Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Coinstar: Get Rid Of Your Spare Change

Photo credit

Coins seem to be the one form of money nobody wants. They're heavy and not worth much. Many people have a jar or a piggy bank or some sort of container they throw spare change in each day. I use an old acrylic fish tank I got back when I was in college, like this one:

For years, every day, when I got home, I would throw all my change into it. I never managed to fill it, which was probably a good thing. The fullest I ever got it was about 25% and that sucker was heavy! I could barely lift it with that many coins in it. If I ever managed to fill it completely, I never would have been able to get it out of the house!

A Penny Here, A Penny There...

The great thing about doing this is that all that change adds up. When the tank was about a quarter full, those coins would be worth somewhere around $250 to $350! And it was like free money! I just threw in a few coins here and there that I never missed each day. After a couple of months, BAM!! Jackpot!

In fact, when I was newly married, my wife and I routinely used our coin fund for gambling money when we went to Vegas.

It takes a lot longer for me to save up change these days because I rarely pay with cash. Instead, I charge everything so I can earn cash back rewards on my credit cards.

Even Banks Don't Seem To Want Coins

There have been a lot of other changes that make saving coins a bit more of a hassle than it used to be. Many banks no longer accept coins unless you have sorted and rolled them yourself before bringing them in. Few banks have coin counting machines these days and, if you bring in a bunch that are not rolled, they may have to ship them elsewhere to get counted. And, of course, they will likely charge you a coin counting fee.

Back when I worked for a credit union, we had a branch that had a coin counting machine in the lobby that our members could use for free. Eventually, that was done away with because it didn't get much use and the maintenance on the machine was too much.

Enter Coinstar

But there are still a lot of coin-hoarders out there and where there is a need, there is a business opportunity. Coinstar saw that need and filled it.

I'm sure you've seen their machines in grocery stores - big green kiosks with a touchscreen and a metal tray to pour your coins into. It's self-service, which I like, and grocery stores are open for more hours than banks are, so it's easier to find time to cash in your change.

When you use a Coinstar machine, you have three options on what to do with your money: you can get cash, get an e-gift card for one of many online retailers, or donate the money to one of several charities.

Option 1: Cash

Getting cash is the most expensive option. Coinstar charges 11.9% to exchange your coins for dollar bills. Probably some of this goes to the hosting grocery store, because the machine doesn't actually dispense cash. You get a receipt, which you then have to take to a checkout register or service desk at the store to redeem for cash. This is a pricey option and I never use it. I would suggest you avoid it as well.

Option 2: eGift Cards

The e-gift card is the option I always choose. If you go this route, there is no service charge and you get 100% of the value of your coins converted into a gift card for one of many online stores. I always choose Amazon because I buy a lot of stuff from them in my day-to-day life. (Is there anyone who doesn't?)

Option 3: Donate To Charity

I have never used the charity option, but Coinstar does provide you with a receipt and your donation is tax deductible. I do not know if there is a service charge if you choose to donate your funds.

Today, I cashed in the small amount of change I had accumulated. It was only $58.45 and that was after close to a year of saving. (I told you I don't use cash much anymore!) I converted that to an Amazon gift card to avoid the service fee, saving me about $7. I then transferred that same amount from my bank to my Tesla fund.

Coinstar And Its Like Are Affecting The U.S. Mint!

There is a ton of money just sitting out there in jars and couches. In fact, Coinstar has been so successful in getting people to turn in their piles of coins and get them back into circulation, that the Government Accounting Office has determined that the U.S. Mint has been able to reduce the number of coins it produces!

Coin recycling machines found in grocery stores, retail stores, and some depository institutions have made it easier now than it was in the past for the public to trade in coins for currency or some form of credit, such as a gift card. In some districts, coin recycling has returned large volumes of coins to circulation.

In fact, that same report says the number of coins returned to circulation from services like Coinstar increased from $1 billion in 2000 to $2.6 billion in 2006.

$2.6 billion!!! That's a lot of coins!

What do you do with your spare change?

1 comment:

  1. I've been making it a habit to take spare change with me when I go shopping. I've learned I'd rather have all my funds circulating rather than sit around.