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Save a Buck

Beat Those Coin-Counting Fees

loose change

— Olivia Barr/Getty Images

Like many of us, you may throw your spare change into a jar, hoping it will take you out to dinner one day. When the jar is full, you lug your loot to a coin-counting machine for conversion into paper money.

If you use the Coinstar machines commonly found in supermarkets, banks and other commercial establishments, you’ll pay a 9.8 percent fee for the convenience of not counting and rolling the coins yourself.

But here’s a way to get full value for your money: Select an option to load the coins onto a gift card that’s good at amazon.com, CVS, Borders, Old Navy, Lowe’s, JCPenney, Starbucks and other big retailers. The same holds if you donate it to a major charity, such as the American Red Cross, the World Wildlife Fund, UNICEF or the March of Dimes. Go to coinstar.com to locate a machine with these free options in your neighborhood.

Also, if you scout around, you may find other places to swap your coins without paying a fee. These include some credit unions, casinos and banks—for example, TD banks on the East Coast and BankAtlantic in Florida—but sometimes only if you’re a customer.

Joan Rattner Heilman writes often on good deals and where to find them.

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