(NerdWallet) – Coins are rarely used to make purchases in the U.S., but you probably have a container somewhere in your house that’s slowly accumulating the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that you get in change.
In fact, there was an estimated $48.5 billion in coins sitting in American households — such as in a piggy bank or junk drawer — according to a report issued by the government-led U.S. Coin Task Force during the COVID-19 pandemic. These dormant coins led to a disruption in coin circulation that is still affecting the U.S. economy, though to a lesser extent today than during the peak of the pandemic. The Federal Reserve is encouraging people to put their coins back into use by depositing or exchanging them for bills.
If you’re looking for a way to make those coins easier to spend, there are several options.
Where can I cash my coins?
Your bank or credit union
Many banks and credit unions offer coin exchange services, including national banks such as Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, U.S. Bank and more.
“The first step is to call your local bank branch and ask about their coin acceptance policy,” says Steve Kenneally, senior vice president of payments at the American Bankers Association. “Some banks want the coins to be rolled, some banks have a big coin sorter and some will ask you to go to another branch because they might share one sorter for the region.”
Before you haul out your change, you might want to chat with your bank or credit union’s customer service department to see what coin exchange services are available. A bank may accept coin exchanges from noncustomers, but you may be charged a fee if you aren’t a customer of that bank.
A local Coinstar location
There are over 20,000 Coinstar kiosks worldwide, which means you likely have one nearby. Customers can exchange their coins for cash, e-gift cards, tax-deductible charity donations and cryptocurrency. There’s a caveat: Coinstar machines charge an 11.9% processing fee to change your coins into cash. The e-gift card option is fee-free, however, and customers can get e-gift cards for one of more than 20 retailers, including Amazon, Apple and DoorDash.
Some regional retailers have been known to provide their own coin-cashing services. For example, the convenience chain QuikTrip requested change from customers during the pandemic due to the nationwide coin shortage. Publix, a Florida-based grocery chain, offers its own coin-cashing service, although customers may pay a fee. Keep an eye out in your area for similar offerings from local retailers.
Paying with coins
If you’d like to pay with coins instead of trying to exchange them, check with a retailer in advance to see if you can use coins for purchases. This might not be a problem if it’s a small number of coins — especially if you’re using exact change — but if you have a lot of coins, this may create a disruption in the cash register line. Businesses aren’t required to accept coins as a form of payment, and the retailer might not have enough employees to take time at the register to count coins, even if the coins are rolled.
Alternatives to cash
If you’re trying to avoid getting more coins in the future, consider paying at the cash register with a debit card, credit card or digital wallet instead.