If you’re like most people, your change accumulates in the same spot until you’re broke and desperate for something. Then, you dig it out and shamefully pay for whatever item you needed with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters.
Instead of feeling bad about paying for items with change, it’s time to start rethinking how you’re using it.
How should I use my change?
Think of change as a little extra. Maybe you find change in the road, between the cushions on your couch, or even in the holder on a vending machine. (Seriously, we all check them.) Change adds up.
When you buy that cup of coffee or that bagel you’ve been eyeing, you’re left with extra change unless you use a roundup service offered by many businesses (that go towards charity) or services like Acorn or Chime (that goes into an investment fund of sorts).
Using business roundups
When you roundup with a business, you will not see that money, but you can often use that donation as a tax deduction. You have to keep track of it, which is usually difficult. Businesses like Goodwill ask you to roundup for their education fund, which helps support education for employees and for The Excel Center.
Lyft, Walmart, McDonald’s and other businesses will often ask if you want to roundup for a specific cause. If you’re looking to keep track of those donations, RoundUp App and Round It Up America are both programs that will round up your accounts and send that money to a non-profit for you. They are helpful if you’re trying to keep precise track of your donations, but that means that an app is going to know a lot about your purchases.
Using service roundups
Programs like Acorn and Chime roundup your change for you to go into a specific fund. Acorn has been around for a while (2012). The premise seems simple: you pay through the app that is linked to your credit and debit cards. The app rounds up the change and puts it into an account. That’s where this simple concept warps into something of nightmares.
The list of customer complaints is long with Acorn. Chime hasn’t been around as long (2013), but it’s motto is “We’re changing the way people feel about banking.” That tells you that they acknowledge issues with banking and that they are a bank–not just a roundup service.
Their bank includes a roundup service, but you have to use their debit card. Essentially, they are a bank that allows you to roundup instead of a roundup service that goes to your bank.
When you’re thinking about saving your change, consider setting a goal for yourself. Change accumulates slowly, but it can lead to a great reward. Either focus on a small goal (a new outfit or new shoes), a large goal (a vacation or a vehicle), an annual goal (gifts for the holidays or a birthday), or savings (a child’s college fund or your retirement fund).
You could even opt to be responsible and use your change to pay off a bill. We save all of our change for our vet bills, so we never have to tap into our other money.
What should I do with my change?
You have several options when it comes to what to do with your change. You can store your change in a wallet or purse, your pocket, or in a holder in your vehicle. But we all know that if it’s there, you’re probably going to use it eventually. Instead, store it there for the moment until you find a safe place to put it at the end of your day.
At-home coin counters
At home coin counters will wrap your coins as well as count them, making them a great way for you to save time and see your funds increasing. However, you also take longer to grow your change empire unless you have a small machine, and machines are usually a bit pricey.
Piggy bank/change jar
Piggy banks and change jars are cute and effective. The great part is that they are usually small enough that you will quickly fill it. However, piggy banks or change jars mean you have to take your change somewhere to cash out, and you have to be able to carry it.
Where can I cash in my change?
When you have change to exchange, you’ll want to take your change to a machine to have it cashed out into bills. Before you do that, be sure your change is free of debris and any foreign coins. Some machines will not accept half dollars or silver dollars. You have several options when it comes to cashing in your change.
Banks are the best place to exchange money for money. Most banks will only cash change if you have an account with them. Your bank may have a coin machine; however, many banks have eliminated their coin machines or put them behind the tellers, so you actually have to take your piggy bank to them.
Some banks like Chase, Capital One and Bank of America have completely eliminated the coin exchange process. My bank and my husband’s bank eliminated that service, so we ended up with another bank where we keep our vet bill money because they exchange our coins.
If you’re using the teller to cash in change, remember to always go inside (never send coins through a window unit) and show up at an off-peak time (avoid Mondays and Fridays and lunch times) to avoid crowds. Additionally, many banks will provide wrapping for you to wrap your own coins. Some banks do check wrapped coins, so be prepared to be patient.
What banks have a free coin counting machine?
Banks with free coin counting machines and their locations:
Some grocery stores have coin machines where you can cash in your change. There are fees associated (see below), but it’s convenient if you’re already there.
What grocery store has a coin machine?
The top 10 groceries that have coin machines are:
- Food Lion
- Jay C Foods
Most of them have Coinstar machines available.
Larger retail stores are also great places to exchange the change because you are already shopping, so you can find their coin counting machine and cash in. The top 5 retail stores that have coin machines are:
These stores also use Coinstar machines.
Coinstar has cornered the market on coin counting machines for good reason. They typically maintain their machines very well. That means, they do routine maintenance on the machine itself and clean it.
Additionally, with Coinstar, you have options. You can get cash back or a gift card, or you can donate that change to one of many charities. Keep in mind that if you choose cash, you will incur an 11.9% fee.
That means that for every dollar you have, Coinstar keeps 12 cents. That can add up quickly! Gift cards and donations do not have any fees deducted, so they tend to be a better option.
The process is pretty simple.
- Choose the cash, eGift card, or charity option at the kiosk
- Remove dirt, debris, and other objects from coins before adding them to the tray
- Lift the handle and guide the coins into the slot
- Take your cash, voucher for eGift card, or receipt for your tax-deductible donation
Coins are an often forgotten resource. If you set a goal, store it safely, and cash it in wisely, your coins can become a resource that you’ll want to use over and over again.
Martha Warner is a writer, editor, and educator. As a single mom for many years, Martha knows the value of money, how to work hard, and how to hustle. Her freelance career started as a side hustle (to support her love of travel) and quickly grew into the most lucrative career she’s ever had. Martha still teaches at the university as well as other online and in-person courses, including Writing to Make Money, College Scholarship Writing, and Write that Grant. Find out more about her on her website.