Depositing Loose Coins and Coin Jars

Coins Image

Like a lot of folks, I don’t like carrying around change and whenever I get the chance it gets deposited into a jar on my desk. Coinstar has somehow created a publicly-traded corporation (ticker CSTR) worth over 1 billion dollars based on converting these coins back into… cash? (Okay, they now also own Redbox.) I still don’t get it. Occasionally, Coinstar has a promotion that gets you a little bonus, but other than that I really don’t see why people choose to pay a 9.8% fee to get their own cash handed back to them.

[Update: A lot of people point out that you can convert to several gift certificate options with no fee. This is true, and can definitely be a better option if you shop at those stores. But you lose the ability to get credit card rewards on your purchases, which can be up to 5% on certain places like grocery stores. In addition, at several places like Starbucks I can buy gift cards for 80 cents on the dollar at places like Costco ($40 for $50 gift card). Even for the most popular Amazon.com, I can get 5x rewards back by buying things with my Citi Forward Card.]

Every single bank that I’ve asked accepts coins as deposits to a checking account. Seems like that would be a law or something. Bank of America, regional banks, and local credit unions. Some used to request that you roll them, but within the last five years they’ve all just accepted them loose. They simply place them along with a blank deposit slip into a plastic cash bag, seal it, and send it off to a central coin-counting place. Within a couple of business days, a deposit shows up in my account.

I suppose you might worry that they’ll steal some of your coins, whether through the human operator or the counting machines. However, even if you go to a place like Coinstar, the counter might also be off as well. The Wall Street Journal even investigated the accuracy of Coinstar machines and found them both off.

First try:

For consistency, we began with equal piles of $87.26 worth of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that we had gotten from a local bank in coin envelopes. Talk about a tough economy. The machines at both Commerce Bank and Coinstar gave us less back than we put in — Commerce Bank missed by a whopping $7.02, while Coinstar was off by 57 cents.

Second try:

Alarmed at the results, we decided to give the machines a second chance. This time, we painstakingly counted out two batches of $68.23 in change. But once again, both Commerce Bank (82 cents) and Coinstar (14 cents) were off — in the machine’s favor.

Of course, that $7.02 miscount was still less than the new 9.8% fee of Coinstar (as of March 1st). Perhaps the Commerce Bank counters open to the public aren’t maintained very well.

If you’d like to estimate the amount in your coin jar without counting, try this Coin Jar Calculator. You simply grab a handful of coins, input the breakdown along with the weight of the coins, and out pops an estimate of your jar’s value. I would say it’s only accurate to maybe 10-15%. For me, it estimated $86.73 based on a large handful, with an actual result of $94.07.

Looking for something more scientific? Check out this little dissertation. With some basic assumptions, the author figures mixed loose coins should be worth about $12.96 a pound. My jar worked out to closer to $11 a pound. I do occasionally fish out quarters for parking meters though, so that likely skewed my results.

How do you deal with your loose coinage? Share in the comments.

Comments

  1. Jonathan:

    A couple of groups of people these machines may be convenient for:
    1. Those that use internet-only banks, and thus don’t have a local bank branch to cash coin at.
    2. Those individuals that choose not to do their business through banks (I work in a bank…and believe me, some people *ONLY* have accounts so their SSI can be deposited, at which time they immediately come in to remove it). I’m also amazed at the number of people that come into the bank to do a cash-advance on their unemployment card, but do no other business with us. This may also include people who refuse to have bank accounts due to garnishments!
    3. Those individuals that CANNOT have an account at a bank (a system called eFunds may prevent them from opening a transaction account at a bank due to previous bad accounts).

    In 2 of the 3 situations above, it seems like these machines would be a much lesser version of “payday loans” — charging 10% so you can cash your coin. Perhaps that’s going too far…it’s a 10% “convenience fee”.

  2. There’s no fee when you opt for the Amazon giftcard. I always bring the change that I save up to a local coinstar machine. Since we’re frequent Amazon customers it works out perfectly. In fact many of the gift card options with coinstar don’t have the 9.8% fee, the fee only comes up when you opt for the cash option and redeem it at the store. You should update your post.

  3. I put it all into my daughter’s piggy bank. When it gets heavy enough we count it and deposit it at the local bank. Then I transfer that same amount to an ING Direct savings account. My bank has gotten “testy” lately when I bring in loose or rolled change. My bank is HSBC. They must be too big to bother counting coins ;)

  4. Jonathan:

    Sometimes I even throw loose singles into the jar. It has a wide mouth so I’m able to get them out. I keep my change and singles in this jar for about two years and then cash in. I use that money to help me out with christmas or if theres enough catch up on some bills.

  5. Great post! I have my coin jar with me today…taking it to the local bank to cash in!

  6. I think that if if I were too busy or wealthy or lazy to just count out change and actually spend it on a continuing basis rather than throw it in a jar, then I would also be too busy or wealthy or lazy to worry about a 5% to 10% shortchange from a machine.

    Just spend it. It’s not really so difficult.

  7. I collect the change in the coin jar and cash it once a year or so to about ~$150-$200. I use an old Absolut “handle”.

    I use Coinstar because they don’t take the fee if you get an Amazon gift certificate. I use Amazon enough and have an internet bank so it’s easier to get a gift certificate.

    Back in my less proud times the coin jar saved me from missing a rent payment. I was glad I had it then. Since then, I’ve switched to not being an idiot about my spending.

    I’ve always weight estimated my change and the machines usually get it close. I had no idea they could be that far off, but for me the time saved by not counting it myself is worth a few dollars lost.

  8. simplesimon says:

    I posted a similar question on the BH forums:
    http://www.bogleheads.org/foru.....87f8e229b4

    I was hoping that my local Chase/BofA/WF had an automatic sorter where it prints out a slip and I can just change it for cash (no pun intended) but had no such luck. I still sort them manually into the paper coin holders and walk up to the teller to receive my bills.

    My little porcelain football bank only holds about $40 worth of change so its not to big of a deal to count it all out and I think it’s a little fun.

  9. Jeff Davis says:

    I give it all to my wife and she spends it. It works well for both of us :)

  10. Great information about the banks, thanks. I still thought you had to roll coins, which I used to do, a collosal pain.

    I spend as I go & never have accumulated change, but my partner does the jar thing. A trip to Commerce is always fun & the balance goes in my son’s savings account. But VERY interesting about their “casual” unstated fees by poorly callibrating the machines. I have to say the total always seemed a little low….

  11. Our credit union has a machine that charges no fee – you just have to be a member to use it. We keep ours in a little wooden box and it never fails that when it reaches 40-50 I start wanting to get my hands on the money.

    I used to use Coinstar – when the first started some 8-10 years ago their fee was a bit lower and it was just the lack of knowledge mixed with the grocery store convenience that won me over. I continued to use them (but switched to the Amazon GC to “save” money) until a co-worker mentioned the credit union. I had not known because I rarely go inside the branch – despite it being a block from my house.

    It is pretty easy to see that Coinstar makes it on advertising & convenience.

  12. Jerry Harrison says:

    I keep copper pennies I receive in coffee cans, and try to use the rest of the coins in s stores when i can. i used to feed all the newer pennies into the stamp machine at the post office, but they took that away.

  13. Roberto says:

    I always use coinstar and convert to an Amazon gift certificate. No fee for that.

    Well, unless the machine undercounts, which apparently I need to watch out for! Do you have any recourse if the machine undercounts? I’m guessing, no.

  14. I usually just roll them up myself when I am watching a movie that doesn’t require too much thinking. Then I simply deposit the coins into my local bank.

  15. I’ve never understood why people save their change at all. It is easy to just spend your change as you receive it. I sometimes set aside quarters for laundry and buying newspapers but otherwise I just spend my change. Some people use their change jar as a form of savings. If you’re going to do that it would be less hassle to just save your singles.

  16. Perhaps I’m misinformed, but I thought that if you chose a gift certificate, you did not get charged the convenience fee. I’ve used these machines to fund my Amazon.com purchases almost exclusively for the last 3 years.

    To me, that change is FUN money and I certainly don’t want it going into my bank account, where I would have to treat it as “to be spent responsibly” money.

    I am always amazed at how much more it adds up to than I thought it would, and HAVING to spend it at Amazon makes me happy. Sometimes it will sit there for months until I hear about some book, DVD, or MP3 that I just have to have.

    That’s my 2 cents.

  17. First time I used Coinstar, I saw couple of quarters go in the wrong direction so I’ve been careful about placing the coins slowly in the slot.

  18. I’ll tell you what I do with my loose change!

    http://www.PennyPortrait.com

    (Sorry for the blatant plug, but the loose change crowd is my target market!)

    Here is a link that Jonathan did to a previous interview on my “loose change” business.

    http://tinyurl.com/MyMoneyBlogInterview

  19. People still buy stuff with cash? ;)

  20. I rarely use cash and get change. But I enjoy rolling them when I get enough (I did it a few weeks ago). But since I don’t have a local bank nearby, I give the rolls to my parents who bring it to their credit union which counts it for free. Oddly, my dad told me to unroll them and keep the rolls since the machine will count them anyway. I vetoed that idea.

  21. Coinstar to Amazon gift certificate – no fee ever.

    Save up the Amazon gift certs for Christmas shopping.

    Done.

  22. Use the machine at Albertsons – no fee and you can immediately use at checkout for your groceries!

    Way more convenient and fast compared to a bank.

  23. I think it’s a bit of a waste to gather up your change. Money in a jar doesn’t earn interest.

    Like Geoff, I rarely use cash and get change, but what little I do get, I try to spend. I keep a small collection of dollar coins, quarters, and smaller change on hand for various purposes, but everything else either gets spent or deposited into an interest bearing account.

    Taking a gift certificate from Coinstar is a great way to give up additional protections or rewards that a credit card would give you. Gift certificates don’t get you anything extra, anyway; you just avoid a fee that you shouldn’t be paying in the first place.

  24. We usually go to Coinstar.

    While Amazon is one certificate you can receive for using Coinstar without a fee, there are 13 other merchants from whom you can get certificates including Borders, JC Penneys, Old Navy, Starbucks, and Albertsons.

    We usually get a certificate for groceries located in the supermarket that the Coinstar machine is located. If the machine you use only occasionally gives special promotions, use the Coinstar.com website to find which locations have machines that always give gift cards/e-certificates. All locations/machines are not the same.

  25. Greg Banister says:

    The change factor is part of the reason I use my AmexBlue Cash Card on all purchases, big or small. I receive cash back with each purchase and do not have to deal with the change, which is a waste of time and money (9.8%), not to mention covered with dirt and germs . Keep in mind, I do pay off the card every month and I am strict on my spending to only buy what I need.

  26. I think of the Amazon gift certificate option as a 5% fee because I can get 5% back on all my Amazon gift purchases through the Citi Forward card. Amazon is treated as a bookstore regardless of what you buy. :)

    More info:

    http://www.mymoneyblog.com/arc.....oncom.html

    But I agree, that appears to be the best option for most folks that have small amounts of change to deal with.

  27. I used to work for my dorm’s cafe, it was a really informal thing, cash only operation run by students for students, so we used coinstar to count our money when we needed to pay out the student workers. We had so many coins by the end of the semester that it would’ve taken forever to count them up, so we were willing to eat the fee to avoid counting a semesters worth of loose change.

  28. Fine, choose from many other partners which have no fee then.

    http://www.coinstar.com/us/Webdocs/A1-0-3-1

    My point was that you said you couldn’t see how people choose to pay a 9.8% fee when most of the time they don’t.

  29. I remember that for a family vacation we took our Dad’s coin jar with us and it became our fun spending money for us kids. Being all change it kept the amount of the overall purchase a bit smaller and led to some really fun times.

  30. Jonathan,

    Maybe the banks in your area take loose change, but in my experience, most banks don’t take loose change anymore–they require to be counted and put into rolls.

    In fact, I just called my credit union, which I consider to be a pretty good one since they reimburse all my ATM fees. They do not accept loose change. And not only that, after the 4th roll of coins, there’s a 10 cent fee per roll.

    I have a friend who is at B of A, and I think they said they inquired about coins and was told they needed to be in rolls too. It’d be interesting for readers to comment on what their bank’s policy on coins is. But I don’t think your assumption about most banks accepting loose change without a fee if true.

  31. I’m another one who brings my loose change to my credit union where I can use the machine for no charge

  32. I have never understood this entirely manufactured issue.

    Why jump through hoops, waste time and energy figuring out a way to deal with a nonexistent problem? Just pay and spend the change as you go, it never accumulates too much. Now and then use some of it when leaving a tip. Truly not an issue to waste energy on!

  33. Budget Gal Angie says:

    I use TCF Bank and they have coin counters in the lobby. As long as you’re a customer, you can easily take your own coins to have them counted for free. Once they’re counted, you take the receipt to the teller and they give you your money. You do not have to deposit it. I love the convenience and we use it for our change and for my daughter’s piggy bank when she’s ready to cash it in.

  34. Praveen says:

    I use coinstar for gift certificates. I rarely collect more than $ 40-50 per year. coinstar runs promotion to get $ 10 by MIR for $40 coins counte mostly around christmas r . I have done it for two consecutive years so far.

  35. Chevy Chase Bank of MD branches have free coin counting machines in their lobbies. The machine counts the change and spits out a receipt. Take the receipt to the teller and have it deposited to your account. If you are a non-customer, then the teller will ask if you would like to open an account. Just say no, pay no fee, and get bills.

    https://www.chevychasebank.com/about/convenience/changeexpress.html

  36. My local Wells Fargo branch has a coin machine which is free for customers (non-customers pay 10%, or something like that). It’s usually been pretty accurate, so I just put my coins in and deposit the ticket. Works out great.

  37. I throw them in my car. Quarters I keep in a jar at home though. I would never use CoinStar and pay that ridiculous fee. I tell my friends not to either.

  38. I love all the comments! :D

  39. Agree with Mike D – I do not use cash for anything. Credit cards are actually faster at the checkout, and they have rewards. I literally cannot remember the last time I had any change in my pocket. I just checked my wallet and found $22 in bills that was probably untouched for a couple years. No cash means no change. So what do do with accumulated change is a non existent problem.

  40. I save the quarters for the car wash (my credit card usually does not swipe correctly) and I use the other coins just whenever.

  41. I don’t think it’s accurate to say you get 5% back on the FORWARD card, those points are not valued at 1 penny. It’s more like 3.5%.

    Warren: some fast food wont take credit cards or charge a 50 cents fee if its under 10 bucks. 50 cents on a $5 lunch is more expensive than the rewards you are getting….unless we get 10% dining cards. I’ll occasionally cough it up when I don’t have any cash on me, but thats it.

    I basically take out 20 bucks a week and use it for the fast food places that charge extra for using credit cads. The alternative is to shop at only places that take credit, but I’d prefer not to do that.

    Also, some independent contractors will give discounts if you use cash.

  42. I am in banking and can tell you that most banks policy is not to accept loose change unless they have a change counter, which most banks do not as they are expensive and prone to breaking due to customers putting buttons, slugs etc. in the change. The change must be rolled and the tellers may or may not recount the rolls to ensure the proper amount & that pennies are not mixed in the rolls as well.
    The reason banks do not accept loose change is that it would be too time consuming to dedicate a staff member to counting change. I personally have a very large decorative jar that I put my change in and have viewed it as a very last resort savings account. If I have to tap into my change jar then things are pretty bad. Hopefully that day never comes and I can just keep adding to it.

    • sf95070 says:

      Since all but pennies are legal tender, how does a bank get away with not accepting coins?

      It seems to be about time that we customers quit accepting these arbitrary rules and fees.

      I’m sorry if the bank doesn’t want to count the coins, but coins are cash and I would think they have to accept them by law.

  43. @tj – I can’t remember the last time I had to use cash at a fast food place. Definitely not in the past 5 years. When I travel on business I must use AMEX. And I’ve never seen any of them try to add 50 cents.

  44. Maybe once a year I have to buy something for cash. Everything else is paid for with plastic and earns me rewards. Sometimes I even have to get a roll of quarters from bank for occasional parking meters.

  45. TD Bank’s “Penny Arcade” machines charge no fee, even for non-bank customers.

  46. It isn’t about not paying a fee. By the way, I don’t have one of those Citi cards, so for me there’s no 5% fee for cashing in my coins.

    Also, there is something nice about having guilt-free money I can actually spend without worrying about earning interest or saving for some golden years that I may die before reaching.

    I’m all for investing and making my money work for me, but what if I die of a heart attack at 64 and have been frugal all my life?

    This change represents some of the only money I can be truly frivolous with.

  47. I kid you not, I’m saving my pennies and creating a penny-tiled floor for the bathroom. It is less expensive than most manufactured tile and will look gorgeous.

    The silver piles ups and friends use it for parking at meters when visiting, or I’ll snag a fistful and have a ‘free’ lunch.

  48. “Coin jars,” is something I have never understood in the least. I’ve got friends who pull more money than they need out of their bank accounts, and then throw it in a jar. That’s how it goes, in my mind. Oh, but they couldn’t possibly save otherwise. (Like, leave it in the bank in the first place?)

    When I carried more cash I just paid exact change. That’s it. No loose coins.

    These days – credit cards only.

    My kids do like to collect coins and amass plenty. Every year (or 2 or 3) we go to a Coinstar machine and exchange it for an Amazon gift card. We will usually keep the gift card and transfer the amount to their bank accounts. The one or two times we have done this, there was no fee. (Knowing that banks accept loose change is pretty cool – will just do that next time!)

    As an aside, I did use to work in a cash facility and we had a coin sorting machine. That thing was the devil. I don’t think I ever once got it to balance. There was one employee who could tame the beast – I Was second best so I got stuck on coin duty way too much. I would certainly agree that the accuracy is not near 100%…

  49. SoCal Tommy says:

    For those with kids: Are your kids totally oblivious to the value of a dollar? Maybe they should roll some coins and get the idea that money and plastic are not equal. I’ll never forget the lesson of me cashing my paycheck to confirm just how much “real” money it was, and then going down to the bank and withdrawing $3000 to buy my first car and figuring how long it would take to replace it based on my pay and the big thought of “Is this car REALLY worth what I’m spending?”. I still bought it, but it definitely made an impression. I think coin rolling can too.

  50. It’s really quite simple.

    The more change you use with a purchase, library fine, etc., the fewer coins you get back, resulting in less coinage passing through your life. Spending as you go accomplishes this and makes this topic a non issue.

    A couple dollars worth of coins kept in your car is no more a hassle than rolling or schlepping around pounds of metal, only to get ripped off by a rigged machine.

  51. Facepalm says:

    Coincidentally, I see lottery machines often sited next to those coin counting machines. Talk about a double whammy.

    Begin by losing 10% of your money, flush your bills down the lottery machine, then buy groceries with food stamps. Only in America.

  52. @warren the only fast food that charge fees for credit cards aroudn here are mom& pops, not big chains. The local Jack in the Box only takes debit cards. I don’t eat there as much, or I’ll plan to have jack in the box in the city I grew up with when I visit family…I’ve never really thought of it as a 3% fee to not be able to use my card, of course its really not, I view those rewards refunds as free money, and don’t include them in budget. But I do sometimes choose to eat certain places based on whether I can use the card (without paying a fee)—if i dont have the cash ill just pay the 50 cents, not a big deal.

  53. Charlie in Colorado says:

    I used to use Coinstar at the grocery store and always suspected I was getting something less than the actual value of the coins deposited into the machine (irrespective of the stated service charge). Now, I use a “coin counting money jar” at home (looks like a plastic Mason jar with a digital counter on top) so I always know the amount I’ve saved. When the jar is ready for unloading, I deposit the coins in my account at my credit union, which offers free coin counters.

  54. Great post. It’s an eyeopener with kind of fees Coinstar charges. I should share this with my wife. for some reason she like the coinstar machine.
    I have used the machine in the past in grocery store and have opted for the store credit (i forget if theres any fee for that) that I use for my grocery shopping. Then I transfer that same money into my daughters account.

  55. pamela munro says:

    We usually SPEND all of our quarters on laundry machines & parking meters – & I recycle the dimes & nickels – as MONEY – We are left with the pennies, which I have taken to a Coinstar – since they are worth so little per coin, the charges don’t add up to much & are = to the hassle of taking them to the bank. Note: Retail sales people LOVE change – they can’t have too much of it – so recycle your change at the register. (This is especially true for smaller stores & boutiques – to get extra change they have to run around the block….)

  56. I once read a post about using a local casino to change out coins. If anyone would have accurate machines, it would be them. Has anyone tried using a casino?

  57. None of the banks in my area accept unwrapped coins so I roll them up whenever my jar gets full (maybe twice a year). As for coinstar I see the machine in my grocery store being used nearly every time I am in there. mostly young people and people out of work with their loose change in a grocery bag. I dont think they care about the fees

  58. glenn chin says:

    i cant understand why anyone would use this service, when a fee is charged. I guess they have a lot of money to burn.

  59. Couple years ago I had a WaMu teller inform me, “We don’t take those.” Oh, I said, the bank doesn’t take money anymore? Turns out she was grumpy and meant they want them rolled. My wit was not appreciated.

    Pennies go in a drawer, where I roll them once the amount gets annoyingly large.

    All the silver pieces go in my car for parking meters. Though more and more of my parking areas are the time-stamp kiosk style, which accept credit cards.

  60. I wrote a similar article on my blog as well. But I had no idea that these coinstar machines were off by that much. I have to figure out another way to collect for all the coins i’ve accumulated.

  61. Alas. I never gave saving coins a thought, just had 5 gallon water bottle under desk at work, I am now retired and bottle is full of silver coins. Still looking for coin counting location in Los Angeles or outer area.

  62. Please notify me via e-mail

  63. Interesting post… We’re moving (with a large coin jar) and a little wary of coin star’s near 10% “commission”. In Hawaii (O’ahu at least) there doesn’t seem to be any place to deposit loose coins (according to our bank – a local credit union). This afternoon, I decided to just remove them from the jar, bag and box them (5 gallon jar, about 90 pounds of coins, 10 years in the making). I found the study you mentioned via google — quite glad I didn’t give them to coin star :-)

  64. I surveyed all of my local banks and none take loose coins. Only one bank does and you have to be a member.
    My local credit union has a coin counting machine and they set a limit of $200.00 per session. I called alot of banks in this state capitol. I put my coins in a ziplock bag in my car and can easily see what I’m digging for.

  65. I just recently opened bank accounts for my two children who are two years apart. I am not sure how I should divy up the change I collect and distribute to which child. Since they are only 2yrs3mo and 3 mo I am thinking of just adding to the 2yo’s account for the first year or two, and then at that point incorporate some kind of earning system.

  66. I have the capital one venture card for my business. The card is used and paid off every month for things that I can write off. I use cash for everything that I can’t write off, and don’t want paper trails.

    I still believe many things should be paid for in cash, one thing comes to mind is lunch with co-workers everyday. splitting bills in cards is a pain in the arse, some places have a limit in how many cards you are allowed to use. Not everyone and everyday is willing to split the check evenly. We always pay cash for our lunches.

    That being said, my yearly loose change usually adds up to 500-700 dollars in a large pasta ikea glass jar. I used to spend a week rolling them up and deposit them into the bank, as there is no way in hell I’d pay 9.8% with coinstar and no way in hell I’d limit my fee-free spending to a gift card at a limited vendor.

    That is until Wescom Credit Union installed a coin sorting machine and free of charge for members. It was music to my ears… unfortunately that promo only went on for 2 years. Now they charge 5%, which is acceptable to me. under 40 dollars fee, and saved me a week of pain.

  67. Chase said they would only accept rolled coins and brought out a manual coin sorter and an employee started to help. I protested that it looked like it could take 4 hours to roll all my coins and that i had heard that wells fargo sends coins out to be counted and finally the guy brought a clear bag and we put about 35 lbs of coins into it and sent it off to someplace else where they will count it and later credit to my account.

  68. I graduated college last year. I could only find work a a summer camp for the summer, so I took that and kept looking. I was off for 4 full weeks after camp. I finally got a permanent job, but I’m making $10.06/hour and I just got my first paycheck. I almost paid my rent. No food, no gas, no bills. I’m cashing in my coins at coinstar tonight because my cat needs food and she won’t eat ramen or rice and beans, the only stuff in my cupboards. I hope to have enough left over to put gas in my car so I can go to work on Monday. I’m also trying to sell my skis on craig’s list to get me by until the next check. Ug- Coinstar. I wish I had realized how tiny my paycheck would be and thought of depositing my coins in my bank account before I didn’t have the time to wait for that. 9.8%. Ouch. But my hungry cat just can’t wait for the bank to open Monday and then process my coins for several days.

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