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Convert Coins Into Gift Card For No Fee With Coinstar

My niece’s piggy bank, sitting on the shelf, is full and I am afraid it might fall on her. An idea occurs to me. I could convert those coins into dollar coins to reduce the weight. But how do I do that?

I could use the coins to pay for things. The Walmart self-checkout machine takes any coins. Unfortunately, the machine only takes a few coins at a time and there was one time when I jammed it. So I try with my niece’s coins, but it takes forever to feed in 8 dollars worth of pennies, nickels, and dimes. Not great when I’m buying ice cream and there are people waiting.

My sister’s brother-in-law forces his children to help him roll up coins in coin wrappers, which he then deposits at the bank. It sounds like an awful amount of work. Instead, maybe buy the machine that rolls up coins for us? Nah, too expensive.

I recall seeing a kiosk machine at Walmart (and other supermarkets) that takes coins and returns dollar bills, but with a fee deducted. Coinstar is the name. I google Coinstar to find out what the fee would be… 11.9 percent. Ouch. Then I notice that there is no fee when you get an eGift card instead of cash back. Coinstar can dispense gift cards from many stores including Amazon, AMC, Best Buy, and even Southwest.

Note: Not all eGift cards are available on every kiosk. Also, each eGift card requires a minimum amount ($5 for Amazon to $25 for Southwest) and has a maximum limit ($100 for AMC to $1000 for Amazon). So make sure you have enough coins to reach the minimum amount required. The maximum limit can be circumvented by getting more than one gift card.

The Coinstar green and white kiosk machines can be found in varying locations inside and outside of supermarkets, so you will have to look for them. I find one near the entrance at the nearest Walmart. It is too in the open for me. Thankfully, the nearer Albertson’s has one in a secluded corner.

2775coinstar2animatedHow to use a Coinstar kiosk:

  1. Press the touch screen.
  2. Select “Choose an eGift Card” for the no fee option.
  3. Indicate that you will use Coins (not Bills) for the transaction.
  4. Accept the terms and conditions.
  5. You will hear the coin sorting machinery spin up.
  6. Put the coins on the large tray with the holes and handle. (The holes in the tray are smaller than a dime and are there to get rid of non-coin debris that might mess up the coin sorting machine.)
  7. Pull the handle up and down to slide the coins into the intake on the side.
    • I try not to rush because I don’t want to jam up the machinery.
    • Any coins not recognized will drop into the small tray below the large intake tray. You can try to feed them in again.
    • At the end, I use my hand to push in the last of the coins.
  8. When all the coins are accepted, hit the “I’m done” button on the touch screen.
  9. Confirm that you want the “eGift Card” instead of the “Cash Voucher” (the cash voucher amount displayed is after the 11.9% fee deduction).
  10. 2775coinstar3animatedThe screen will say “Your transaction is complete!”, but the kiosk does not dispense your gift card. Fear not! The kiosk is not broken and you have not lost all your money. The screen lies. Your transaction is not actually complete yet.
  11. Note the “Have you used Coinstar before?” question. Answer yes or no. Either answer will take you to a screen asking you to register. Just skip past the registration screen.
  12. Finally, your transaction will be processed and the eGift card will be printed out of the slot to the immediate bottom-right of the touch screen.

Note: The eGift card is printed on thermal paper so use or record the gift card code before the print fades away (it will last only a few months).

Instructions on my Amazon eGift card tells me to browse to Coinstar Amazon Gift Cards and to input the gift code printed at the top of the paper. I do this immediately when I get home to verify that the gift card is valid. It is and my Amazon gift card balance is increased by the correct amount.

I’m not sure what will happen if your coins don’t reach the minimum amount. I suppose that you could cancel and the Coinstar kiosk would dump your coins back out.

Why are the gift cards free? I am guessing that companies like Amazon are paying Coinstar the fee (likely less than 11.9%) on our behalf. It is a good way to acquire new customers for Amazon. The people with loads of coins are most likely cash-based customers who usually don’t do online shopping. With this method, Amazon and the other online sellers can capture those offline customers.

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