For the coin savers out there, who doesn’t love Coinstar? I know I do.
Did you know Coinstar charges a fee to change your coins for cash? The first time I learned about this fee, I wondered, “I am changing cash for cash, or coin for cash in this case, BUT why should I have to pay a fee for simply changing my coins for cash?” I am sure you are with me on that; after all, who likes giving away hard-earned money that we saved.
Luckily for you, I will explain to you exactly how to change your coins for cash at a Coinstar machine without paying a dime.
It’s is completely legal, and even Coinstar shows you how to do this on their site.
On this guide
- What is Coinstar?
- How Does Coinstar Work?
- How Much is the Coinstar Fee
- How to Avoid the Coinstar Fee
- How can I find Coinstar kiosks near me?
- Alternatives to Coinstar
- How to Use a Coinstar Cash Voucher
Coinstar is convenient and easy to use, but when you choose the “get Cash option you have to agree to pay a fee of 11.9%. That’s almost $12 for every $100 you change. If you have $500 in coins, the fee can amount to almost $60; that is one big chunk of change! Here is how you can avoid paying that fee.
What is Coinstar?
Coinstar machines turn coins you saved, which you cannot use, into cash or something you can use to buy things. Coinstar machines are intuitive, easy to use, and conveniently located in grocery stores like Walmart.
For those who don’t know what a Coinstar machine is, you’d have likely seen a coin-counter machine at your local grocer? Think of it as that tall green machine that counts coins at record speed while you keep dumping coins into it.
How Does Coinstar Work?
Coinstar machines allow you to exchange your loose coins and allow you the option to choose any of these three options.
Choose an eGift Card.
Regardless of which of the three options you choose, the machine takes you through the following process.
Step 1: When you arrive at the Coinstar machine, touch the display screen to start. Then, choose one of the payout options (Get cash, choose an e-gift card, or donate to charity).
Get CashTurn your coins into cash.
Choose an eGift carNo fee options available.
Donate to charityEvery penny counts
Step 2: If you select the “Get Cash” option, you will need to agree to the fee. However, if you choose the e-gift card option, you will be able to choose the retailer or restaurant you want the gift card for. Lastly, if you choose to donate to a charity, you can select the charity you want to donate to, and your donation will be tax-deductible.
Step 3: Pour your coins into the tray; then, push the coins into the slot helping the coins along as needed.
Step 4: Wait for the Coinstar machine to count the coins. What happens next will depend on the option you choose in step 1.
Step 5: If you choose to receive the cash, less the processing fee, print the voucher and take it to a cashier at the same store where the machine is located.
The Coinstar machine doesn’t give you cash for your coins; instead, it gives you a printed receipt you can take to a cashier at a grocery store, and they will give you the cash.
Additional things to consider
Before pouring your coins into the kiosk, make sure they are clean and free of debris; also, make sure you do not have rare coins that you’d want to keep. When you pour your coins into the kiosk, the machine will count each coin and show you a running total on the display screen as you keep dropping in more coins.
You do not need to sort the coins before using the kiosk because the Coinstar machine will count them for you. For coins that cannot be counted, the machine will return them to the return bin, so be sure to check the return bin for leftover coins.
Even though the interface is via touch screen and automated, it is not as fast as a cell phone screen; there is no significant delay but enough to notice it.
How Much is the Coinstar Fee?
When you select the get cash option, there is an 11.9% fee that would be deducted; most people when they go to exchange their coins, they go with one goal in their mind – to exchange their coins for cash, so they simply pay the 11.9%. That’s a good way to waste your coins.
The running total that is displayed on the screen I the total after the 11.9% fee has been deducted.
How to avoid paying the Coinstar fee?
Instead of pressing the “Get Cash” option, choose the “E-gift card option instead; If you choose the e-gift card option, you get to keep 100% of your money, so if you have $500 in coins, you will walk out with a $500 e-gift card instead of having to pay the $60 fee (11.9% * $500).
The voucher or gift card, does not expire and it is valid until it is redeemed. You can use the gift cards in well-known companies such as the below, to name a few.
Many people wonder, what’s the catch? There is no catch here, but be aware that different machines have different selections of e-gift cards, so if you want a specific retailer, go to the Coinstar website, search for the location you want, and look for the specific e-gift cards that the kiosk offers.
A common e-gift card many people prefer is Amazon. As an Amazon Prime member, that’s my favorite option every time I change my coins.
Why you should choose the e-gift card option?
The gift cards are as good as cash and there is no shortage of retailers and restaurants to choose from. In fact, not only is choosing the e-gift card option the best option for you but it is also the best option for Coinstar.
It’s the best option for you because you get a gift card for the full value of your coins; you don’t have to pay that hefty 11.9% fee, and you can redeem the full value when shopping either online or in-person at any of the noted stores.
It’s the best option for Coinstar because even though you get 100% the value of your coins with no fees charged to you, Coinstar will receive a commission from the store you shopped at.
That’s what I call a win-win transaction.
After all, Coinstar is a for-profit company, and running those kiosks cost money; the stores likely charge a fee to keep the kiosks there, and the electricity used to power the machines all add up to the cost.
So how does Coinstar make money?
I must admit, the first time I exchanged my coins without having to pay the fee, I wondered how Coinstar could afford to run those machines without charging anything.
We know that when you choose the cash option, Coinstar will charge a fee of 11.9%, so that tells us when you choose the gift card option, retail stores would pay at least 11.9% to Coinstar but likely a lot more.
It’s better to have the retail store pay the fee than you isn’t it?
How to find a Coinstar kiosk near me?
You can find a Coinstar kiosk by merely googling “Nearby Coinstar location” or by visiting the Coinstar locator at https://www.coinstar.com/findakiosk; type your city, press find, and VOILA! You will get a listing of all nearby Coinstar locations listed by proximity to you.
Alternatives to Coinstar
Some banks or credit unions offer free coin counting machines in their branches, but you need to be their customer to avoid being charged a fee.
Also, the machines sometimes break down and may not accurately count the coins; sadly, this has led banks such as TD bank to stop providing coin counting machines at their branches; thus, it is now rare to find local banks or credit unions that offer coin-counting service.
A good alternative is to deposit the coins directly with the teller.
Some banks will accept the coins to deposit into your bank account, but you will have to roll the coins in wrappers yourself, which is a major disadvantage because it’s time-consuming to count the coins, especially if you have a large quantity.
If you decide to roll the coins yourself, ask your bank for a paper roll; they may give it to you for free, or you can buy them inexpensively at the dollar store.
How to use a Coinstar E-gift card
With choices for retailers like Amazon, Home Depot, and Starbucks, you will have plenty of opportunities to redeem the value of your e-gift card; however, keep in mind that the gift card voucher is only valuable if you actually use it.
Here is a summary of the most common retailers you can choose from and the minimum and maximum amount you can get an e-gift card for.
Earlier I said Coinstar gets a commission from retailers providing e-gift cards; that commission is even better than the 11.9% fee you pay when you select the “Get Cash” option.
Now, why would retailers pay Coinstar a commission if those retailers will be footing the bill with having to sell a product while getting no cash when you redeem your gift card?
Retailers love gift cards because someone is pre-paying to buy a product in the future. This is the same as when your friend gives you a $100 gift card they bought at the store. While the store got the cold-hard cash up-front, you redeem your purchase later on.
Some people forget to redeem their gift cards, which is why retailers love to sell gift cards.
What if you want to donate the value of your coins?
The other no-fee option from Coinstar is to “Donate to Charity.” When you choose that option, you will need to select the specific charity organization you want to donate to from the selection. You will receive a receipt, and your donation will be tax-deductible, so hold on to that receipt.
The bottom line
Benjamin Franklin popularized the expression “A penny saved is a penny earned,” but as we all now know, he was wrong because a penny saved is worth more than a penny earned when we consider taxes.
Putting spare change in a jar or a piggy bank is a habit a grew up with and continue to enjoy, especially when several family members try to estimate how much cash value is in those piggy banks or jars. So at least for me, having a machine take 11.9% of my saved coins is not an option.
Most banks and credit unions won’t accept coin deposits unless you roll the coins, which can be very time-consuming, even if you get your kids to count the coins.
My advice to you is instead of paying the 11.9% fee Coinstar charges to exchange your coins for cash, why not pass on that cost to a retailer?
You do this by choosing the e-gift card option and then use the gift card to shop for whatever you want at the retailer you choose.