Coinstar Fees: How To Avoid Them and Get the Most Back

ARLINGTON, VA, USA - OCTOBER 5, 2019: COINSTAR KIOSK at grocery store location.
Jer123 / Shutterstock.com

Are you wondering, “How much does Coinstar charge me for trading my coins for cash?” Coinstar’s fee is currently 11.9% of the value of the coins you’re exchanging, but you can avoid the fee by converting the funds to a gift card. The only issue with Coinstar’s eGift card is that there are only 21 participating retailers and restaurants that accept it.

Fortunately, there are other ways to avoid the Coinstar fee, or at the very least, reduce how much Coinstar takes.

Coinstar Fees

Coinstar’s processing fee is 11.9%. To avoid the processing fee, you’ll have to choose to receive a Coinstar eGift card instead of cash. Before you choose the gift card option, review the list of participating restaurants and retailers. They’re the only places you’ll be able to use your eGift card for purchases:

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  • AMC Theaters
  • Amazon
  • Applebee’s
  • Cabela’s
  • Chili’s Grill and Bar
  • Chuck E. Cheese
  • Domino’s
  • GameStop
  • Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta stores
  • Hotels.com
  • IHOP
  • iTunes
  • Lowe’s
  • Nike
  • Regal Theaters
  • Showtime
  • Sephora
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Starbucks
  • Steam
  • The Home Depot

Is There an Alternative to Coinstar?

Options are limited for Coinstar alternatives. Some banks have change counting machines, although fewer and fewer banks these days provide them.

Where Can I Cash In Coins for Free?

To avoid the Coinstar fee, there are two ways to cash your coins for free. First, you can sort and fill your own rolls of coins and take them to your bank to deposit or exchange for cash. Depending on how much change you have, the process might be time-consuming, but at least you’ll save money. Visit your local branch first and ask them for the paper coin sleeves. Most banks will provide them for free, or you can buy them at an office supply store.

The other option is to drive to one of the few banks that still have coin counting machines. It might be worth the trip if you have a lot of change to roll. Most banks provide the machine to customers free of charge, but some charge a fee to nonbank customers.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide if your time is well spent rolling coins or driving to a distant bank. Say you’re cashing in $10 worth of change. Using Coinstar to automate the process will cost you $1.19. With $100 worth of change to cash in, it will cost you $11.90. Compare that to the time and effort it will take you to sort your change and drop it into rolls or drive it to a bank with a counting machine.

What Bank Has a Coin Counting Machine?

Coin machines have been relegated to smaller regional banks and credit unions. The following banks have coin-counting machines:

  • American Eagle Credit Union: Free for customers, 10% for noncustomers
  • Apple River State Bank: Free for customers
  • First County Bank: Free for customers
  • Glenview State Bank: Free for customers
  • Hancock County Savings Bank: Free for customers
  • JBT Bank: Free for customers, 5% for noncustomers
  • Manasquan Bank: Free for customers
  • People’s United Bank: Free for customers
  • Shelby Savings Bank: Free for customers
  • State Bank of Dekalb: Free for customers
  • TCF Bank: Free for customers, 10% for noncustomers
  • Westerra Credit Union: Free for customers

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How Accurate Is Coinstar?

There have been issues in the past with the accuracy of coin-counting machines. In fact, machines that literally shortchanged customers were the reason why some banks, such as TD Bank, pulled their Penny Arcade coin machines.

Coinstar machines “undergo rigorous testing to ensure kiosks are highly accurate and reliable,” noted the company’s website. A team of trained technicians regularly services the kiosks. But anyone worried about getting ripped off by the coin counter should consider rolling the change manually to cash in or deposit at a bank. Alternatively, you can count change before taking it to a Coinstar kiosk to ensure the machine is counting the coins accurately.

How To Save For a Goal Using Small Change

Saving up your change can help you pay for a short-term goal such as a weekend getaway or a special item you’d like to buy. Every time you get change back after paying, put the coins in a jar or a bowl. Depending on how often you pay for goods and services with cash, you might have the funds you need soon enough. Take your coins to Coinstar or roll them to exchange them at your bank and use the funds to pay for your goal.

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About the Author

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a personal finance writer with degrees from American University in international business and journalism. Besides writing about personal finance, she writes about real estate, interior design and architecture. Her work has been featured in MSN, Brex, Freshome, MyMove, Emirates’ Open Skies magazine and more.

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