Whether you’ve dedicated years to stocking a cabinet coin jar or just recently found a stash hidden in the couch cushions, there are plenty of options available to trade in your coins for cash.
Americans lose out on nearly $62 million in loose change each year, according to Bloomberg. That can add up to a pretty penny for people collecting pocket change and spare coins from daily cash transactions in a dedicated piggy bank.
Once your coin jar fills up and you’re ready to trade it in for cash, here are some of the best options available.
1. Check your local bank
First, try your local bank or credit union to see if it offers free coin exchange.
National banks have largely phased out their coin-counting services in recent years, but a few individual branches still offer the service to account holders. If you bank with a national brand, it’s worth the trip to a local branch with your coin jar. Some tellers may still run your unrolled coins through a machine, which you can then deposit into your account.
For best results, though, look local. Credit unions and community banks are more likely to offer coin-counting services for account holders than larger institutions. Depending on the institution, non-members may also use this service, usually for a fee.
If you can wait a bit longer to convert your coins, keep an eye out for annual “Piggy Bank Day” events where branches bring out their coin-counting machines in order to entice community members to set up a savings account with their coin jar earnings.
2. Roll them up
Sure, it’s not the most exciting way to spend a rainy afternoon, but 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. Once you’ve secured your coin wrappers and a full piggy bank, the fun begins.
With the right attitude and some planning, rolling coins can transform from a tedious task into a time-saving family activity. If you have small children, use the chore as a learning opportunity. Between all the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters you’ve collected, they can practice not only counting but also basic money values and organization.
If you’re looking for a way to speed up the process, make a challenge out of it. Grab some friends or family members and see who can complete the most rolls in a given period. It’s up to you what the winner earns (maybe a portion of the final amount, or bragging rights if you’re not quite willing to part with your piggy bank earnings).
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. Think about the size of your coin jar before spending on one of these machines, though. Make sure the investment is worth it for how much cash your coins will actually bring in.
Once your coins are rolled neatly into the coin wrappers, simply take them to your bank and exchange them with a teller. If you’re an account holder, you can either deposit the amount or trade it for cash. Non-account holders may face more difficulty exchanging their coins for cash, but it doesn’t hurt to shop around in person to find a teller who will accept your coins.
3. Coin-counting machines
Grocery shoppers are likely familiar with coin-counting machines, often found near the lottery kiosks and DVD rental offerings in supermarkets. The process is simple: Pour your loose coins into the machine and receive a receipt voucher to trade with a cashier in store.
The catch? Fees. Coinstar, the most popular and accessible brand of these machines, now charges an 11.9 percent service fee. That means for every $100 you put into the machine, Coinstar takes nearly $12.
If you don’t need cold hard cash, though, Coinstar does offer a few alternatives.
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 retail stores, restaurants, and e-commerce outlets (including Amazon) and receive a code loaded with the full value of your coins, redeemable instantly.
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.
Remember: A gift card is only valuable if you actually use it. If there are no options for retailers where you would have spent your cash anyway, this may not be the best option.
Another no-fee option available from Coinstar is a charitable donation. When you choose to donate to one of Coinstar’s available organizations, which include the American Red Cross, Feeding America, UNICEF and World Wildlife Fund, every cent you put into the machine goes toward your donation.
If the charity you’d like to donate your coins to isn’t included on Coinstar’s list, ask the organization directly if they will take a coin donation from you at a local office.
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.
Once you’ve cashed in, begin earning interest by opening a savings account with your new dough.