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Are coin-counting machines a ripoff?

Posted by Garick Giroir on March 13, 2020


You've likely seen a count-counting machine at the grocery store or near the sliding doors at Wal-Mart. They're the big green kiosks that take your loose coins and spits them out as crisp bills. Convenient? Sure. But is it worth the cost?

Coin exchange kiosks profit mostly from people who don't feel like sorting their coins into paper sleeves. So they dump their change and the machine gives them a slip that they can give to a store clerk for money. The store then takes a percentage of that money to offset the cost of running the machine.

So what's the problem?

Well, it's the fees.

Coin-counting machines pocket 12 cents of every dollar you put in. So if you have $200 worth of coins, the coin kiosk is going to keep around $24 of that. And since many kiosk users don't count their coins ahead of time, many don't realize how much money they just threw away.

Luckily, there other coin exchange alternatives that won't gouge your wallet.

1. Cash in for a gift card

The coin-counting service Coinstar waives fees if users exchange coins for electronic gift cards to partner brands like Amazon, AMC and iTunes. It may not help you pay rent, but at least it's something.

Be aware that each gift card has its own minimum and maximum amount for how much change you can swap, so do your research ahead of time. 

2. Go to a credit union

While banks may require you to roll the coins yourself, many credit unions have coin counting machines located in their branches, and the exchange rate is significantly cheaper. Louisiana FCU offers coin-to-cash exchange to all members for 10% LESS than coin kiosks at the supermarket. Even better, youth members can cash in their piggy banks for free. Even non-members can save 4% by exchanging their coins at the credit union.

Coin exchange credit union-1

Many credit unions have a coin-sorting machine in their branch and will exchange coins for cash at a significantly lower price.


3. Wrap it yourself

While this may be the most time-consuming option, it's also the cheapest. You can exchange rolled coins at any financial institution for no fee, and all that's required is a bag of coin wrappers, a pair of hands and a little free time. You can easily find a pack of 30+ wrappers for $1 at the dollar store. If you have kids at home, make it a group activity. If you'd rather skip the counting process altogether, Amazon offers coin-sorting machines for about $30. Sure, that's more than the coin kiosk will charge you, but at least it's a one-time purchase. 

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