Why Won't My American Express Card Work at an ATM Machine?

by Michael Roennevig ; Updated September 11, 2015
The ATM you've chosen may not accept American Express cards.

If you're away from home and have exhausted the funds available on your credit and debit cards, few things are going to be more annoying than your last chance of getting your hands on some cash letting you down. If the automated teller machine (ATM) you've just put your American Express card into is telling you things are not looking good, there could be a number of reasons for your unfortunate predicament.

Express Cash Program

Unlike credit card providers, American Express requires card holders to sign up to its Express Cash Program if they want to be able to withdraw cash at ATMs. Once you've successfully signed up to the program, you'll be assigned a separate personal identification number (PIN) that will allow you to take advances at cash machines. If you haven't opted into program, you won't be able to make a withdrawal.

ATM

The ATM you're attempting to use may not accept American Express cards. Although this should be made clear onscreen or in the information around the cash machine, some ATMs, especially those in other countries or in small convenience stores, may not provide details of which cards are accepted. You can find the nearest ATM that does accept American Express cards by using the company's online ATM search utility (see Resources).

Fraud Protection

If you rarely use your American Express card and have recently gone on a bit of a spending spree with it, American Express may have stopped it. In their efforts to combat fraud, banking institutions sometimes put a stop on a card if they notice unusual spending patterns. There's also a chance that a fraudster has got hold of your card and American Express has frozen your account with good reason. You can call American Express at 800-528-4800 to check your account status.

Balance

If you have been hitting your card hard over the past few weeks, there's always a possibility that you've maxed-out your balance. Although most ATMs will tell you that your transaction has been declined due to insufficient funds, some will only advise that they have been unable to process your request. If you suspect that you're close to your limit, call American Express at 800-528-4800.

About the Author

Michael Roennevig has been a journalist since 2003. He has written on politics, the arts, travel and society for publications such as "The Big Issue" and "Which?" Roennevig holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the Surrey Institute and a postgraduate diploma from the National Council for the Training of Journalists at City College, Brighton.

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