How to avoid the Coinstar fee

Let’s get right to it. Coinstar charges a fee to be able to deposit your coins and get cash back. Yep, that’s right, you have to pay them money to get cash from your coins. They are a business of convenience after all. Luckily for you, we’re here to show you how to deposit your coins for free and Coinstar allows you do to do it. It’s not illegal and they even show this on their site.

*Important Note: While Coinstar’s fee is 11.9% nationally, it’s up to each retailer who carries the machine to the rate they will charge. Please pay attention to the screen when you are counting your coins at your local Coinstar location. It could be less or up to the 11.9% fee. From what we have seen, this fee stays pretty close to the one Coinstar indicates.

On our quest to get people to realize they need to stop paying bank fees, we also wanted to share that with people who use the popular Coinstar coin counting machines. I’ve used them many times in the past, but always hated paying them to process the coins. Well, after looking around, I was able to find a way to get them to process my coins for free and it’s not illegal. It’s actually part of their system. The caveat is you don’t get your coins back in cash, but in a different form. Read below to see how you can skip the Coinstar fee and save yourself some money in the long run.

One of my most popular posts on this blog was when I wrote about how it seems many banks don’t accept coin deposits anymore.  I get a lot of emails about the subject to this day and that post was over four years ago.  I still see a lot of chatter on forums about banks around some towns not accepting coins at all.

Some banks have coin counting machines in their lobby, but they might only be for account holders. There are others like TD Bank which charges a fee to use the machine.  I hate how it’s so much of a pain to deposit or exchange real legal tender.  It shouldn’t be this way.  I think we might have to blame our consumer culture of switching to plastic, the expense of keeping coins, and companies like Coinstar.

What is Coinstar?

I’m sure most of you are familiar with Coinstar, but for those who aren’t, this company produces coin counting systems that are placed in stores.  You can find a majority of them at grocery stores like Kroger and Walmart, but also are at some other smaller chains around the country.  These machines make it super easy for you to go in, dump your coins in their counting system, and then collect the cash.  It’s so easy, but they don’t do it for free. Coinstar’s fee is 11.9% of your total deposit.

Yes, when you use a Coinstar machine and want to get cash for your coins, they take nearly $12 for every $100 in coins you deposit. This number varies from store to store as they might subsidize the processing fee, but this is the standard fee as indicated by Coinstar.  You can even watch as the fee comes out when your coins are counted.  You can literally watch the convenience fee right in front of you. Ouch!  On the upside, you get to come in with a bag full of change and walk out with a fist full of cash.  How doesn’t love that?

How Does Coinstar Work?

I get this question quite a bit, so I figured I would address it. Most don’t understand how you can put money in and then it give you money back. Coinstar doesn’t give you money from their machine. When you drop your coins in their counter, it takes some time to count each coin. It will even drop out a few in a little tray that it couldn’t figure out (sometimes those coins might not be accepted currency).

Once it counts the coins, it gives you a total. This is after the 11.9% fee is taken out. You can choose to get paid with cash, get a gift card to certain store (see below), or donate to a charity. If you select cash, that’s when the fee is taken out. If you choose the other two, no fee is taken from your coin amount.

By selecting cash, you get a printed receipt from the machine. You then take this receipt up to the customer service counter of the store it’s located in. They are the ones responsible for providing you with cash. Coinstar then pays the store. So, Coinstar doesn’t pay you directly. Their machines just count the coins, then give you a receipt to collect that cash.

But, who wants to pay almost 12% on their money? Not this guy, so that’s why I’m showing you how to bypass it!

Bypass the Coinstar Fee

Luckily for you, I’m here to show you how to bypass the Coinstar fee. I hate having to pay money for convenience products, especially when the coin deposit market seems undeserved by those who should be serving it most. Banks!  If all we had were Coinstar machines, then the fee might be lower.  Either way, who wants to give up 12% of their money just to have it counted and exchanged for bills?  I don’t!

Coinstar does give you the ability to bypass their fee.  Instead of getting cash for your coins, you can choose to get an e-gift card instead.  These are for many large and well-known companies.  If you need to get some shopping done, then you can just choose those instead.  Their list of retailers have dropped a bit, so I want to show you which ones you can choose to bypass the Coinstar fee!

Even Coinstar talks about it on their site (it’s under the Help Center).

Is there a charge to use a Coinstar kiosk?

Not always. Free coin counting is available at most locations in the United States if you cash in your coins for an eGift Card. We have more than 20 stores and restaurants to choose from. If you decide to turn your coins in for cash, there is an 11.9% coin processing fee. Fees may vary by location.

Not all Coinstar kiosks provide all of the gift cards listed in the table below. They often update the retailers here and some only provide one option like Amazon.

If you’re going to go the Amazon gift card route, make sure you check out our most popular post on how to save the most money on Amazon.

UPDATE: Coinstar has reinstated some e-cards back into the mix. This is the updated list.

RetailerGift Card Limits
Amazon.comMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $1,000.00.
AMC TheatresMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $100.
Applebee’sMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $500.00.
Cabela'sMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $500.
Chili’s Grill & BarMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $100.00.
Domino'sMinimum amount: $10.00.
Maximum amount: $100.
Home DepotMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $2000.
GameStopMinimum amount: $15.00.
Maximum amount: $500.00.
Gap
(Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, Athleta)
Minimum amount: $10.00.
Maximum amount: $500.00.
Hotels.comMinimum amount: $10.
Maximum amount: $500.
IHOPMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $200.
iTunesMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $500.00.
Lowe’sMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $1,000.00.
NikeMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $500.00.
Regal Entertainment GroupMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $100.
ShowtimeMinimum amount: $25.00.
Maximum amount: $200.00.
SephoraMinimum amount: $10.00.
Maximum amount: $500.
Southwest AirlinesMinimum amount: $25.00.
Maximum amount: $500.00.
StarbucksMinimum amount: $5.00.
Maximum amount: $500.00.
SteamMinimum amount: $10.00.
Maximum amount: $100.00.

As you can see, all of them require at least $5 to get an e-gift card.  If you don’t have enough coins to get a gift card, don’t use Coinstar.  You really should wait until you get more coins.  There are a wide variety of retailers which are available to get e-gift cards.  I think this is the best way to deposit your coins and not pay a fee.  If you shop places like Amazon.com, like I do, then this could be a good way to get rid of your coins and use your money for something you want.  Since I’m a Prime member, shopping at Amazon is easy for me and I don’t mind using e-gift cards from my coins, which are sitting around collecting dust.  No one likes dusty coins!

Here are the instructions from Coinstar about how to obtain an e-gift card from their kiosk.

Step 1 – At the kiosk, pick the eGift Card you want. The selection of eGift Cards varies depending on location of the kiosk.

Step 2 – Add coins to the tray, lift the handle, and guide coins into the slot. Some kiosks accept bills too.

Step 3 – When the kiosk is done counting, you’ll receive a printed voucher with a unique eGift Card code—ready to use online or in the store.

Donate Coins to Charity

Coinstar has also added some options on kiosk to donate your coins to charity. Their list is quite small, but at least there are some options there. This means you will not be charged a fee for using the machine and all your money can go to charity. This could be a great way to teach children about giving. Currently, Coinstar only has seven (7) charities on their list. They include:

  • American Red Cross
  • Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
  • Feeding America
  • The Humane Society of the United States
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Unicef
  • United Way
  • WWF (World Wildlife Foundation)
Coinstar Charity donation list

They indicate that not every charity is available on all kiosks. You can go to their charity page and click each foundation to see where that donation option is available.

Now, I wish I didn’t have to write an article such as this.  Why do we need to find ways to use our coins without paying a fee?  Why do banks get to say they won’t accept coins, when they are perfectly legal tender and I’m sure it might be the law to accept them (not sure).  What do we tell our children who have piggy banks and want to deposit their coins?  Do we have to take them to the closest Coinstar and show them how capitalism works along with convenience fees?  I’m sure that won’t be a fun one to explain to your child when they see their hard saved coins shrinking to a processing fee.  That’s not something I want to show my son.

If you have coins and you need to deposit them, but your friendly bank won’t accept them, then take them to the closet Coinstar and use them to get an e-gift card.  Bypass the stupid Coinstar processing fee and keep all your coinage.  Why not treat yourself to your favorite retailer and use the coins for something for you.  There is nothing wrong with splurging on yourself every once in a while!

*Update – A kind reader took the time to comment regarding Coinstar and Walmart. You can use their coin counting machines and get a receipt to use toward your Walmart purchase. That’s a good way of doing it as well, if you like shopping at Walmart.

Roll Your Own Coins

If you don’t want to pay the fee for Coinstar and you don’t need a gift card, why not try to roll your coins and take them to the bank? Now, my bank doesn’t take coins much anymore (or they give me a really hard time), so this would work for me, but there are still many banks that have no issues with taking coins. This is especially true with credit unions. You can either go get rolling sleeves from the store, or hit up Amazon like I would and search for coin rollers. Right to your door with almost no work!

Get Better Savings Rates

If you’re interested in doing away with any high bank fees, check out these top banks for better savings rates. You can also read our selection for the best savings rates you can get from a savings account. Stop only getting 0.01% at big banks when online banks and credit unions are now providing you with 10X more at a minimum. Who wouldn’t want to earn 10X more on their money?

Have you ever tried this method to bypass the Coinstar fee?  Which retailer would you get a gift card to?