Turn your loose change into lattes (or iTunes tunes, or Amazon purchases) for free

I've always passed up the Coinstar change machines in the grocery store; I don't feel like paying for the privilege of having to lug all my loose change with me (approximately nine cents on the dollar — almost 10 cents in Canada — to turn coins into a voucher redeemable for cash or purchases). I've got a perfectly good coin sorter at home which provides hours of fun for my kids, and motivates them to stash coins in their piggy banks. The only bummer: I have to set foot inside my bank to deposit the money. I hate bank lines almost as much as I hate ATM fees, so this poses a bit of a problem.

Coinstar is now offering free counting in exchange for gift cards to selected merchants, including iTunes, Starbucks, and Amazon.com. The bad news: this discourages saving. The good news: no bank lines. Hmmm. Could work well for gifts; I could see my son dumping his hard-earned change into the machine to buy his daddy a birthday present of five or ten iTunes downloads, for example.

Any Coinstar users wish to throw in their two cents on the topic? (And, forgive me for saying so, but that's the best pun I've ever come up with.)

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  1. Lewis says

    Unfortunately not all coinstar machines have this ability yet. You can go to the coinstar site and use their locator to find one. Look for one that has the “eCertificate” service.

  2. cooper says

    Hi Asha,

    This is kind of related. Last year I did a fundraiser for my kids’ school and we asked all the families in the school to bring in their loose change for a month (turns out each of us in this country are sitting on at least $100 in unused change at this very minute, and we each generate at least $5-10 in unused change every week. adds up.) We were going to use coinstar to count the collection(they have a deal for non-profits)but we ended up going with a local bank instead. Anyway, after one month we collected over $10,000. The school now has a climbing wall and an outdoor classroom. Pretty darn cool, and, it was money people did not even miss.

  3. Deborah says

    I’ve used Coinstar a few times, and to me it’s worth it to pay a fee for the convenience of cashing in my change at the grocery store, where I’m going anyway. My daughter helps me dump in the change (which we bring in a couple of ziploc bags) and when I go to the register and save money on my groceries that day, it feels worth it.

  4. buck says

    I was not that thrilled with Coinstar’s take of 10 percent (or so), but I needed to get rid of a fair amount of change. What I did was rifle through what I had, took out all the quarters, and put the rest in the Coinstar. This left me with the easily spendable change that could be used in carwashes, laundromats and vending machines. I had about $50 in quarters, which saved me almost $5.

  5. maddie says

    I think this is a great idea. I am an Amazon addict and buy way too many books. This will kill two birds with one stone for me! I am happy to be part of an industry trade rather than loose 9 cents on the dollar outright. I know it’s mostly psychological, but I will gladly play the game. Thanks

  6. joe says

    Coinstar also doesn’t charge a service fee if you donate your change to charity. Seems like donating to charity would be a great lesson to teach your son at the Coinstar machine!

  7. meghan says

    No fair… I was going to list this exact idea for Works for Me Wednesday today! It’s the ultimate clutter solution, turning piles of change into digital music. Since my husband is both the change-hoarder and the ultimate music lover, it’s really easy to get him on board. iTunes is loaded with kid’s music, classical, jazz, and other things that are great for the whole family, too.

  8. Tracy Lee says

    Wells Fargo banks in Minnesota offer free coin counting machines to their members/customers (you have to have an account with them). My only problem with it is after you count your coins you get a receipt that you have to take up to the teller to get the cash.

  9. Adam says

    My girlfriend and I did this a few weeks ago when she was moving from her old apt. to her new apt.

    2 travel coffee cups worth of change.

    The fact that they had the gift certificates was a surprise bonus and she chose one from Amazon to purchase things for the new apartment.

    The bigger surprise? That it was over $70 worth of change!

    I’m sure I’ll be taking my daughter to do the same when her piggy bank gets full.

  10. Deb says

    We found over $350 in my boyfriend’s bedroom before he moved out of his parents’ house.

    It should be noted that, at the bottom of many coin-counting machines, there is an overflow bucket. Sometimes coins fall down; sometimes there is a changeover in rolls; a -lot- of cash gets lost in the counting process. Guess who gets to keep all of that?

    Get a counting machine (for sorting) and some cheap plastic rolls. They are a lot easier to use than the paper ones from years ago.

  11. Steph says

    I’m not sure how many there are around the country, but Navy Federal Credit Union has several locations with this same thing. You do have to have an account with them. the money goes straight into which ever account you choose. If you want the dollar bills, walk over to the teller or the atm.

  12. thriftymom says

    This how we pay for our kids textbooks. Save up all your loose change, turn it into an Amazon gift card and buy used texts. Some semesters we pay as little as $150 for books that would be $900 at school.

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