CoinStar Machines – Rip Off Or Not?

CoinStar Machines - Rip Off Or Not?This article was originally published on May 16, 2011.

Coinstar machines, are they a rip off or not? Well, it depends on your point of view.

You’ve undoubtedly seen these Coin Star machines at your local grocery store. The concept seems genius. It solves a problem many people have.

People have coins, but people want bills. The machine accepts your loose change and gives you dollars (a receipt that you take to the clerk and then you get your money).

You didn’t think this service was free though, did you? They charge 11.9%. This means that if you bring in a big jar full of $100 you’ll only get back $88.10.

So is this savvy business idea a great service or a huge rip-off?


They’re Ripping You Off

While Coinstar does indeed provide a useful service, it is also a ripoff. So what can we do? Just say no!

Coins are real money. You can pay with coins. At the grocery store, you can, but don’t have to pay a $12.43 tab with coins, but you sure can pay the 43 cents in coins.

By continually doing this, at the department store, fast food line, liquor store, etc., you can reduce the amount of coins you have and save some money along the way.

But what if you have a lot of coins, more coins than you can ever dream of getting rid of? There’s a quicker option to turn your coins into cash.

You can take them to your bank and they’ll exchange them for bills without even charging you a dime!

Every bank is different. Some banks will only accept coins from their customers only though.

For the most part, the way it works is simple. You go to the bank and ask for coin wrappers: for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

Next, you’ll have to count and sort them out yourself. Does this take more time? Yes, but if you have enough time to read this post then you have enough time to take your coins to the bank.

When your coins are ready, take them to your bank and they’ll either give you large bills or simply deposit them into your account.


2017 Update: But… But… It’s Worth It!

When this article was first published in 2011 I laughed at people who would willfully be ripped off by Coinstar machines.

But now my outlook on life, and Coinstar machines, has changed.

Rather than care so much about every penny, the new me cares more about things that truly matter in life. Namely, that would be time and family.

In the process of simplifying my life, I now will choose speed and convenience over saving a few bucks.

I’m proud to say that I’ve used Coinstar machines several times and have not regretted using them at all. In fact, I now look forward to it!

I try and only use a credit card for purchases, just for ease of use and to track my spending. But every now and again I use a bill and sure enough end up with a bunch of spare change.

I put my change in a jar and wait until it gets full. It takes about a full year for my coin jar to really fill up to the top.

Then I head over to a Coinstar machine I have nearby and drop my coins in. Within seconds, I get my total. But here’s how I refuse to get ripped off:

Coinstar now has no-fee gift cards available where the company pays the Coinstar fee for you.

Since I always shop at Amazon for everyday items like paper towels, dog food and cleaning supplies, redeeming my coins for an Amazon credit is a no-brainer.


So now it’s your turn. How do you feel about Coinstar machines? Have you used them before or would you ever use them?

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About The Author

Edwin C is the money hacking millennial behind Cash The Checks. He lives a minimalist lifestyle and is always eager to learn and share his methods to save and make money. If you’ve found this post helpful, please share it on Twitter or FB!

11 Comments

  1. Ash @ Sterling Effort

    I don’t know if they’re popular over there, but here in the UK, all the major grocery retailers have automated checkouts that let customers scan and pay for their items by cash or card. These machines take coins and even let you split a payment between cash and card. I just throw a handful of change into the machine and then pay any remaining amount by card. No need for Coinstar 🙂

    Reply
  2. Zack

    Many Coinstar machines actually let you exchange your coins for gift cards as well – with that option you get a gift card worth the full amount of coins exchanged (i.e., in the example above you would receive a $100 gift card). Gift cards available are from iTunes, Gap, Amazon, CVS, Lowe’s, Starbucks, and elsewhere. I agree that the 9.8% cash charge is a rip-off, but using the gift card option is good value for money.

    Reply
  3. Edwin

    I didn’t know about the gift card thing. That’s a very good alternative.

    Reply
  4. ross

    i think those machine are very worth the 10%, because i would never in a million years spend 2 hours counting out and rolling up $100 in change.
    Its a huge time saver.
    I didnt know about the gift card thing either. i’ll have to remember that for next time 🙂

    Reply
  5. McSmelly

    Coinstar takes 9.8% of your money in the US. If you dropped $1,025 in a machine over a year, you’d lose over $100 in Coinstar fees. That’s a lot of money. It would be one thing if a person was taking the time to count it, but Coinstar is a machine made to automatically count coins without any human interaction. If you’re too lazy to count your own money (or stand at the bank while somebody does it for you), then you deserve to be suckered for a dime on every dollar. Instead, you can just go to the bank, withdraw a $100 bill and light it on fire after you wipe your butt with it.

    Reply
  6. ACG

    McSmelly, how does deserving to be suckered enter into this equation? You do acknowledge 9.8% is excessive, could you not also acknowledge the countless reasons for a person to use a coin counting service? Instead of listing the great many valid reason instead I will make this simple for you. You do wait in traffic to get to bank, wait in bank line, then wait for coins to be counted, then wait in traffic again. You also wait at a coinstar for coins to be counted and possibly in a line. Seeing as waiting is common, where does this “lazy” fit in you mentioned? Would you say a person deserves to be sucked for 40 cents out of a dollar? Or using a rational mind perhaps people do not DESERVE to be suckered at all given you understood the true meaning of deserve.

    Not even 9.8% these days. Currently at 10.9% Which is basically 11% as they use the time honored psychological deception of .9. Did the money change some how? Why the increase?

    Usury at its best.

    Reply
  7. ACG

    Forgot to mention coinstar shorts your counted coins.

    Reply
  8. Mortgage Free Mike

    I have used CoinStar and I was able to redeem for the full value if I got a gift card to Amazon. I used the gift card to buy necessities, so it was a win-win. I got 100% back and I got rid of all that change. I will use them again.

    Reply
  9. Michelle

    I am always hesitant to do a coin machine. I like to count my coins before turning them in and comparing the results.

    Reply
  10. Edwin C.

    @MortgageFreeMike I didn’t know I could do this, that’s great.

    Reply
  11. Rat Race Quitter

    I’m a little ambivalent about coinstar. On the one hand I hate PAYING just to convert my money into a more convenient format (like an ATM fee), but on the other hand I don’t often have the patience to roll my coins.

    Reply

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