Everyone is paying with credit cards now, keeping their nickels and dimes firmly quarantined in couch cushions and piggy banks. If that sounds like you, and if you want to help out the US Mint, slap on a mask and lug that giant mason jar over to your nearest Coinstar kiosk (more than 17,000 of them are available across the US, and a Coinstar rep told me that 95% of the population lives within 5 miles of a machine).
The kiosks, often found in grocery stores, allow you to dump your stash straight in. The machine then dings and clangs and gives you the adrenaline rush of winning at slots, except the money has been yours the whole time. Once the machine is done with its tabulation, Coinstar charges you a significant service fee of 11.9% at most locations (the fee may vary at financial institutions), and the kiosk spits out a receipt. Usually you have to bring that slip of paper to customer service right then to get your moolah. That fee amounts to $4 if you were hoarding the average Coinstar cash-in amount of $47.
But the good news is that Coinstar will waive the service fee if you opt for a gift card to a large retailer like Amazon, Lowe’s, or Krispy Kreme (cashing in for a tower of donuts makes you a freaking hero in my book). Every time I’ve used Coinstar, I’ve been terrified I’ll absentmindedly crumple up a receipt worth, like, $98 and toss it in the trash. So right then and there, I open my Amazon app, enter the code from the receipt in the Redeem a gift card slot, and save it to my account. And if you are a first-time customer and cash in at least $30 worth of coins from now until November 30 and opt for an Amazon gift card, you’ll receive a $5 bonus. The promotional credit expires December 31, 2020, but the rest of the gift card balance (namely, your money) will not expire. You can also choose a no-fee tax-deductible donation to charity.
But I don’t blame you if you’re avoiding supermarkets like, well, the plague. In addition, TD Bank got rid of its Penny Arcade coin counters after a lawsuit in New York State alleged that the machines undercounted the change. Although Coinstar was not subject to this suit and the company told me that all machines are regularly cleaned and calibrated (a 2016 test by Philadelphia’s Action News confirmed this), Wirecutter has not independently verified the accuracy of Coinstar’s machines. If you don’t mind doing some legwork, all banks give out free paper rolls and exchange their customers’ rolled coins for cash—and many do the same for non-customers. So if your current situation allows it, plop down in front of the TV with your jar of coins and get sorting while watching Cobra Kai. (Note: Netflix is not required but strongly recommended.)