times in the last five years. The first time I contacted the bank owner of the ATM but I learned them that the best method was to contact my US Bank and place the claim. Easy. The problem is solved in less than a week with no problem.

    Even that I hate bank service anywhere in the world, not only Panama, I have to say that banks in Panama are getting more restrictions everyday. Do you know where those restrictions and new things came from??? It is a very interesting homework to do.

    I do remember when Panama used to have a very efficient and healthy banking system but problems of money laundering, terrorism funds transfers and other threats that Panama’s banking system have had from other competitor banking center in the region and abroad and the famous black and gray list has made Panama’s banking system more restrictive and difficult. I am a Panamanian citizen and I couldnt believe all the paperwork I have to do to open an account in Panama’s bank since I returned back.

  17. If this was the US and not Panama this ATM problem would be a good piece for 60 Minutes on TV. I have intimate knowledge of how ATMs work and in my opinion the problematic ATMs in Panama are setup to bypass the final check for cash being actually dispensed before you are debited. This will continue until somebody puts pressure on the banks here to stop this practice that is costing their clients time, money and stress.

    The cash dispensing mechanisms are made by just a few manufacturers, Diebold for example. Typically they have several sensors along the dispense path that signal the software that the correct amount of cash has passed. The final sensor is at the exit slot. The software should send a message that the correct amount of cash has been dispensed, only then is the clients account debited. This is NOT the case here.

    There are several error conditions that result in cash not being dispensed, in which case there should be NO debit. Something really stinks here. I will be happy to assist anybody who wants to investigate this with their Panamanian bank. I don’t have an account here so I can’t do it directly. Also happy to answer any technical questions on this issue.

    The fraud in Latin America is much higher than the US. I have a strong suspicion this is why people are being dinged with no cash received.

    By the way, it took me from one phone call immediately to 3 months to get my account credited properly, so it really depends on your banks policy on this.

  18. I find it amusing and telling that the ATM debits your account instantly, even before it spits out the money, but it takes days, weeks, or months to get your money back when it robs you.

    The banks also have a policy of taking weeks to credit your account when you deposit a foreign check. Try this sometime; deposit a check into your local account drawn on your foreign bank, then check your foreign account online every day. I’ve done this several times and without fail, my US account is debited within three days, but it takes 21 (working) days to get into my local account.


  19. This has happened to me before on 2 occasions 3 years ago. On both occasions, I took out $500 and received no money or receipt, yet the bank statement showed money withdrawn.

    Anyway, the transaction in question were 2 HSBC atm machines in Panama City (one in the Hotel Venetto and another in the Super 99 at Albrook Mall).

    It never occurred to me to contact my bank in the states (I don’t know why, I guess I thought it bank of the ATM is responsible). I did of course contact HSBC and on the first occasion I did get my money credited back within a week. Oddly enough the second time around I never got my money credited.

    Call me paranoid but since then I’ve stayed away from HSBC atm machines. I’ve never had problems with Banco Nacional or other atms in Panama. Now I guess I’ll have to add Banco Nacional, Banco Universal, and Credicorp Bank to my list of ATMs not to use

  20. Don,

    I am interested in moving my family down to Panama. I am from CA and run a property preservation company in which i am able to live anywhere. Our family is a surfing family and are interested in coming to Panama to open a surf shop and church. What steps do i need to take to make this happen?


  21. The first thing I would do is to go to the Panama Government website and decide what visa you expect to qualify under and then review the requirements.

  22. It is my understanding that all the ATMS are owned and managed by a company separate and distinct from the banks. Someone said the name is Telered–I thought it was Clave since that’s what’s on the machines. In any case, both the customers and the banks should call these folks to task. I would think that the banks would have an interest in straightening them out given all the grief customers give them. And it’s for sure that the banks stand a better chance of getting results. I intend to look into it.

  23. I did look into it and found the following webpage for Telered in English:

    I sent them an e-mail via the “contact us” function. Perhaps others would like to do the same?

    (There’s another website––but it offers no way to make contact other than by telephone.)

  24. Some time back my husband had the same thing happen when he tried to withdraw funds at the Banco Nacional ATM at Romero Doleguita: no cash was dispensed while he listened to the whirring sounds and his account was debited. He immediately went to Banco Nacional (this was when it was a block away) and politely explained what happened. They said don’t worry your account will be credited within a few days. And it was! Meanwhile he reported the incident to his US bank, and they also credited his account within a few days! Just another experience.

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