Coins may be on the ropes, but they haven't thrown in the towel yet. There's very little single coins can buy anymore, but with a big enough pile, you could earn a comfortable little payday by taking them to a Coinstar machine near you.
Coin machines offer a quick and convenient way to turn idle change into viable spending money, often without needing to go out of your way to find one. Unfortunately, they charge significant fees for that convenience, which nibbles at your jingly windfall. Thankfully, there are several ways savvy coin gatherers can dodge those fees and still use coin machines nearby and put their spare change to work.
How Does Coinstar Work
If you've never used Coinstar or a similar brand of coin machine before, don't worry — the process is very straightforward. Once you have gathered all the coins you would like to exchange, take them to a coin machine in your area.
When you get to the machine, feed your loose change into the coin-sorting hopper, which will automatically separate and tally up your coins. Then, in a matter of moments, the machine will calculate the total value of the coins you processed and offer several options for you to redeem that value, including cash.
Note that Coinstar kiosks will not necessarily accept anything metal and round. Therefore, before cashing your coins, you should pre-check them for foreign currency, out-of-circulation U.S. coins, arcade tokens, and other invalid inputs. A detector will reject any invalid or counterfeit currencies.
How To Locate a Coin Machine Near You
You shouldn't have to look far for the nearest Coinstar. Like Redbox, Coinstar kiosks are usually located at places you're likely to frequent. Check, for instance, your local Kroger-family or Albertsons-family grocery store. These will vary regionally but include the following:
- Food 4 Less
- Fred Meyer
- King Soopers
- Pay-Less Super Markets
- Pick ‘n Save
- Smith's Food and Drug
- United Supermarkets
- Star Market
In addition to the two major supermarket chains, you can also often find Coinstar machines at a mix of other stores, pharmacies, and big box stores, including:
- Winn Dixie
- Neighborhood Market
If you live in the U.S., you may need to try a few local stores to find one, but don't worry — these ubiquitous kiosks are rarely ever far away.
What Coinstar Charges
Coinstar offers convenient automation to make your life easier, and it needs to earn a profit as a business. So charging for its services makes sense, but Coinstar's fees can take a sizable bite out of your couch cushion payday.
Coinstar fees vary by location and change over time, so it will be hard to know the exact cost of your machine before you get there. However, you can typically expect a fee of up to 12.5% + a $0.50 transaction fee for a standard cash redemption.
For example, if you bring $50 worth of coins to the machine and redeem them for cash, it could charge a $6.75 fee, offering you a final cashout of $43.25. At $100, the fee would climb to $13, leaving you with $87 to take home.
Since coins see less use each year, many people don't even consider their loose change as available money until they convert to a larger denomination. Therefore, turning your coins into cash can feel like a payday — as if you gained money you didn't have before.
Walking into a store with a bucket of clanging coins and walking out with crisp cash can still feel like a win, even if it costs a significant fee. However, for us literal penny-pinchers, the goal is to save money, not lose it. And fortunately, there are a few great ways to redeem your coins without taking on that ugly fee.
4 Ways To Avoid Coinstar Fees
So you've gathered coins from every corner of your home, car, and a few questionable locations. You have a piggy bank, shoe box, glass jar, or coffee can that feels like it weighs 15 pounds. You're ready to convert when your proverbial coffers are actually overflowing with coins.
The only problem is you don't want to lose more than 10% of your small treasure pile in the process. Fortunately, if you want to maximize the profits of your little batch of copper, nickel, and zinc, there are several ways to redeem your coins and ditch the fees.
1. Gift Card Redemption
The easiest way to convert your coins without paying a fee is to redeem the value of your coins as a gift card. Coinstar allows you to convert your change to an eGift card at full value.
Check your local machine for an up-to-date list of eGift card options, but Coinstar partners with dozens of major retailers, restaurants, and brands for this offering. Current options include:
- Apple Store
- Lowe's Home Improvement
- Outback Steakhouse
- Red Robin
- Southwest Airlines
- Texas Roadhouse
- The Home Depot
With this many redemption options, Coinstar's eGift card option can work like cash. So if you have an upcoming purchase or outing, this is the perfect option for redeeming your coins for free!
2. Walmart Store Credit
When using a coin machine at a Walmart in your area, you may have one unique option that other kiosks don't.
At some Walmarts, Coinstar offers the option to redeem your money for store credit at that location. This option works similarly to the gift cards above and is another excellent way to turn your coins into something as good as cash without paying a hefty premium.
3. Donate Your Coins
One creative way to put your spare change to work without paying a fee is to use it as an outlet for charitable giving. Coinstar gives you several options of philanthropic organizations to which you can donate your money. If you choose this option, the machine will not charge you a fee, and you can also deduct the donation from your taxable income.
Coinstar currently partners with nine organizations where you can donate your coins:
- The American Red Cross
- Children's Miracle Network Hospitals
- Feeding America
- The NAACP
- The Humane Society of the United States
- The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
- United Way
- The World Wildlife Fund
By choosing this option at your local coin sorter, you can support one of your favorite causes, skip paying a fee, and help yourself out when tax time comes!
4. Coinstar Alternatives
One final way to avoid fees is to consider one of several Coinstar alternatives.
There are a few smaller brands of coin-counting machines similar to Coinstar. You may be able to find one of these competitors in similar locations near you, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. However, most of these operate on a similar pricing model to Coinstar and likely will save you little money on a cash redemption.
Aside from other public kiosks, one Coinstar alternative may let you turn your coins into cash at full value.
Your local bank and credit union will usually exchange cash for rolls of coins without charging for the service. At some locations, tellers will even offer you free paper coin wrappers to use. But, of course, this does remove the convenience of a machine sorting and counting the coins for you.
Many local banks and credit unions also now have self-service coin kiosks onsite. These are usually free for members to use. For non-members, some will be free, but others will charge a 5-10% fee, similar to Coinstar.
Turning Coins Into Cash in No Time Flat
There's very little that quarters and dimes can buy on their own anymore, and even less for nickels and pennies. However, cents quickly turn into dollars as your coins accumulate. Using a change machine near you, you can convert those coins into cash with real value for your wallet or bank account.
The ubiquitous Coinstar option is one of the easiest ways to get cash without counting change and rolling it yourself. This method can be expensive, but for the intentional saver, there are several effective no-fee options for free coin exchanges. Getting your coins sorted and converted into something you can use has never been easier or cheaper.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
About the Author
Sam is the founder of personal finance and self-improvement blog Smarter and Harder. His mission is to start exciting new conversations that empower people to improve their work, lives, and money, and have fun doing it. In all things, he strives to lead with positivity, understanding, and more than a bit of enthusiasm.