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Coin Counting Machines: How to Get Free Coin Counting

Published 4/14/08 (Modified 6/17/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

I have two small piggy banks that sit atop my office desk at home. One is a coin bank in the shape of a dog, and the other is shaped like a light blue colored pig that I received as a free giveaway when I opened a new Citibank business checking account not too long ago. These two little guys are the gatekeepers to the spare change that I occasionally bring back in my pockets. Everytime I come home with loose coins, I usually drop them into my piggy banks. Since I use reward credit cards for the vast majority of my purchases, I don't usually bring home too many bits of spare change. However, over a period of months and a year, even the occasional chipping in can turn a small stash into a tidy sum.

How To Handle Quarters, Dimes, Nickels, and Pennies

Before Coinstar came along with their green coin sorting kiosk machines, I had no convenient way of getting rid of my spare change, especially the nickels, dimes, and pennies. Quarters I could always keep around to use for coin operated laundry washers and dryers, snack vending machines, and leave a few in my car for parking meters and toll booths. But nickels and pennies are pretty much useless since their small denominational value require many more of them to be carried around to be worth anything. Initially I tried hauling my jar of pennies, nickels, and dimes to my local bank branch to have them exchanged for paper bills. However, the bank teller usually responded by handing me a few empty orange paper coin rolls, instructing me to roll the spare coins up myself before handing them over. The process was tedious and inconvenient, and eventually I gave that method up.

Coinstar Coin Counting Machines At Your Local Supermarket Are Free If You Redeem For Gift Cards Instead Of Cash

When Coinstar came along and started placing their coin sorting machines at various supermarket locations, I was delighted to finally have a hassle free way of getting rid of my useless spare change. All you had to do was pour your loose change into a metal sorting compartment and wait for the machine to sort through your deposit. After a few noisy minutes of coins rattling and falling into the hopper, your contribution would be automatically tallied up. A paper receipt would pop out, listing your total balance for you to redeem at the checkout register. The whole process was easy, effortless, and rather entertaining, in a Las Vegas casino slot machine sort of way. Like driving my vehicle through a car wash, watching the digital coin counter tick away the numbers up the money count was always amusing to me (but then I'm an easily amused person). In the spirit of slot machines, I've always thought the green Coin Star machines would be able to attract more customers if they'd only install more bells and whistles that would light up while the coins were being counted.

The biggest drawback of using Coinstar and the myriad of imitation coin sorting kiosk services has always been the service fee that the machines usually charged and deducted from your total tally. Prices vary among different services, but Coinstar charges a fee of exactly 8.9%. That's a pretty cumbersome fee deterrent for those who need this sort of service.

The good part is that Coinstar now offers a better way to redeem your coins for free. To get hassle free coin counting, all you have to do now is select the gift card payment option instead of cash. The gift card option is available for a variety of popular retailers including Amazon.com (my favorite choice), iTunes, Starbucks, Circuit City, J.C. Penny, Linens and Things, Pier 1, Borders, AMC, Old Navy, and more. If you choose the gift card redemption method, Coin Star will waive the machine transaction charge and you'll get the service for free.

Some Banks Now Have Free Coin Sorting Kiosks For Customers and Non Customers Alike To Use

One of the local banks in my area has been offering free coin machines for some time now. At Chevy Chase Bank, a regional bank with a heavy presence in the Washington DC metro area of Maryland and Virginia, they offer complimentary Change Express coin machines for customers and non customers alike to use. There is no fee to use the coin counters, but you'll have to wait in line for a bank teller to redeem your money.

For those who live in New Jersey and the surrounding states, Commerce Bank (Commerce Bankcorp was recently acquired by TD Bank), also offers its own free coin machine called Penny Arcade, available to both customers and non customers. This nice perk seems like a growing trend among local banks and credit unions as more and more of them do away with the 3% or more coin machine fees of the past.

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