How to Find Free Coin Counting & Avoid Coinstar’s Crazy 11.9% Fee

When I’m buying something, I tend to use a credit card. It’s easier to keep track of expenses when you put it on a card and it’s often faster too.

But there are those times when cash is preferable. I try to use cash at smaller stores, to give them a break on the merchant fees, and at places when cash might be faster, like farmer’s markets and festivals. When you use cash, you tend to get a few coins back. I usually stick them in my pocket and then toss them in a box when I get home.

Eventually, that box gets full. And I need to turn it into something useful. The quarters usually go into the car, which for some reason I think needs quarters even though we have EZPass and I probably haven’t fed a parking meter in over a decade. Actually, the quarters usually go to the fire department holding boots at intersections or a sports team looking to raise money.

When it gets really really really full, I go to Coinstar.

Do you know how much Coinstar charges you to count coins?

11.9%!

ELEVEN POINT NINE PERCENT!!!

That’s insane!

Here are some cheaper ways to get your coins counted:

Get Your Kids to Count Them!

Ha! This tip is like those clickbait articles that tell you there’s one secret way to do something and it turns out the secret is some BS answer.

Kids are expensive and while Coinstar will charge you 11.9%, my son will do it for free!

Take that Coinstar!

(Disclaimer: Kids are expensive so don’t go having kids so you can get cheaper coin-counting)

Finding Banks with Free Coin Counting

Banks used to offer free coin counting way way way back in the day.

TD Bank used to have a “Penny Arcade” where you’d dump in the coins and they would count them for you. Then there were questions of the counting accuracy, TD Bank got sued, and they “reassessed” their offering. Supposedly, if you counted $300 in coins (that’s a TON of coins!), it could be off by as little as a nickel to as much as $43.10!

Sadly, coin counting machines aren’t that accurate and a lot of banks don’t want to deal with that headache… especially since fewer and fewer people are counting coins.

Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Capital One, TD Bank, PNC Bank, BB&T, and many other national banks do not offer coin counting. 🙁

The last major bank that offered free coin counting was BB&T but they took down their machines last year. Nowadays, you have to look for a smaller local bank or credit union – that’s simply too difficult for us to maintain a list.

That said, if you wrap the coins in those coin wrappers, banks will accept them as long as you don’t bring an “unreasonable” amount.

Ways to Use Coinstar for Free

Coinstar will charge you that absurd 11.9% fee if you want the money back in bills (and coins).

There are other ways to get paid that do not incur that sizable fee.

Convert to an Amazon Gift Card

Coinstar will give you your funds as an Amazon gift card for no fee. They used to offer all kinds of gift cards, from movie theaters to Home Depot, but now it’s just Amazon.com.

The only rule is that the eGift Card has a minimum of $5 and a maximum of $1,000. By the way, if you have $1,000 in change, you’re insane.

The eGift card prints like a regular coin receipt except there’s the gift card number on it. You can apply it to your account at Amazon.com.

Donate it

You can donate all of your coins to one of the charities Coinstar has partnered with:

  • American Red Cross
  • Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
  • Feeding America
  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • The Humane Society of the United States
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • United Way
  • World Wildlife Fund

For Laughs: Check the Coinstar for mistakes

Remember how TD Bank was allegedly not great at counting coins? It’s because counting coins is hard. Coins get stuck, coins get missed, and sometimes they misclassified as non-coins. When you use a Coinstar, regular coins fall through the cracks. Or get stuck in the cracks.

So one enterprising gentlemen started checking Coinstars for errors… he goes to random Coinstar machines and checks them for missed coins, stuck coins, and other hangups.

When Coinstar counts change, sometimes it doesn’t read a coin right and it spits it down at the bottom. With all the noise of counting, a person dumping coins may miss the loud clang when a coin falls through. So you can check the coin collection at the bottom to see if one fell through!

Coins can get stuck inside the machine at various points due to dumb (un)luck.

You won’t get rich doing this but I’m going to start sending my kids over to the machine while we check out because they’ll be far more jazzed about finding a nickel than I will be.

Free entertainment!

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

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  1. Byron says

    Here’s a trick for you. The self check machines at most Walmarts will accept that change. Sure, we’re all familiar with the coin slot, but most don’t realize that if you lift up the piece of plastic the slot is cut into — there’s a coin chute underneath. This is how the associates load change into the machine in the first place.

    1) scan your items.
    2) dump your change in that chute and let it count.
    3A) insert sufficient paper currency to cover the remaining balance (if any.)
    —— OR ——
    3B) select the “Pay Another Way” button, then insert your credit/charge card to pay the remainder.
    —— OR ——
    3C) select the ‘Cancel Transaction” option. The machine will shoot out the whole dollar value of your change in paper currency, and the partial dollar in coin.

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