While some excellent modern products offering cash back have proliferated as a means of saving, there will always be the low-tech, tried and true method of dumping all of your loose change in a jar at the end of the day as a pretty easy way to save some dough. But what do you do when you’re ready to deposit your mountain of coins?
Are you ready to sit there for hours, packing your change into rollers, or would you rather feed it into a coin-counting machine, like Coinstar?
While Coinstar locations are convenient (located at 57,000 grocery and retail stores), there is a fee to count your change.
If you have a decent amount of change to unload, you need to make sure that you get the most bang for your buck.
Calculate Coinstar’s Fee
Coinstar’s fee is currently set at 11.9 percent of the value of the coins you’re exchanging.
That’s nearly $12 for every $100 in coins you feed to the machine.
You’d have to guess how much change you have accumulated to calculate the Coinstar fee.
If you think you have $500, for example, you’d need to hand over $55, leaving you with $445.
That’s a pretty big bite taken out right off the top, so why do people use these machines in the first place?
For one thing, they’re convenient since fewer banks are accepting coin deposits these days.
Even if your bank is willing to take your coins off your hands, they may charge you a fee for processing them. (Some banks ship coins off-site to be counted, which means part of the cost gets passed on to the customer.)
For another, not everyone has the time or patience to sit around and fumble with those paper wrappers for hours on end.
Still, there’s no denying that what Coinstar charges is pretty outrageous when you consider that they’re basically just switching out money you already have.
It’s kind of like paying $10,000 for a car that’s only worth $9,000 — the numbers just don’t add up.
The good news is that there are some alternatives for cutting down on the fee or sidestepping it all together when you’ve got a big chunk of change to cash in.
1. Convert Your Coins Into Gift Cards for Free
If you’ve uncovered a small fortune in loose change under your couch cushions, Coinstar now gives you the option of exchanging your coins for electronic gift card vouchers for some of the most popular brands around.
You just put your change in, select the gift card you want and the machine prints out a receipt with a unique code that you can use the same way you would a physical gift card.
The best part:
There’s no fee to convert your coins into electronic gift card vouchers.
Coinstar limits how much change you can swap out for a gift card so it pays to know what the limits are for each one.
We’ve highlighted five of the most popular picks, along with the minimum and maximum limits for each one:
Coinstar Gift cards Exchange Limits
|Type||Min. amount||Max. amount|
2. Scope Out a Bank or Credit Union
Some banks offer free coin counter machines in their branches. If you’re not a customer, you might have to pay a fee to have your coins counted.
The fee is usually a small percentage of the coins counted.
Most banks will also ask you to roll the coins yourself. You can request free coin wrappers from the teller.
After the coins are rolled, the bank will accept them for deposit.
Tip: The next time you’re at the grocery store or cruising the aisles of Walmart, for instance, head to the self-checkout area and use your change to pay for your purchases.
If you’re lucky enough to have a bank that offers a coin counting machine in its branches, you need to look at how the bank’s fee compares to the one Coinstar is charging to see which is the better deal.
3. Make a Donation
Coinstar also allows you to donate your loose change to charity, which is a great way to give back.
There is no fee to process coins that are donated to charities.
Plus, the donations are tax deductible — save the donation receipt for your tax records.
Partnered charities include:
- American Red Cross
- Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
- Feeding America
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
- The Humane Society of the United States
- United Way
- World Wildlife Fund
With Coinstar, the fact that it’s convenient and you can write it off on your taxes are two pluses worth considering.
4. Roll the Coins Yourself
Most banks provide free coin rollers to customers who want to deposit large amounts of change.
You’ll still have to put in a little work to wrap the coins yourself, but it does eliminate the costly alternative of using Coinstar.
Or, you might have others do it for you for a small tip — such as your kids!
The Bottom Line
When it comes to figuring out what to do with your change, be sure to factor in how long you think it would take you to roll those coins against the fees that Coinstar or your bank would charge.
After all, time is money!
Frustrated with your bank? Check out these new top banks that people are talking about:
Rebecca is a writer for MyBankTracker.com. She is an expert in consumer banking products, saving and money psychology. She has contributed to numerous online outlets, including U.S. News & World Report, and more.