If you’re like many people, you have a change jar in your home where you dump loose change you get back during cash transactions. And while 30% of Americans say they don’t make any cash purchases in a typical week, coins still tend to accumulate, albeit more slowly than they used to. Throwing spare change in a coin jar is an easy way to save money without feeling the pinch.
What do you do when those quarters, dimes, nickels, and especially those cumbersome pennies start to add up? Unless you want to carry around pockets full of change when you go shopping, your best tactics are:
- Make a coin deposit to your bank or credit union to bolster your savings account, or …
- Convert it into cold, hard cash you won’t be embarrassed to spend at your favorite store.
That’s where the Coinstar coin machine comes in.
What Is a Coinstar Coin Counting Machine?
A Coinstar kiosk is a coin counting service where you dump all your spare change into the coin machine and it automatically sorts it for you. No sorting, wrapping, or rolling coin required.
The kiosks are an easy way to trade in your change for actual cash or an egift card. You can also use your coins to make a charitable donation.
Coinstar kiosks are commonly found in grocery stores but also sometimes in larger retail stores like Walmart, drug stores, and banks. Your best best is your local grocery store chain, such as Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter, Albertsons, or Fred Meyer.
How Much Is the Coinstar Fee?
As with so many modern conveniences, the Coinstar kiosk charges a fee for the coin counting service. If you want to trade in your coins for cash, you’ll pay a hefty 11.9% coin processing fee for the service.
That means if you redeem $50 in coins, Coinstar keeps $5.95. That’s enough for a large designer coffee. Trade-in $100 in coins, Coinstar keeps $11.90 – you could have a whole meal at a quick-service restaurant for about that price.
Why the Coinstar Cash Voucher Is Not Your Best Value
If you’re in dire need of cash, it may be worth it to swallow that 11.9% Coinstar charge to convert your coins into dollars you can spend anywhere. But probably not.
The Coinstar cash voucher is probably one of the worst ways to trade in your spare coins. Unless your goal is to get rid of money quickly — at whatever price — think about your other options before you hit that button to select a Coinstar cash voucher.
You can trade-in your roiled coin collection to get spending money without any fees whatsoever if you make a smarter choice.
Avoid Coinstar Fees by Choosing an eGift Card
You can use a Coinstar machine without any fees simply by choosing an eGift card when you cash out your coins. An eGift card is a paper receipt with a barcode printed on it. (If you’ve never used an e gift card before, they work the same as a plastic gift card at the appropriate retailer, restaurant, or website.)
Many popular merchants offer this e gift card option, but not all kiosks offer eGift cards for all the available merchants. You can check online ahead of time to be sure the kiosk you plan to use offers the gift card you want. Available merchants include:
- AMC (movies)
- Chili’s Grill & Bar
- Chuck E. Cheese
- Krispy Kreme
- Outback Steakhouse
- Red Robin
- Regal Entertainment Group
- Ruby Tuesday
- The Home Depot
The Options eGift card through Coinstar works with a variety of top clothing retailers:
- Old Navy
- Banana Republic
If you’re cashing in your coins for vacation, you can trade-in your spare change for an eGift card for Southwest Airlines or Hotels.com. You can also choose an eGift card for electronic purchases through iTunes or the Showtime streaming service. Gamers may prefer an eGift card for Steam, Razer Gold, or Roblox.
Finally, you can choose a Karma Koin eGift card, a prepaid digital gift card that can be redeemed online through select retailers. When you use your Karma Koin card, 1% of each purchase goes to charity.
Not every eGift card is available at every Coinstar kiosk, so you’ll want to review your choices before you start dumping those coins in. Some eGift cards require a $10 coin deposit, while others require just $5 in change.
It’s wise to spend your eGift card as quickly as possible – or at least take a picture of it with your phone so you’ll have the number available when you’re ready to shop.
Avoid the Coinstar Fee by Requesting an Amazon Gift Card
Amazon offers two options to spend your Coinstar redemption. You can request an Amazon eGift card and redeem it using the barcode, the same way you’d use other gift cards. Be sure to enter your eGift code into your Amazon account as soon as possible so you don’t lose the eGift card.
But if you have dollar bills you’d like to deposit, you can add anywhere from $5 to $500 to your Amazon balance. The AmazonCash feature offers a safe, secure way to shop through Amazon without using a credit card by putting cash straight into your Amazon account. If you have a lot of singles you’d like to unload, this Coinstar service is a great added feature to the coin sorting kiosk.
Donate Your Change to Charity
If you’re more interested in emptying that piggy bank or change jar than putting money into your pocket, consider donating your Coinstar deposit to charity. Not only are charitable donations fee-free, but you can deduct the money on your taxes as a charitable donation if you itemize your deductions. Some common options at the kiosks include the American Red Cross and the Humane Society.
Take the Sting Out of Coinstar’s Fee with a Free Coupon
On very rare occasions, Coinstar offers coupons to get a cash voucher with no fee. We couldn’t find any special offers like that at the moment, but we did unlock another little-known Coinstar perk …
Select kiosks equipped with holographic projectors display ads for discount coupons right above your head while you redeem your coins. Select and print these coupons to save money on your purchase of many common items — often items sold in the store where the kiosk is located.
The Coinstar free coupon benefit is like a reward for standing there listening to endless coins drop into the machine, and it’s a great way to lower your grocery bill when you shop at a grocery store that has a Coinstar kiosk.
Make Your Coinstar Deposit Easy
Now that you know how to convert coins to cash with no fee at a Coinstar kiosk, we have a few tips to help the process go more smoothly.
You don’t need to make rolls of wrapped coins before you deposit your change. But you do need to make sure your money is clean and there’s no debris stuck in with the coins. That could jam up the coin counter or cause it to spit your change out.
Also, Coinstar does not accept foreign coins , so you’ll want to remove those from your collection. But, if a Canadian penny or euro coin slips through, no worries. The machine will return it and you can pocket the change for your collection or your next trip.
Cash in Your Rolled Coin Deposit At Your Bank or Credit Union
Of course, Coinstar isn’t the only way to redeem those unwieldy coins for convenient cash. Your local bank or credit union may have a coin sorter or coin counting machine where you can cash in your coins with no fee.
Take note. Some credit unions have adopted Coinstar machines with their associated fees. If you’re using a coin sorting machine at your credit union , make sure it’s a proprietary machine with no fees attached.
How to Get Free Coin Wrappers
Your bank or credit union may also accept deposits of rolled coins. Some charge fees, so ask before you spend your valuable time rolling coin. To make a coin deposit, you’ll need to sort your coins yourself, roll them into coin wrappers, and probably write your name and bank account number on each roll.
Not all financial institutions offer free coin wrappers, but many still do — especially for their loyal customers. Visit a teller at a bank where they recognize you and ask for free coin wrappers.
When it comes to cashing in your rolled coin, some banks only offer the service to account holders, while others will take rolled coin from anyone.
Painstakingly sorting and rolling change takes a bit of time, but it was the only way people could convert coins to cash in the past.
It’s also a great activity to teach kids about money and how nickels, dimes, and quarters (and even pennies) add up to dollars. You can choose to give them all the money, let them use the coins to kickstart their own savings account, or split the money with them.
Explore More Alternatives to the Coinstar Fee
When it comes to getting rid of spare change and teaching kids about money, you can explore other tactics, too. The “coin discipline” method uses a coin wrapper of quarters or dimes to encourage children to behave in restaurants, stop fighting with siblings or even do their chores.
Give the children a coin wrapper full of change ($5 in dimes or $10 in quarters works well, depending on your budget.) Each time they misbehave, you’ll take a dime or quarter away. Seeing the roll shrinking provides a tangible reminder to behave.
At the end of the time period, whether it’s a weekend, a week, or a long family car ride, they can spend what they have left. The tactic helps teach kids that their decisions have consequences, sometimes financial in nature.
Whether you spend it or save it, spare change can make a difference in your budget when you find a smart way to convert your loose coins into more convenient currency.
— By Dawn Allcot
How do you like to use your spare change? Have you discovered other ways to avoid the Coinstar fee? Share in the comments below.