Coinstar is a helpful way to turn your spare change into easy-to-manage cash or credit. It’s fast and convenient, but there’s one catch: they take 11.9% of your total deposit as a fee.
Fortunately, there are ways to bypass that fee. You can deposit as many coins as you need and keep 100% of the value.
These methods are totally legal and allowed by the company – Coinstar just banks on the expectation that most people won’t use them!
Ready to learn more? This guide will tell you everything you need to know about Coinstar and how you can skip the fees.
What is Coinstar?
First thing’s first – what is Coinstar, exactly?
Coinstar is a coin-counting system that converts your spare change into cash or gift cards. You’ve probably seen their machines in your local grocery store, gas station, or mall – there are over 20,000 of them globally.
If you have an excess of coins (from tips as a server or bartender, splitting a bill with friends, change from paying in cash, etc.) you can take them to a Coinstar kiosk and deposit them to get bills back. This is a super handy service because most bank ATMs don’t take coin deposits anymore.
The only problem with this system? There’s a fee. For every $100 you deposit into a Coinstar machine, you’ll lose nearly $12. That’s a high charge just for counting coins!
Because they’re basically the only coin-counting company out there, Coinstar can get away with charging these high fees. Most people feel like the convenience of the kiosks makes it worth it.
But, if you don’t need cash right away, you can skip the Coinstar fee and get the full value of your coin deposit.
How Does it work?
It’s important to understand that Coinstar is not like an ATM. When you deposit your coins, the machine doesn’t automatically give you cash.
In fact, the only thing the Coinstar kiosk actually does is count your coins for you. Once it’s finished counting, it gives you a total (minus the 11.9% fee). At that point you can choose whether you want cash, a gift card, or to donate your money to a charity.
If you choose cash, the machine will print a receipt that you can take to the cashier of the store or gas station. They’ll give you cash in the total value of your coins. Coinstar then pays the store in exchange for the money you took out.
That extra step is what makes it possible to bypass the Coinstar fee and get the full value of your coins. Instead of choosing cash, you can select another option and skip the fee.
Finding a kiosk
Not sure where to find a Coinstar kiosk near you?
Even if you live in a small town, you should be able to get to a Coinstar kiosk within a reasonable distance. They’re located all over the country! But you don’t have to drive around town to find a convenient coin counting machine.
Head to the Coinstar kiosk finder and enter your zip code or address. The site will show you where every kiosk near you is located. On that same list, you’ll be able to see the options each kiosk offers by selecting “details.”
How to skip the Coinstar fee
If you don’t need cash right away, it’s easy to get around the Coinstar fee and keep all your money.
I’ll get into a few other ways to get around the fee later in this article, but the easiest method is to choose an e-gift card instead of cash. You won’t have the convenience of cash right off the bat, but you will be able to spend the full value of your coins at one of your favorite major retailers.
Plus, there are tons of benefits to converting your coins into a gift card, instead of just adding more cash to your wallet.
Here’s how it works:
1. Select your e-gift card
When you get to the machine, before you deposit your coins, the Coinstar kiosk will ask you how you want to receive your funds. Select “e-gift card” on the screen.
After that, you’ll be provided with a list of retailers. The exact selection varies depending on the location of the kiosk, but you can always expect to find a few big brand names, including Amazon, Target, and Best Buy.
Here are a few more popular retailers you can get e-gift cards to at your local Coinstar kiosk:
- Regal Entertainment Group
- Chili’s Bar and Grill
- Home Depot
- The Gap
Those are just a handful of examples – depending on the location of each kiosk, there are tons of options to get your e-gift card.
Keep in mind: every retailer has a different minimum and maximum deposit. For example, if you want an Amazon gift card, you must deposit a minimum of $5 worth of coins, and the total amount can be as much as $1000 (although carrying $1000 worth of coins to your local Cointstar sounds like a lot of work!)
Other retailers limit you to $100 or less. Check the requirements on your Coinstar kiosk before you make your selection.
2. Add your coins to the kiosk
Once you’ve selected the gift card you want, it’s time to deposit your coins into the machine.
Add your coins to the kiosk tray, then lift the handle to slide them into the slot so that the machine can count them. If you have a lot of coins, you might need to repeat this process 2-3 times.
It takes some time to count your coins. Be prepared to wait for a few minutes, especially if you have a lot of coins to deposit. As soon as the machine has finished counting your coins, it will let you know your total, then dispense your e-gift card.
3. Redeem your e-gift card
The Coinstar kiosk will print a voucher with a unique gift card code for the retailer you chose.
You can use that voucher for shopping (or dining) in-store or online! Remember, the voucher won’t be a hard gift card – it will look more like a receipt. Be sure to keep it somewhere safe where it won’t get damaged.
Why does Coinstar offer gift cards without a fee?
It might seem like you’re cheating the system, but Coinstar intentionally offers e-gift cards at each of their kiosks without any fee.
By partnering with major retailers in your area, Coinstar functions like an advertiser. The gift cards bring in more customers to the retailers, and more users to each kiosk. It’s basically a win-win! That’s why they don’t need to charge a fee for exchanging coins for gift cards.
The benefits of e-gift cards
A lot of people assume that getting cash from a Coinstar kiosk is the most convenient option, but there are actually tons of benefits to redeeming your coins for an e-gift card. This is a great way to control your spending, manage your budget, and splurge on something you really want without breaking the bank!
Here are a couple of easy ways to make the most of your Coinstar e-gift cards:
Don’t waste money on things you don’t need
The key benefit to choosing a gift card at your local Coinstar kiosk, instead of cash, is that there’s no chance of you spending that money on something you don’t need.
Whether you’re looking for a new outfit, pair of shoes, or a hotel room out of town – you’ll only be able to buy exactly what you saved your coins for. This is an easy way to make sure you stick to your budget, while still spending money on the treats and outings you really want.
Save your change for your next meal out
We all want to keep ourselves from spending over our budgets, but dining out every once in a while is a treat everyone deserves!
Instead of stuffing your spare coins back into your wallet or losing them between the couch cushions, set up a “meal jar” at home. You’ll be surprised by how quickly that jar fills up, especially if you pay in cash a lot!
Coinstar offers e-gift cards to tons of chain restaurants and bars. Saving up your coins for a gift card is a great way to treat yourself to a fun meal or drinks out with friends, without overspending.
Pay for your next big tech purchase in pennies
Pretty much every Coinstar kiosk gives out gift cards to Amazon and Best Buy. That means you can save up your coins for your next tech toy, whether it’s a new TV, a gaming console, or an updated phone.
It might seem like it will take years to save up enough coins for a big tech purchase – but again, you’ll be surprised by how quickly your spare change can add up. Every time you stop for gas, grab a coffee, or split the bill, you can add more coins to your Coinstar fund.
And remember, there are no fees when you’re getting an e-gift card at a Coinstar kiosk. Every cent you save is yours to spend!
Donating your coins to a charity
Aside from cash and gift cards, Coinstar gives you one other option: you can donate the value of your coins to a charity of your choice.
If you choose to donate your money, the kiosk won’t take any fees. The entire value of your coins will be donated. Of course, you won’t get to keep the money for yourself – but you can feel good about your donation without losing any of the value.
On top of that, donating your coins is a great way to teach kids about charity! If you’re a parent, consider keeping a “charity jar” in your home. Your kids can save up their spare change and choose the charity they want to give to.
Currently, Coinstar is partnered with 8 charities that you can donate your coins to:
- American Red Cross
- Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
- Feeding America
- The Humane Society of the United States
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
- United Way
- WWF (World Wildlife Foundation)
Unfortunately, not every charity is available at every kiosk. If you have a specific charity you want to donate to, head to Coinstar’s website to see their kiosk map and find a location where it is offered.
Roll your own coins
Want to avoid the Coinstar fees? Just avoid the Coinstar!
Remember, Coinstar is not an ATM. The only service these kiosks actually offer is counting your coins. You can get a machine to do that for you at home!
An automated coin roller costs around $25-$50 on an online retailer like Amazon. These machines are small enough to fit on your counter, or in a closet when you don’t need to use it. Whenever you have a lot of coins around the house, you can use the roller to automatically count, sort, and roll them.
Most banks still accept rolls of coins in exchange for cash. Take the rolls into your local bank teller, and they’ll give you the full cash value – or just deposit that amount into your bank account.
Is a coin roller worth it?
If you’re someone who regularly needs to convert coins into bills, buying a machine to roll your coins at home will be cheaper than using a Coinstar kiosk in the long run.
Think of it this way: if you deposit $100 into a Coinstar twice, you’ll lose $24. That’s nearly the value of an automated coin roller you can use in your own home!
On the other hand, if you only need exchange coins every once in a while, it might not be worth it to invest in a coin roller at home. Your best bet is to take your coins to Coinstar kiosk and get an e-gift card to your favorite retailer!
Other uses for Coinstar
Coinstar kiosks are mainly used as coin-counting machines, but some of them offer other features. Sort of like a universal ATM, you can use them to deposit cash into accounts other than your bank account.
Here are a couple of extra features offered at select Coinstar kiosks:
Buying Bitcoin at a Coinstar kiosk
Some Coinstar locations also allow you to exchange your coins or bills for Bitcoin.
This is not a way to avoid the Coinstar fee – it’s just a cool use for Coinstar kiosks that not everyone knows about, so I wanted to include it in this article. If you’re someone who trades in Bitcoin, this is a super helpful service.
Here’s how it works: some Coinstar kiosks are partnered with Coinme, a popular site for redeeming Bitcoin. Go to the Coinstar kiosk finder to locate a kiosk near you that offers Bitcoin vouchers.
Before you deposit your cash, select “buy bitcoin” on the main screen. You’ll be asked to review and approve the terms and conditions and enter your phone number. Then you can deposit your coins or cash in exchange for Bitcoin! Most machines will accept up to $2,500 at one time.
After your money is counted, you’ll receive a voucher with a Bitcoin redemption code. Take your voucher home, and head to the Coinme website to redeem your Bitcoin.
If you don’t already have a Coinme account, you can quickly make one without any charge. From there, you’ll be able to transfer your balance to your Bitcoin wallet.
Adding cash to your Amazon account
Want to shop online without using your debit or credit card?
This can be a frustrating scenario for people who earn cash tips or generally use cash for their shopping – you can’t buy from Amazon with paper bills!
Coinstar offers a unique solution. Just head to your local kiosk and select “cash services” on the screen. Follow the prompts and input the phone number associated with your Amazon account. Then, all you have to do is deposit your cash (anywhere between $5 – $500).
This is a cool method because you don’t have to redeem a paper voucher or gift card for your credit. There are also no fees! The exact value of your cash will be automatically updated in your Amazon account balance.
The bottom line: Save your coins and skip the fees
With so many quick transfers and digital payments available today, a lot of us forget about the value of coins. Our spare change often gets forgotten, lost, or just set aside.
But that change can really help you budget! Start saving up your coins in a jar or envelope, then head to your local Coinstar kiosk when you’re ready to spend. You can skip the fees by choosing an e-gift card, and buy the things you want without breaking your budget.
On top of that, you can use Coinstar to donate to your favorite charity, buy Bitcoin, or top up your Amazon account.
So don’t let that money go to waste! Save your coins, skip the Coinstar fees, and stick to your budget.