These are the 4 best ways to turn coins into cash

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If you’ve been trying to figure out where to get your coins counted, you’re in luck: A lot of people will be more than happy to help you turn those pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into dollar bills right now. As people have stayed home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and focused on paying for purchases without touching anything, the circulation of coins has slowed.

“The coins are out there,” says Steve Kenneally, senior vice president of payments at the American Bankers Association, “but instead of being used in face-to-face transactions, they are in piggy banks and cup holders all over the country.”

If your piggy bank has an overloaded stomach, here are four options for emptying it.

1. Check your local bank.

Call 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,” Kenneally says.

Think local. If you’re lucky, you might even find a community bank that will actually pay you extra for those coins. Wisconsin-based Community State Bank ran a program in July that rewarded people with $5 for every $100 worth of coins they exchanged. They managed to collect a lot of coins, too. The bank reached its coin limit within one week.

Not every bank is as generous, though. Many national banks have largely phased out their coin-counting services in recent years, but it’s still worth checking to see if they have revisited the practice in the midst of the circulation issues.

“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.”

2. Roll them up yourself, or better yet, have your kids do it.

While rolling coins may not be the most exciting activity, let’s face it: You’re probably spending more time at home in 2020. If you’re looking for something to do, this tried-and-true method remains the most cost-effective way to easily turn your coins to cash. Many banks will give you coin wrappers for free, but you can also find cheap packs in various sizes at the dollar store.

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

If you’re still wary of the chore or simply don’t have the patience (time is money, after all), you could instead shell out for a coin sorter machine. Office supply stores, Walmart and Amazon sell inexpensive ($30 or less) machines that will sort your coins into rolls for you. Once they are rolled neatly into the coin wrappers, take them to your bank and exchange them at a teller.

3. Make your trip to the convenience store even more convenient.

If you live near a QuikTrip, you’re in luck. The gas station and convenience store operator has been handling coin exchange duties for customers during the pandemic at more than 800 locations across 11 states. Aisha Jefferson-Smith, corporate communications manager for QuikTrip, says that some customers have redeemed as much as $3,000 in coins for cash.

Jefferson-Smith says that the company appreciates if coins are rolled and property sorted, but it’s not a requirement. In some cases, customers have dropped off their piggy banks and QuikTrip employees have taken care of the counting duties.

4. Let a machine do all the work.

If you’ve been to the grocery store, you are likely familiar with coin-counting machines. They are often located near the lottery kiosk or just past the checkout register. The process is simple: Pour your loose coins into the machine, and receive a voucher to trade with a cashier in store.

The catch? Fees that translate to fewer dollar bills. Coinstar, the most popular and accessible brand of these machines, charges an 11.9 percent service fee. That fee varies by location, too. If you were one of those QuikTrip customers who discovered $3,000 of coins in your house, Coinstar’s green machine would eat $357 of them.

If you don’t need cold hard cash, though, Coinstar offers a few alternatives.

Gift cards

Coinstar waives their fee when you choose to trade coins for an e-gift card instead of cash. Depending on the individual machine, you can choose from a wide range of retail stores, restaurants and e-commerce outlets. You will receive a code loaded with the full value of your coins, redeemable instantly.

There are some exceptions to the e-gift card program, though. Not all retailers on Coinstar’s site are available at every grocery store location, so it’s best to check your closest machine or shop around to find a gift card that will provide the most value for you. If you have a massive number of coins, you might exceed the maximum amount. For example, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts will only issue e-gift cards under $200. To be fair, that’s still a lot of donuts.

Donations

If you don’t want to turn those coins into cash for yourself, Coinstar will waive its fee. When you choose to donate to one of Coinstar’s available organizations, every cent you put into the machine goes toward your donation. Coinstar’s list of charities includes:

  • World Wildlife Fund
  • United Way
  • UNICEF
  • The Humane Society of the United States
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
  • Feeding America
  • Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
  • American Red Cross

Don’t forget: Charitable donations are tax-deductible, even in the form of spare change, so if you choose this option, hold on to your receipts.

Spend them

Finally, there is one other option that can be easy to forget. Your coins are cash. They’re just a bit more cumbersome to spend. The U.S. Mint issued a statement in July, advising consumers to look for merchants that are accepting cash.

“We are asking for your help in improving this coin supply issue,” the statement reads. “You can do so by paying for things with exact change and by returning spare change to circulation.”

When you do, though, be sure to be safe.

“As important as it is to get more coins circulating, safety is paramount,” the statement continues. “Please be sure to follow all safety and health guidelines and rules when visiting retailers, small businesses, grocery stores, and financial institutions.”

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