Get Coins Counted: Don't Break the Bank

By Dr. Don Taylor, Ph.D., CFA, CFP, CASLLifestyle and

Dear Dr. Don, I'm a huge fan of your column! Now I have a question myself.

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My daughter has a lot of coins saved in piggy banks. Do you know the best way to turn these coins into cash without losing a lot of the money to coin-exchange charges or rolling coins all weekend long?

Thank you! -- Penny Coins-A-Lot

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Dear Penny, Thank you for your kind words!

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I agree with you that getting "nickeled and dimed" when you cash in an accumulation of coins is something to avoid. That's especially true if you're trying to teach your daughter about thrift and saving. In my area, a bank used to allow people to use their coin-counting machine at no cost. Now it's only free to customers, while others are charged for the service. Other banks and credit unions have the machines available to customers, too. I'm guessing that's not the case with your bank since you've written to me.

Talking to your bank is a good place to start, in any case. It might provide coin counting as a free service to customers even if they don't have a machine in the lobby. If the bank will do that for you, then you and your daughter are set.

Coinstar, which operates machines at many grocery store locations, offers an alternative to paying its 10.9 percent fee. The coin counting is free when you opt to get a gift card representing the dollar value of the change. That's attractive if you frequent the merchant. There are about 20 such merchants listed on the Coinstar website. You could pay your daughter the value of the card if she doesn't want the card herself.

Before my own daughter opened an account at a bank that had a coin-counting machine available, I had my own little machine at home that would sort coins for rolling. That saved some of the drudgery, but I still needed to get the rolls. In addition, the bank wanted me to label the rolls with my name and account number. I didn't like the added work, so I feel your pain. If none of these other options works for her, check to see whether your bank will provide free coin wrappers. That's one alternative to buying empty rolls at a dollar store.

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