Over my recent winter break I was confronted with a unique situation:
Even though I was on a budget, I wanted some Chick Fil A!
I opened my Chick Fil A app and I had a free sandwich that was set to expire in less than eight days.
Call it extremely efficient sensory marketing, but I knew that once I got to Chik-Fil-A I was going to be tempted by the aroma of their waffle fries dipped in their Chick-Fil-A sauce.
Here was my dilemma – I had about $5 in coins that I could use.
And with a previous expierence backing up the drive-thru line using coins, I had to figure out the best option:
- Roll $5 worth of coins, go to the bank and cash out
- Back up the drive-thru line (again)
- Get on my phone and search for a Coinstar near me
Since I was determined to get my waffle fries, I went with option #3 – I found a Coinstar near me in a local Walmart! Here is how you can too!
How to quickly find a Coinstar near you!
What you'll learn from this article:
- How to find Coinstar locations near you, alternatives to simply searching “Coinstar near me”
- Learn about the Coinstar fees and options to avoid them
- Figure out alternate options for your coins other than Coinstar, like rolling your coins or using coin counters
The quickest way to find a Coinstar near you is to simply type in these three words in a Google Search:
coinstar near me
In about .06 seconds you will have the locations of all the Coinstars near you. The Coinstar Kiosks are typically found within mega shopping stores like Walmart, inside of grocery stores and pharmacies.
A second option is to use your Google Maps app and simply type in “Coinstar.”
This option should generate local Coinstar locations in your area for you to quickly visit and it is great if you're driving around already.
However, while Google does a great job maintaining listings, some Coinstar kiosks may no longer exist at a specific location so using the Coinstar kiosk finder tool is most likely your best option:
Coinstar Kiosk Finder Steps:
- Use this Coinstar Kiosk Finder Link
- Type in your city, address, or zip code
- Select the closest Coinstar near you
- Drive there and exchange your coins for cash or gift cards
Typically, aside from searching for Coinstar kiosk locations near you, there are numerous stores that often have Coinstar kiosks inside. A list of stores that typically have Coinstars includes:
- Harris Teeter
- Food Lion
Once you find a Coinstar near you, the next step is to exchange your spare change for cash! Here is a breakdown of how Coinstar – the ultimate coin sorting and count counting kiosk – works!
[Don’t have spare change anymore? Consider using Spare Change Apps!]
Some people might also search for “Coin exchange machines near me,” however, Coinstar seems to run the roost when it comes to couting your coins.
We will touch on this later, but banks use to offer coin counting services, however, many have gone away from that. Now that you know how to find a Coinstar (which is simple), you might be wondering how Coinstar works including the fees.
First, what is & how does Coinstar work?
Now if you’re someone who is currently asking yourself “What is Coinstar?” I will give you some grace for living under a rock for the last twenty years.
A national company called Outerwall Inc. based in Bellevue, Washington owns Coinstar and operates kiosks all around the United States since 1991.
Like the lottery scratch-off and Redbox kiosks at the grocery stores you might frequent, Coinstar is a coin-counting kiosk service that allows you to exchange your spare change for the following:
- Cash (Fee associated)
- E-gift cards such as Amazon, Southwest or IHop,
- Or, you can donate the money to a charity.
Instead of counting coins, putting them rollers, driving to your bank and exchanging them for cash (just typing that was a bit tedious), you instead empty your jar into the Coinstar kiosk tray and let Coinstar count your coins for you.
How to use a Coinstar Kiosk:
- Step 1: Using the touch screen, decide whether you will redeem your coins for cash at a register, a gift card (FREE) or donate the money to charity.
- Step 2: Simply empty all of your coins into the tray and lift the tray to feed the coin counter
- Step 3: Watch your money add up and think of all the time you saved!
Once you have completed this process you will have your voucher, gift card or charity donation.
Like most services rendered at a kiosk, Coinstar does charge a fee for their services (But there are ways around that I share below!).
Coinstar Fee: How much does it cost to use Coinstar?
Coinstar charges a flat fee of 11.9% for using their change counting services. This is pretty standard but at times may vary.
It has been years since I used a Coinstar kiosk but like most services, their fees have increased over time, however, in this case, you’re paying for convenience.
For example, I recently rolled coins and exchanged them at my bank and the entire process took over an hour after commuting to the bank. That being said depending on who you are, 11.9% (call it 12) might be steep for you.
Here is what the 11.9% Coinstar fee looks like:
- If you had $10 worth of coins, about $1.20 of it would go to Coinstar, and you would walk away with $8.80
- If you had $100 worth of coins, $11.90 goes to Coinstar, $88.10 to your wallet
- If you had $500 worth of coins, $59.50 to Coinstar, $440.50 to you!
My rule of thumb for spare change: Anything over a $100 might not be worth exchanging with Coinstar because $12 and up is a big chunk of your money unless you’re in a pinch for time!
Because most other options for your spare change cost less than $20!
For example, if you happen to be someone who saved enough coins to fill an entire 5-gallon water dispenser (Like $1,000+ worth), you might want to consider doing the following instead of shelling out $120 in service fees:
- Go to Amazon and buy a coin counter for under $20
- Visit your bank and get some free coin rolls, or buy them at the store
- Spend a Friday night binge-watching a Netflix series and roll your coins
- Exchange your coins in at your bank and avoid a service charge
Maybe this isn’t your idea of Friday night fun, but if you happen to have what you think is hundreds of dollars in coins, you might want to consider counting them yourself.
On the other hand, the point of Coinstar is convenience and while there are fees associated with their services, in the grand scheme of things if you’re in a hurry it’s probably worth getting on your phone and typing in “Coinstar near me!”
How to avoid Coinstar Fees
Asking why Coinstar charges coin counting fees is sort of like asking why do banks charge interest. Local banks make their money by offering banking services at a fee.
Coinstar acts in the same way, offering patrons the ability to visit a Coinstar location and for a processing fee, use their services, receive a voucher and cash out.
Perhaps you were disappointed when you found that Coinstar charges an 11.9% (Call it 12%) service fee for leveraging their coin exchange services. That is the same as shelling out $500 for a used iPhone that happens to only be worth $440.
But, at the end of the day, just like Redbox charges for their DVD rentals, Coinstar makes money counting coins. Coinstar even offers some alternatives to avoiding their fees such as using your change to redeem gift cards or donating to charity.
Coinstar Gift Cards
If you don’t want to shell out 12% of your coins in fees, you can redeem your spare change for the following gift cards all of which have NO FEES:
Ecommerce Coinstar Gift Cards
|Name:||Minimum Amount:||Maximum Amount:|
|The Home Depot||$5.00||$2,000.00|
Entertainment Gift Cards Available:
|Name:||Minimum Amount:||Maximum Amount:|
Food & Drink Gift Cards to Choose From:
|Name:||Minimum Amount:||Maximum Amount:|
Travel Gift Cards:
|Name:||Minimum Amount:||Maximum Amount:|
Coinstar most likely has some sort of partnership with these vendors who offer gift cards in return for your spare change. So if you want to avoid the 12% fee, redeeming your coins for an electronic gift card is a great idea.
You can go shopping, eat out, or even travel with your spare change (I wish Chik-Fil-A was on the list!)
The other alternative to avoid Coinstar fees is to donate the money!
Another option to avoid Coinstar fees is to simply exchange your coins in and donate the money collected!
This is a great way to give back each year if you’re someone who likes to give annually and all Coinstar's near you offer several options when donating that include:
- American Red Cross
- Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
- Feeding America
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
- The Humane Society of the United States
- United Way
- World Wildlife Fund
You can visit the charity partner page on Coinstar’s website to read about each specific charity. For example, if you decided to donate your change to Feeding America, every dollar you donated would help provide 11 meals in the United States.
That means if you donated $100 you would help provide 1,100 meals!!!
Keep in mind, with any donation you make you’re able to deduct them from your taxes. Be sure to keep your Coinstar receipt as this is the documentation of your charitable contribution!
Some people will donate their coins every year around Christmas that they accumulated throughout the year. Donating your spare change is a passive way to donate to great causes!
Alternatives to Coinstar
Here are some quick alternatives to help you save the 11.9% fee and avoid using a Coinstar counting machine altogether. You can roll your coins, search for banks accepting coin deposits or pay for things with coins!
Roll Your Coins
Most banks will still accept your rolled coins, for how much longer, that is to be determined as some of stopped with the decline in consumers using cash.
However, if you want to avoid the Coinstar fee of 11.9% than you can simply go old school and count your coins, just be sure to sort your coins into the following:
- Pennies = 50 cents or 50 pennies
- Nickles =$2 worth or 40 nickles
- Dimes = $5 worth or 50 dimes
- Quarters = $10 worth or 40 quarters
A simple solution to avoid the painstaking labor of counting and rolling coins would be to splurge on a $26 coin counter and roller. Now depending on your level of frugality, you can either head the 11.9% service fee or buy a coin counter and have it for life.
Sometimes sitting at the kitchen table and sorting coins and then manually rolling them can be nostalgic! The other option is to take my go-to advice and back up a few drive-through lines.
Bank With Banks Who Have Coin Counting Machines
The best way to avoid having to deal with counting hundreds of coins or using spare change to pay for your Chik-Fil-A milkshake and backing up the entire drive-through line is to actually bank with financial institutions like Peoples United Bank that offer free coin counting services.
Case in point, my checking account in college was with a Mid-Atlantic bank called BB&T. During my college years, I would walk to the bank with my coin jar and ask the teller to cash them in for me since I had an account.
However, recently more and more banks have moved away from offering coin counting services as the use of coins as greatly decreased and according to banks like Bank of America,
The machines cost more to maintain than the value that is delivered to customers.”
In other words, banks are losing money with coin-counting machines. The decline in coin use and the uptick of e-commerce spending has slowly reduced the overall need for coins. While BB&T was my go-to for exchanging coins for cash in the early 2000s, they no longer offer coin-counting kiosk services anymore.
It didn’t help when someone filed a class-action lawsuit claiming his bank short-changed him!
Pay for Stuff In Coins
Last but not least, you can always just buy stuff with coins. Yeah, you might irritate the cashier and the people behind you, but at the end of the day, coins are still currency.
If you haven’t read my post on where to find quarters, the opposite of what you’re probably currently doing, you would read about the time I backed up the Chik-Fil-A drive through counting coins.
The only other alternative to avoiding feeds and avoiding rolling coins is to buy stuff with your spare change!
However, the best way to make this a reality is to separate your coins either by kind (Pennies, Dimes, Quarters, etc) or group your spare change into bags of $5 or so. That way you’re at least somewhat ahead of the game when you go to checkout.
If you happen to have some dollar coins and want to avoid the coin counting fees, simply use them for spending just like a dollar bill!
Got Quarters & Coins? Go to the Arcade
If you have tons of quarters and coins, you can go to the arcade and use them there. While arcades are not quite a dime a dozen like they were in the 1980s, you can still find them in malls and even in some supermarkets.
Simple turn your coins in for tokens, or use your coins then when you earn tickets, turn those in for redemption! While dealing in change is less common, there are still needs for the loose change in your pockets!
My Take on finding and using a Coinstar near you:
Perhaps you now know more about the intricacies of Coinstar and my slight obsession with Chik-Fil-A than you ever thought you would!
What I am willing to do for a waffle fry and chicken sandwich might not be worth it to you, but the 50 cents I spent in Coinstar fees were worth it to me.
My final view on finding a Coinstar near me and using it was this:
- Coinstar is great if you’re short on time
- Most banks no longer offer FREE coin counting machines, so Coinstar is your only option in most cases.
- If you want to avoid fees you’re either getting a gift card or counting coins.
- As a general rule of thumb, under $50 I would say Coinstar is worth it.
- Over $50, I would consider using the gift card, donation, or counting options, over $100, Coinstar fees are not worth it unless you're pressed for time!
Question: When was the last time you used a Coinstar?
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and many more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their newborn son, their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! In case you were wondering, Josh uses Personal Capital to track his net worth and his first investment account ever was an Acorns account 😎