What Can I Do With My Loose Change?

Updated on April 16, 2019
Morgan Kirby profile image

Morgan is not a finance professional, but did once buy a week's worth of groceries with dimes and pennies.

If you have any amount of loose change, you know that having two hundred dimes is not the same thing as having a twenty dollar bill. However, it's still money! How can you turn your coins into useful goods and services?

If you have a lot of coins and would rather have folding money, check your local bank or credit union. In my area, some banks will always take your loose change, while at other banks it’s at the discretion of the teller, especially when the bank is crowded. Some banks require coins to be rolled, as well. Sometimes, any available services are for customers only anyhow. Overall, bank behaviors regarding coins vary from place to place, and you should always call your bank before making a trip. Tell them you have some amount of coins and ask what the procedure is for bringing it in.

Toward the end of this article I will list seven things you can do with your new wealth, but if you aren't able to make your coins more practical, here are 30 ways to use your loose change.

Do Stores Have to Accept My Change as Payment?

No, nbody has to take your loose change: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Currency/Pages/legal-tender.aspx

31 Things to Do With Loose Change

  1. Coinstar or other coin counting machines. This is probably the most well-known way to get rid of coins. I know that there are other companies, though I’ve only ever used Coinstar machines. The premise is simple: You dump in your coins and the machine turns them into credit. You can redeem your credit for cash or gift cards. Coinstar has a couple well known price-of-convenience flaws. If you choose the cash option, they charge 10+% commission, so you end up with less than 90% of the value you started with. They can also be tricky to operate, so follow the instructions carefully, and hold onto your receipt until you have your money or goods in hand. I personally rarely use Coinstar, and when I do, I get the gift cards. Amazon sells everything I could ever need, anyway.
  2. Regular Stores. When you pay for something with a large amount of coins, it can inconvenience you, the cashier, and everyone in line. That being said, if you have coins, you probably pay for at least some things in cash. With 1 nickel, 2 dimes, 3 quarters, and 4 pennies, you can prevent future coin accumulation by including exactly the right amount of cents in your payment. For example, if you want to buy a plunger that costs $5.69 and you give the cashier $20.69, you leave with a five and a ten. Bag up a couple collections of these coins (1 nickel, 2 dimes, 3 quarters, and 4 pennies), leave them by the door or in the car, and take with you as needed.
  3. Bus / subway. Even in this day and age, public transportation often expects coins.
  4. Toll. In my area, smaller toll roads still accept coin payments. Your mileage may vary.
  5. Laundry. Laundromats and other public facilities traditionally require quarters.
  6. Parking. Parking meters are a great way to use coins
  7. Vending Machines. There are vending machines now that do not accept coins, but the vast majority still do
  8. Gas. In my experience, gas station clerks are understanding if you need to pay for less than $5.00 of gas with coins
  9. Self Checkouts. Another great way to use coins. Try to go in an off hour to avoid slowing down long lines.
  10. Pay Phones. They still exist, and they still take change
  11. Printing / Copying. Many public libraries offer printing services that can be paid for with coins
  12. Fast Food. Nothing wrong with paying for an item off the dollar menu in coins.
  13. Food Court. My local Costco food court lets you buy a hot dog for 6 quarters. That’s good value.
  14. Tip Jars. Reward someone’s good service.
  15. Swear Jars. Pay for your mistakes.
  16. Charity / Church / Donations. Larger organizations often have systems for handling coins. It’s still courteous to call ahead, but in my experience they will accept reasonable donations.
  17. The less fortunate. If it makes you happy, you can give change directly to panhandlers or beggars, although I personally prefer donating to a charity instead.
  18. Gifts. If you are ever going to give someone something that can be filled with coins, you should fill that thing with coins. Works best with something like an actual Piggy Bank.
  19. Stamps. You never know when you might need a stamp, and forever stamps are basically money.
  20. Jukebox. If you can find one.
  21. Concessions. At youth or high school events.
  22. Casino. Casinos love your money, although in my experience they will only take coins if there is no line.
  23. Take a penny, leave a penny. Usually found on the countertop in a smaller store.
  24. Camping. Many camping areas have coin operated showers, vending machines, or toilets.
  25. Kid Things. Kids are a great way to get rid of change. They tend to find things to spend it on.
  26. Christmas Stockings
  27. Easter Eggs
  28. Halloween
  29. Arcades
  30. Tooth Fairy
  31. Allowance

In the United States, National Coin Week is the third week in April. Every year, cash your coins before National Coin Week, then use that money to pay for something fun during the week. Visit a theme park, order pizza, or watch a movie. Treat yourself.

When Should I Not Use Change to Pay for Something?

  • When you're trying to pass money through a handshake. It's much more difficult to grip some slyly passed coins than it is to grip a dollar bill.
  • Ballpark vendors
  • Long lines
  • Tipping someone like a cab driver or bellhop.
  • Government agencies
  • Anytime there are more than 10 pennies that will have to be counted one-by-one.

A pound of quarters and a pound of dimes are each worth twenty dollars.

Bonus Ideas in the Financial Spirit: What to Do With Extra Money

Hopefully these lists have provided some ideas about the dos and don'ts of using loose change. If you were able to transform your coins into a more useful form of currency, here are 7 nifty financial ideas for using your newfound solvency:

  • Debt. Paying debt is paying yourself, and you know you love getting paid
  • Gifts / Celebration Expenses. Someone you know is going to have something to celebrate soon. When they do, you can celebrate putting away money for just such an occasion.
  • Emergency Fund. Most financial experts recommend having money equal to at least 3 months worth of expenses in an emergency fund. It doesn’t have to be in cash, but it should be in a different account than your normal money or savings.
  • Savings. The future will be here before you know it.
  • Stocks. There are apps that let you invest with as little as $5.
  • Savings Bonds. After you buy a savings bond, the government will owe you money. Doesn’t that sound nice?
  • Precious Metals. Gold, silver, and other precious metals have values of their own.

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