Couple tries everything after ATM 'eats' their $700 inflation relief debit card

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury KGO logo
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
ATM 'eats' inflation relief debit card, leaves couple without funds
When the San Francisco couple slid the card into an ATM, it didn't come back out. Their money didn't come out either.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- More than nine million Californians have received their Middle Class Tax Refunds from the state, loaded on debit cards. But many reported scammers stole the money off their cards. Others threw them out by mistake. One Bay Area couple had their own fiasco.

RELATED: Here are the most frequently asked Middle Class Tax Refund questions

This couple was one of the first to get a debit card last November. But when they slid the card into an ATM, it didn't come back out. Their money didn't come out either. What they went through to get it back was both funny -- and infuriating.

Don Brendel was at a loss.

He'd gone to an ATM to cash in the $700 debit card he and his wife got from the state for inflation relief.

But there was one little problem...

RELATED: Cash in your CA inflation relief cards ASAP before scammers get it, officials say

"It just sucked it up. It was gone," he said. "I put the card in... and nothing happened, then all of a sudden I heard it swallow the card and it made some kind of noise..."

The ATM would not give back his card -- and did not give him his money.

"And it didn't give me a prompt or anything. It's gone," Brendel said.

So Brendel and his wife called the debit card company to request a new card

RELATED: Scammers drain growing number of Middle Class Tax Refund cards

There was just one little problem.

"Please enter the number on the front of your card followed by the pound key," said the prerecorded message from Money Network's help line.

"The number on my card. I don't have that. This has been the problem," Brendel said.

He couldn't reach customer service without the card number, which of course he didn't have.

So Brendel tried to guess the number, using digits he found on the debit card insert.

"I didn't find your card number," the recording said.

"OK, we'll try another one," Brendel said.

"We're sorry, we still did not get the requested information... thank you for calling Money Network... Goodbye," the recording said, prompting a laugh from Brendel.

7 On Your Side told their story to the Franchise Tax Board, the agency distributing this money. A staffer told Brendel he could reach a live agent by calling a different number (800-542-9332) and pressing option 1, then option 9 then option 2. And it worked!

"A nice lady came on and she told me I'll have a new card by December 6," Brendel said.

Which was great!

RELATED: Accidentally throw out your Middle Class Tax Refund debit card? Here's how to get a new one

But, there was just one little problem.

"Well what, today's what, January what?" Brendel laughed.

The card never came. Brendel tried to call Money Network.

"Thank you for your call. It is important to us. However, due to the high call volume, we are unable to assist you at this time," the recording now said.

Still no debit card.

RELATED: Californians reluctant to cash in their inflation-relief debit cards: Here's why

But the couple did get a 1099 tax form! They have to report the $700 as income.

"I couldn't believe it. What am I getting this for? I don't even have the $700," Brendel laughed again.

But now things have changed. 7 On Your Side helped Brendel get through to a live agent again. Turns out his card had been sitting for two months waiting to be mailed. The couple just got it by overnight delivery. As for taxes, 7 On Your Side will be reporting on whether this income is taxable or not -- especially if you never got the money... lots of folks are in that situation.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

7OYS's consumer hotline is a free consumer mediation service for those in the San Francisco Bay Area. We assist individuals with consumer-related issues; we cannot assist on cases between businesses, or cases involving family law, criminal matters, landlord/tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please review our FAQ here. As a part of our process in assisting you, it is necessary that we contact the company / agency you are writing about. If you do not wish us to contact them, please let us know right away, as it will affect our ability to work on your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.

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