You dump the piggy bank into CoinStar, and when you cash in the receipt, you get coins back! That's irriating, as the point of this exercise was to empty the piggy bank. But, if you just cycle the change back through the machine, all those coins just vaporize into service fees after less than 80 passes. (That is, assuming they round by truncating in their favor; if they round fairly, it stabilizes at 5¢ without a fee.) So that's no good, either. The trick is to cash in the bank when you have exactly the right amount to come out with an even-numbered cash-out. But that requires counting it first, which is something of a catch 22.

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57 Responses:

  1. t0rque says:

    Or you get a gift card in the exact amount and someone else eats the service fee.

    Your choice.

    • pallmalls says:

      The grocery stores around here that have CoinStar machines will let you pay for your groceries with the CoinStar voucher, no service fee.

      And with the store loyalty card granting discounts on food and gasoline, I have no idea who technically ends up picking up the service fee. I will just continue to delude myself into thinking it's somehow a win.

  2. lafinjack says:

  3. Dennis says:

    I find it ironic that this post follows the one about the lottery tickets. Unless you choose from the limited selection of gift cards, the fee is a big rip-off.

    • jwz says:

      It's worth it to me because I hate carrying around a pocket full of bulky, jangly coins. Any coins that go home with me would otherwise go un-spent.

      • pavel_lishin says:

        I've been dumping my change into a big bucket for approximately eight years now. Every now and then I take a handful and toss it in the car for parking.

        One day, my kids are going to pay their college tuition in nickels, dimes and quarters.

        And the bursars will look at them and ask, "what the fuck are these rounded doodads?"

      • lafinjack says:

        How do you accumulate more than 99 cents in change to begin with? I use change to avoid change.

        • mister_borogove says:

          I tip to avoid hanging onto change.

        • flipping_hades says:

          Counting out exact change is moments of my life I will never get back. Fuck change. In the ear.

          coinstar + amazon = win.

          • tristan_crane says:

            you're the opposite of my mom. She prides herself on being an 'exact change' counter.

            Needless to say, I fall into the 'has a huge bag of random change under the bed I keep forgetting to take to a coinstar' category.

            • elusis says:

              I have an Altoids tin in my purse.

              When the Altoids tin is too full, I need to count out exact change. When the Altoids tin is too empty, I need to get some change (in case of an old-style parking meter, buying something that adds up to $6.02, etc.)

              When the Altoids tin gets lots of quarters in it, I offload some into the laundry bag.

          • lafinjack says:

            I don't like change either, but collecting it and gathering it up and waiting on the Coinstar machine to do its thing isn't saving you any moments.

            • flipping_hades says:

              but..but....those are precious moments I can be catching up on livetwitfacejournal in the checkout line instead!

          • netsharc says:

            I usually get the coins out of my pocket when queueing at the checkout at the grocery store, and count/sort them in my hands while I wait, yeah I'm a nerd that way. When the cashier says the amount due I calculate the most amount of coins I can get rid of and give them to him/her, e.g. 2x5c + 10c instead of a 20c (talking about Euro coins here) coin. Well, the sorting and that calculation kills brain cells, but what else am I going to use them for.

            I seem to recall in a Scandinavian country you just dump your coins into a machine at the cashier, it will then substract the amount you have to pay for your groceries (minus whatever bills you gave the human cashier) from them and gives you the rest of it back - not sure if it uses the logic of "give the customer the least number of coins" though. Ah, Scandinavian efficiency!

            • flipping_hades says:

              That's pretty cool!

            • lionsphil says:

              Yeah, I count them in the queue too, and deposit them in neat little stacks of five that are easy to verify. It's more interesting than just standing there.

              Given that cashiers tend to be oft running low on pennies, due to having to endlessly give change on stupid prices, they seem quite happy to be restocked this way.

              The machine sounds neat, if sufficiently fast.

  4. ekesobriquet says:

    I just use a coin sorting machine. Paid $20 and it's worked for a decade with only the change of batteries occasionally. Screw CoinSteal.

    • jwz says:

      See, that still sounds hugely less convenient than walking out of the grocery store with green leafy cash.

      • kiskadee says:

        The ones that cost $20 are the fanciest ones which are motorized with a spill-over slot at the top so you don't even have to count. It will count a pocketful of change for you, automatically putting it in paper wrappers, in approximately 5 seconds, including the time to power it on and off. Mine even came with free wrappers.

        So really you are just comparing time spent to deposit the wrapped coin stacks at the bank once in a while vs time spent at the grocery store at the CoinStar, and whether you pay the "fee" up front in the form of machine/batteries/wrappers, or at point-of-sale.

        • ammonoid says:

          Have you ever tried to deposit wrapped coins? I thought the Wells Fargo clerk was going to arrest me for fraud right there. Apparently only scam artists attempt this now days. Seriously, I've never made to feel so much like a criminal than when I tried to cash in my coins at a band.

          • ammonoid says:


            • kiskadee says:

              Actually... at the banks I've been to they smile and look grateful that the coins are pre-wrapped, and the transaction happens about as quickly as if I was depositing paper bills. Maybe it depends on the bank and the employees?

              • ammonoid says:

                Well, it was Wells Fargo at 4th and Market, probably ground zero for stupid human tricks. I mean,I got the farging anal probe for trying to deposit my own money into my own bank account.

    • elevatordown says:

      Yeah, and the banks will usually give you some coin tubes for free. Or you can get a bag of them for a buck at the dollar store.

      • ekesobriquet says:

        Oh yeah I just ask for rolls whenever I go in a bank and I know I'm running low.

      • pyrop says:

        I've seen a lot of places that won't accept rolled coins, because you could put anything in there and they wouldn't know until they opened it up, and they can't be arsed to count it on the spot and see if it's right. Then again, I grew up in an area where Canadian quarters would slip into the change supply and people wanted to avoid Gresham's Law.

      • kingfox says:

        There's even some banks (don't know if they're still around after the merger/failure/buyout madness recently) that invite you to bring in your change for them to count and deposit for no additional fee. Which seems like a good idea for the customer and the company.

    • romulusnr says:

      batteries? In my day our coin sorters didn't use batteries! Kids these days.

      • ekesobriquet says:

        I had what I thought of as a bank that was actually a manual coin sorter. I prefer the motorized "drain" style ones since they can take fistfuls of coins at a time.

  5. topazirradiated says:

    why not give the remaining few coins to the first homeless guy lying in wait for you outside the store? My bank on Market had a regular guy.

    • tjic says:

      One variety of "giving to the homeless" is just dumping the change on the sidewalk.

      If a homeless person picks it up, you've donated to the homeless.

      If a homeless person doesn't pick it up, it's the punchline to an old economics joke.

      • gytterberg says:

        Where I work we used to let the pennies from the tip jars build up over a month or two and then I'd load them in trashbag-lined cardboard boxes onto a dolly to cart them to the coinstar machine. It was usually 60-70 pounds/well over a hundred dollars.

        It would often happen that somebody had stored the pennies improperly and they'd start to dribble out. Sometimes it'd be a trail of pennies Hans and Gretel style but a few times a box would just fart out like $5 worth. On the walk back the big piles were never still there.

    • bdunbar says:

      Most grocery stores do not have homeless people hanging around outside.

      • gytterberg says:

        Really? Where do you live?

        • terpsichoros says:

          Obviously somewhere other than San Francisco, Berkeley, or the flats of Oakland. I've never seen homeless people panhandling at grocery stores in Alameda, or El Cerrito, or Daly City. Hell - even in Emeryville, there aren't usually beggars at grocery stores, except the licensed charity beggars.

          There are advantages to living in places where there aren't mentally unstable people hanging around places where you have to deal with money.

  6. bdunbar says:

    But that requires counting it first, which is something of a catch 22.

    Avon sells a penny bank that counts the coins as you slide them through the slot. The amount is displayed on the top.

    When the bank reaches the right amount, truck that sucker on down to the CoinStar.

    • mordant says:

      lol you beat me to it

    • biggeek says:

      Of course, you're presuming the Coinstar machine accepts all of your coins...Which it often does not.

      So there's still the possibility that you're still gonna end up with change.

      • bdunbar says:

        Of course, you're presuming the Coinstar machine accepts all of your coins...Which it often does not

        Hunh - I just learned something. Thanks.

    • cfs_calif says:

      Oh, I have something very similar to that. Don't banks have industrial/professional coin counters that they can dump your bucket load through then promptly deposit the amount into your account? Seems that banks actually do something useful.

  7. sachmet says:

    If I use coinstar instead of my bank, I'll keep $1.10 out of the change - 3 quarters, 2 dimes, 2 nickels, 5 pennies. Then, when the change part comes up, I'll put in the appropriate change to make a dollar.

    The tricky part is to do it one coin at a time, because of the service fee - every 11c you put in nets you a dime. So if it shows $0.72, you put in a quarter, then either the nickel or the pennies depending on what the amount rolled to.

  8. krick says:

    I never use Coinstar. It's a ripoff.

    There's a chain of banks in my area, TD Bank (nee Commerce Bank), that offers free coin changers in most branches. You don't even have to have an account there.

    I bet if you looked around, you'd find a branch in your neck of the woods that does it for free as well.

  9. jhf says:

    WRT Coinstar vs. rounding to the nearest nickel: Coinstar costs less. It takes at least 28 cash transactions to accumulate $1.09 in pennies. Round to the nearest nickel and you lose between zero and four cents on each transaction.

  10. nathanrsfba says:

    Did you know that 5 pennies are worth less than a nickel? Really. If you don't believe me, try putting both into a vending machine sometime.

  11. deadprogrammer says:

    I once took 29 1/2 lb of change to a Coinstar machine. As it turned out, my calculation was incorrect because pre-1982 pennies weight 3.1 grams instead of 2.5, so I have no idea if Coinstar undercounts. I also wonder if they have a machine with some image recognition AI that would sort out those rare year and error coins that collectors want.

  12. laenfinehack says:

    You walk in, hand them a jar full of change and say "I'd like to deposit this into my checking account." They run it through their machine, and every penny of it goes into your account. No change left over!

    • obreerbo says:

      Or, at Wells Fargo, you dump the change into a CoinStar-like machine in their lobby, which gives you a receipt. You take the receipt to the teller, and your account gets credited for that amount. Kind of a hybrid approach.

  13. pikuorguk says:

    I just tip it all onto the floor in front of the TV and count it up into piles and put the piles in money bags. If they're going to put adverts on TV, I'm going to claim that time back by doing something useful with my life. I'm lazy, but not so lazy I want to pay a machine to count my money for me.

    Plus it's fun filling the little swinging tray thing on your side of the bomb resistant glass at the bank with bags and watching the cashier try to get them all out again on her side.

    Swapping bags of change in shops is often a beneficial thing to do. Especially little corner shops and petrol stations on a Sunday when morons have bought their sunday paper with a high-denomination note fresh out the ATM, wiping out the shop's change. Nobody but the insane gets up at 8am on a Sunday and think "I want a newspaper".

  14. kaishaku says:

    Yeah, but the amount of coins you get back is less than a dollar. I just throw that back into the jar to "prime the pump" for next time.

  15. jcurious says:

    Some banks will let you coinstar for free if your a member...

    Otherwise, this site tries to find the best prices for coin exchange:

  16. rane500 says:

    I ceased carrying cash of any kind a long time ago. What is this chay-unge of which you speak?

  17. tadster says:

    they have coins up to $5 plus in the 90s I paid cash for absolutely everything (only used credit cards at major stores in Akihabara for major computer purchases) so I generated more coinage for the first few years.

    I finally found that grabbing a small handful of coins on the way out and paying it out appropriately meant I was losing coinage faster than I was acquiring it.

  18. strspn says:

    I just overtip bartenders. :D

    Google acquired reCaptcha, hell yeah!

    • shandrew says:

      Hell yeah? Now there's 100,000 more web sites that google can track users across. Huzzah!

      ObOnTopic: You can sometimes make money on Coinstar if you tell the bank folks that your coins didn't all go through or get rejected. They'll give you the contents of the internal stuckage area. Of course, profit is more likely if your bank offers a no-fee coinstar machine (Star One CU in the South Bay does).

  19. zojas says:

    believe it or not, each day when I have coins in my pockets, I neatly stack them, in stacks of 10, on a shelf in my closet. then when I get enough stacks of a certain type, I can put them in rolls, and take them to the bank. I spend about 20 seconds extra a day, adding new coins to the existing stacks, in exchange for never payng any of the coinstar service fees.

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