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Use Coinstar for Free

Written by Nickel - 24 Comments

I’ve never been one to pay for things that I can easily do myself, so I’ve always rolled my own spare change rather than cashing it in at a Coinstar machine. But according to a commercial that I saw the other day, you can now have Coinstar count your change without the service fee, which runs close to 10%. There is, however, a catch… You have to take your cash in the form of an Amazon.com gift certificate. Actually, after a bit of digging, I discovered that you can avoid the coin-counting fee by opting for gift cards from a number of other merchants, as well, including Borders, Hollywood Video, Linens ‘n Things, Pier 1 Imports, and Starbucks. So if you’re too lazy to count your own coins, and too cheap to pay a fee, consider getting a gift card from a Coinstar machine.

Published on December 19th, 2005 - 24 Comments
Filed under: Miscellany

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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24 Responses to “Use Coinstar for Free”

  1. 1
    Blaine Moore Says:

    I’m too lazy to count my change and too cheap for the coinstar. My method for using change used to be to drop it in the tolls (surprisingly, they do take pennies…) but now I have ez-pass so I can’t do that. Instead, I put it in a fire engine piggy bank or in my truck’s change holder, and then I spend it when I know I’m going somewhere that will use it. I buy egg sandwiches on a regular basis that are $2.45, so I almost always make sure I bring in 45 cents with some assortment of change (preferably not quarters as those are better used for laundry…)

  2. 2
    jim Says:

    A lot of banks will count change for free, check if your local bank will do it. I know my girlfriend’s bank, SunTrust, does it.

  3. 3
    mbhunter Says:

    My credit union does this for free. Just bring in a jar of coins and they dump it in.

  4. 4
    Chase Says:

    Yep, my bank has their own Coinstar machine for you to use. (TCF)

  5. 5
    Jeremy Says:

    In the DC-metro area the Chevy Chase banks have Coinstar machines that are free for everyone (account holders and non account holders.) Of course, after you dump your change you have to take the receipt and wait in line to see a teller.

  6. 6
    Flexo Says:

    I take my rolled-up coins to my bank branch (very twentieth century) … they place them in special bins which supposedly measure the size to determine if I counted correctly, and they deposit the cash into my checking account. No fees.

  7. 7
    FMF Says:

    I remember reading that these machines often mis-count the coins — so you usually pay their feee PLUS lose some in the “counting”. So even if the fee is now cut, you may not get 100% based on how accurate the counters are.

  8. 8
    jim Says:

    I always wonder about coin counting machines, esp. at casinos and stuff, you can make big bucks missing one coin out of a thousand and 99% of the time the consumer would have no idea.

  9. 9
    Neo Says:

    I used to save the quraters for when I had to do laundry but that was years ago!

    I make a point of saving my cions until the jar is full. That typically means I have a hundred dollars or so ready to be cashed. Then we just do the counting and rolling while watching a little TV. Not too bad. On my recent visit to my bank to deposit the coins, it took them almost two weeks for the deposit to finally clear. Not sure what was up with that.


  10. 10
    D Says:

    I roll my own (coins) except for pennies. I’ve been dumping those in the coinstar, but I’m going to check with my credit union to see if they’ll do it for free. Thanks to above commenters for the info.

  11. 11
    FMF Says:

    We actually keep our change so when our kids get dollars as gifts, we can convert the money to change. Then they can more easily divide up their funds into their 3 piggy banks (giving, spending, savings).

  12. 12
    David Smith Says:

    I actually used this system to help with our Christmas shopping for this year. Our local credit union offers the service for free if you take coins to the teller, but this is hard to do during working hours. Going to the local grocery store at 8:00 pm at night was more convenient. With the Amazon.com gift card, it counts the money, dials up a modem, and then generates a receipt. I was able to go home and redeem that certificate immediately.

  13. 13
    Blaine Moore Says:

    Well, that works out conveniantly well, David.

  14. 14
    FMF Says:

    David — How accurate do you think the counter was? Any idea?

  15. 15
    Frugal Momma Says:

    Hey this was a part of my Christmas money. I did in in November and got an Amazon gift certificate for the kids shopping.

  16. 16
    David Smith Says:

    If the machine was intentionally cheating me, I didn’t notice or would never have noticed. This sounds to me like an opportunity for a SCIENCE EXPERIMENT!

    i.e., the only way to know for sure is to precount your change and/or take the same quantities to multiple machines.

  17. 17
    FMF Says:

    I think someone’s done that test before (I recall reading it). Google it and see what you come up with.

  18. 18
    Eric Says:

    That’s good news. I have a couple thousand dollars worth in change that I’ve been saving up over the past few years. My Bank won’t count it for free and I don’t want to pay 10% of it to coinstar or spend the time rolling it myself.

  19. 19
    Ryan Says:

    This article reports an unscientific study on the accuracy of CoinStar machines. CoinStar wasn’t perfect (2/5 of its trials experienced mishaps) but neither was it biased either way (one trial lost a couple coins, the other mysteriously added some loose change) so there seems little to be worried about

  20. 20
    Tina Says:

    I’ve used the Coinstar machine twice at my grocery store. It miscounted the coins both times. To be sure, I would slide a few coins in at a time in the amount of .30. The machine would take a few quarters, dimes, pennies here and there but not add it to my total. I didn’t go back.

  21. 21
    richard Says:

    heh heh.
    Ok, I shall give out my trick…
    Only pennies go in the JAR – then then to COINSTAR.
    Nickels n Dimes: Put these in MOST vending machines – and then press the coin return. viola. The machined returns in quarters!!
    Quarter i use for tolls, laundry, pool machines in bars, casinos, etc etc

  22. 22
    DB Says:

    Do not trust a Coinstar coin counting machine. You can easily test it yourself but almost every time it will short you 10 cents or more. Now add it up as they count more coins than the US Mint. When you ask a store about it they will tell you they don’t get complaints. Well of course, how many people count their coins BEFORE going to a coin counting machine? They are able to double their profits. Now, look at coinstars’ debt. In the millions upon millions. Would you want someone in huge debt counting your money when they have virtually no accountability? Yes, Weights and Measures check the machines but want to bet how fast those machines lose their calibration and then short the customer?

    Best thing is to avoid that machine and count it your self. Get some plastic tubes and mark them in 10 coin or some other increment. Makes it simple.

    So while some may think coinstar is making things easily, let me take 5-10% of your money PLUS a counting fee and I too will make it easy for you.

  23. 23
    Debbie Says:

    I can’t answer specifically about the CoinStar machines, but I do know that the Cummins coin machines — found at Publix and such — are 99.95% accurate. That is a pretty good count!

  24. 24
    anonymous Says:

    I used a Coinstar machine within a local grocery store to redeem $175 worth of coins to a Amazon.com eCertificate. The gift code that was printed on the receipt did not work on Amazon.com. After numerous phone calls to both Coinstar and Amazon.com customer service help lines, it was determined that the gift card code was printed correctly and valid, but expired due from long disuse in the machine.

    Unfortunately, neither company will claim responsibility for this problem.

    Although, in my opinion, my change is still in the Coinstar machine at the end of the day and they need to issue me a valid gift card code.

    Overall, Amazon.com customer service treated me like a fellow human being, with courtesy and respect. The Coinstar customer service was rude, unkind, and unsympathetic to my problem.

    I will choose not to use Coinstar again, but may continue to use Amazon.com in the future.

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