Key takeaways

  • To exchange your coins for cash, you can find a local bank or retailer that offers coin-cashing services.
  • It pays to determine if a coin-cashing service charges a fee, so you can look elsewhere to avoid such a fee.
  • Some coin cashing machines allow you to exchange coins for cash, gift cards or charitable donations.

At a certain point, you may realize that you’ve accumulated lots of coins but need a more convenient way to spend them. There are several ways to change your coins into cash for free or a low fee.

If your piggy bank or coin jar is filled, here are some options for emptying it.

Where can I exchange my coins for cash?

Establishments that commonly offer coin exchange services include local banks and credit unions, as well as some retailers and gas stations.

Community banks and credit unions

Check with your bank or credit union to see if it offers free coin exchange.

“More banks are actively seeking coin deposits to help meet demand in their branches and among their retail customers that rely on coins to conduct transactions,” says Steve Kenneally, senior vice president of payments at the American Bankers Association.

Many big banks have phased out their coin-counting services in recent years, but the regional banks or credit unions that do offer coin exchange likely do so at no cost to customers. There may be a small fee for noncustomers to use the bank’s coin-counting services.

“Different banks have different coin acceptance policies,” Kenneally says. “Some accept rolled coins and some accept loose coins to process through a coin-counting machine. If they have a machine, loose coins are usually preferred.”

Local retailers

Many retailers offer self-checkouts that accept coins. Some gas stations, such as QuikTrip, also offer coin-exchange machines that you can use to exchange coins for cash.

Some other businesses where coin-exchange services are commonly found:

  • Wawa
  • CVS
  • Hannaford
  • Kroger
  • Ralphs
  • Walmart
  • Meijer
  • Safeway
  • Winn-Dixie

Roll your coins for easier spending

Rolling coins is a cost-effective way to make exchanging or spending them much easier. Many banks give out coin wrappers for free, and cheap packs can be found in various sizes at dollar and office-supply stores, as well as Amazon.

If you have young children who are trying to learn math, you can use the coin wrappers as a teaching tool. Between all the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters you’ve collected, kids can practice counting and begin to understand basic money values.

If you’re still wary of rolling your own coins or simply don’t have the patience (time is money, after all), you could instead shell out for a coin-sorting machine. Electronic coin sorters can be found at office-supply stores, Walmart and Amazon.

Be wary of potential fees

Many grocery stores have coin-counting machines, which are often located near checkouts. There’s typically a fee for the service that can amount to a few dollars. Coinstar, the most popular brand of these machines, charges a fee of up to 12.5 percent, which may vary by location, along with a 59-cent flat fee per transaction.

Alternative uses for coins

Donate to charity

Coinstar gives you the option of donating the coins you deposit to a charity. When you do this, Coinstar retains a 10 percent processing fee for donations to a national charity, and it retains a 7.5 percent fee for regional charities. Coinstar’s charity partners include:

  • World Wildlife Fund
  • United Way
  • The Humane Society of the United States
  • Feeding America
  • Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
  • American Red Cross
  • Make-A-Wish
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Charitable donations are tax-deductible, even in the form of spare change, so if you choose this option, hold on to your receipts.

Sell valuable coins

If you take a moment to look through your coins with a more discerning eye, you might find some valuable or rare coins that could be worth a lot more than their face value.

According to the Chicago Gold Gallery, some things to look for when identifying rare coins include:

  • Coin condition
  • Mintage number
  • Errors, such as missing elements

You can take any coins that seem valuable to a coin appraiser to get expert insight into the coin’s rarity, market value and authenticity.

Utilize a coin-to-gift card program

Many coin-counting machines at retailers, including Coinstar, allow you to exchange your coins for a gift card with no extra fee.

Some gift cards offered include Amazon, Starbucks and AMC Theatres, but the retailers featured vary by location.

Bottom line

Cashing in your spare coins can be an easy way to treat yourself or contribute to an emergency fund in a place such as a high-yield savings account.

To exchange coins for bills, try taking them to a local bank or retailer that offers coin-counting services. With some coin-counting machines, like Coinstar, you can also exchange coins for gift cards for free or donate your spare change to charity. Don’t forget that coins can be used for purchases, too — just roll them up and use them like you would bills.

–Staff writer Karen Bennett contributed to an update of this article, and freelance writer David McMillin contributed to a previous version.