Have you ever brought a jar of change to one of those coin-counting machines to cash it in? It’s a great way to turn pocket change into hard cash, but you typically have to pay a fee for the service. And that fee can eat into your haul big time!
Fortunately, there are alternatives out there if you don’t want to fool around with counting and wrapping the coins yourself…
Many credit unions offer a free Coinstar alternative for members
Recently, my children saved up a bunch of coins. I promised them we’d take the jar and cash it in and I made good on that promise this week.
My son guessed the whole jar would add up to $56.33. I guessed it would be somewhere in the $39 range, and my daughter guessed it would be $100.
Whatever it was, I knew we wanted the cash — not a gift card with the value of our money loaded on it. I mention that option because it comes with a special consideration that we’ll discuss in a moment.
But for now, we had to track down a coin-counting machine. Our first stop? The grocery store.
Check the grocery store
My first thought was to check my local grocery store because I knew they had what looked at a quick glance to be a Coinstar alternative.
But I was surprised to find their machine would take 9% of what the kids had saved. So that was a no-go for us.
Actually, paying 9% is like getting ripped off at a discount when you consider that Coinstar says you’ll pay an 11.99% fee to change your coins into cash!
But in reality, the fees do vary by retailer. So our search for any Coinstar alternative that didn’t beat us over the head with fees was still on.
(Editor’s note: Most Coinstar machines also offer the option to donate your money to charity. That involves a lesser fee of 7.5%.)
Look at your credit union
After the grocery store, my next thought was to check the credit union down the street. I knew they had a machine, too.
In keeping with the credit union ethos of putting the customer first, I was pleased to see they would count the coins for free as a courtesy to members. Meanwhile, non-members would be subjected to a 10% fee. Ouch!
Fortunately, we are members of the credit union. So we started the process of loading our coins into the machine…
The loading and counting process took about five minutes in total. That’s a lot shorter than the five months it took my kids to save all of those coins!
After the machine spit out the rejects — which included a couple of half-eaten pennies and no less than four Chuck E. Cheese’s token — we finally had a tally.
We were very happy with our haul — $56.14 — which was remarkably close to my son’s guess at the start of our coin-counting odyssey.
So we took the cash and now we’re going to invest it with one of our favorite low-cost investment services.
How to avoid fees even when you’re at a Coinstar machine
I mentioned earlier that you can take your change and turn it into money that can be used as a specific retailer or restaurant.
The nice thing about this option is that Coinstar charges no fee to give you your cash value as an eGift card.
In fact, Coinstar partners with a variety of popular retailers and restaurants to make this a good option for some people who don’t want cold, hard cash.
So this is another possible way to get around the fees!
3 things a Coinstar machine does that may surprise you
Even though this article is about finding Coinstar alternatives, there are some compelling reasons why you may want to visit a Coinstar kiosk — and they have nothing to do with cashing in your coins!
Here are three of the latest initiatives rolling out at a kiosk near you:
1. You can add cash to your Amazon Balance at a kiosk
Some Coinstar machines will now accept cash deposits that go directly to your Amazon Balance. This will be helpful for people accustomed to shopping on Amazon without a debit or credit card on file.
There’s no fee to add cash to your Amazon Balance at a Coinstar kiosk, and you only need the phone number associated with your Amazon account to get started.
2. Get printable coupons for your grocery shopping
Coinstar has partnered with Provision 3D Media to offer printable coupons on popular supermarket items right at their kiosks in your favorite grocery store.
This program is still in its early stages, but it could be a major way to save money! More details here.
3. Bill pay is coming to your local Coinstar kiosk
By the end of 2018, you’ll be able to pay bills like your utilities, phone, cable, insurance, car loans and more using cash at up to 7,000 Coinstar kiosks. More info here.