Best ways to count your change
There are free and easy ways to count the contents of your massive change jar.
What should you do with your loose change? The easiest way to turn your coins into currency is to let someone (or something) else do it for you.
Some banks have coin-counting machines. But pinpointing what banks and which branches have this service isn't always simple. PNC Bank has a search filter to locate its coin counters. According to a branch representative, customers get coins counted for free while noncustomers pay a 5% fee.
Here are other options to consider:
Fast, free, easy
Based on my personal experience, calls to branches of large banks, and comments by readers (see this article on spending change), here are some banks that offer free coin counting to their customers:
- U.S. Bank.
- Regional banks, such as Commerce Bank, Bank Atlantic, and PNC.
- Credit unions (another benefit of credit unions).
- Community savings banks such as Salem Five and Piedmont Federal Savings Bank.
Some banks will let you take the coins to a teller, who processes them and then gives you paper money or makes a deposit into your account. Other banks have self-service machines that generate a receipt, which you present to a teller in order to receive cash or add to your bank balance.
Before lugging your coins to your favorite financial institution, ask these questions:
- Do you have coin-counting machines at some of your branches, and, if so, which ones?
- Do I operate the machine or do I bring coins to the teller window?
- Is there a coin-counting fee for customers or noncustomers?
- How will I get my money?
Free (mostly), not fast
Some banks require you to roll your own coins and bring wrapped coins. These include:
- Bank of America.
- Wells Fargo.
Get wrappers for free at most bank branches or buy them at a discount store. Rolling coins is time-consuming but a good option if you have no other alternatives. For fun and convenience, buy a small coin-counting machine for home use.
Generally there is no charge to deposit coins. However, Citibank charges a 5% fee to customers and noncustomers in Illinois. Note that deposit totals may be adjusted if the bank's count differs from yours.
- Calculator: Is your budget in balance?
Some banks will take small amounts of loose change at no charge, even if they do not offer coin-counting services. After a fundraising event, I presented a deposit of more than $2,000 at a major regional bank. My deposit contained about $10 in loose change as well as hundreds of $1 bills (counted by a machine) and personal checks, carefully totaled beforehand. As treasurer of a nonprofit group, I visited this branch frequently to make deposits. There seemed to be no definitive ruling about coin acceptance. The bank employee hesitated but eventually decided to take the coins (the deliberation was slow but coin counting was fast).
Fast, not free
Coinstar machines count coins for a fee of 9.8% (11.9% in Canada). These self-service machines can be found in high-volume retailers, such as grocery stores. Deposit coins, watch as change is counted and processing fees are subtracted, and receive a voucher that can be redeemed for the value of the coins (less the service fee) at the store.
To avoid the fee, redeem the coins for an eCertificate, gift card, or charitable donation. Sign up online to receive special offers, which may include receiving more than the value of the coins. A recent offer, for example, exchanged a $25 eCertificate and $5 bonus for Rixty for $25 in coins.
Options vary by location, so check out which services are offered (see this Coinstar locator) before you turn in your coins.
Have you had successes or problems when trying to cash in loose coins?
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