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How to turn your coins into cash

coin rolls
Mike Fig Photo/Shutterstock
coin rolls
Mike Fig Photo/Shutterstock
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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.

Take your coins to a community bank or credit union

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,” 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.”

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 and Amazon.

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 rolling your own coin or simply don’t have the patience (time is money, after all), you could instead shell out for a coin-sorting machine. Office-supply stores, Walmart and Amazon sell coin-sorting machines for $50 or less.

Check if local retailers allow for coin exchange

Many retailers offer self check-outs 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

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 an 11.9 percent service fee that may vary by location.

Coinstar also gives users the option to exchange their coins for a gift card with no fee attached. Some gift cards offered include Amazon, Starbucks and AMC Theatres but the retailers featured vary by location.

Donations

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
  • 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.

Bottom line

Cashing in your spare coins can be an easy way to treat yourself or contribute to an emergency fund.

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.

–Freelance writer David McMillin contributed to a previous version of this article.

Written by
René Bennett
Banking writer
René Bennett is a writer for Bankrate, reporting on banking products and personal finance.
Edited by
Wealth editor