The best ways to count your loose change

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The best ways to count your loose change

Even if you only use cash for the occasional purchase, you can build a sizeable rainy day fund just by saving your loose change. Over time, you can amass hundreds of dollars (or more) to bulk up your bank account, pay down some debt or fund an impulse buy.

But before you’re ready to cash in or deposit your coin stash, you need to count it. Here are the best ways to count your loose change.

1. The old-fashioned way

Anyone of a certain age probably remembers counting up coins by hand — sorting them by denomination, stacking them into predetermined amounts and adding up the stacks to arrive at the total value. You can go one step further by loading your coins into paper coin rolls before you took them to the bank to deposit or convert into bills. (Learn how people are ditching cash in favor of digital options.)

This method won’t win any points for speed or convenience. But it can help you appreciate the sheer volume of the change you’ve been collecting for years. It’s also a great way to teach your kids about arithmetic, patience and the value of money (plus, it will keep them busy for a while).

2. Digital coin-counting jars

Digital coin-counting jars allow you to easily keep track of your change at home while you save. You simply pop your change through the coin slot in the top of the jar. Using the size of the coin to determine its denomination, the counter lid displays the amount of the coin you just inserted and the total amount of change in the jar.

This method is handy because you’ll always know much change you’re saving in real time, and you won’t be left in the dark or wind up cashing in your coins before you’ve reached your savings goal.

3. Home coin sorters

You can dump your change into the top of mechanical home coin sorters, which will sort your coins by denomination and load them into paper coin rolls for your convenience. There are manual versions that operate by hand crank and digital versions that display the total value of your change as it is sorted. It’s an easy and fun way to sort your coins at home before you take them to the bank.

Coin sorter models can range from affordable to pricey. Make sure the investment is worth it. If you only save up a few bucks in change a month, you may want to look at other methods. But if you’re taking home pocketfuls of change every day, it’s a big time-saver.

4. Retail coin-counting machines

Many grocery stores have large coin-counting machines like Coinstar, which let you dump in a pile of change to have it automatically counted for a voucher to exchange for cash at the checkout lane.

The catch is that you’ll pay for the privilege. Coinstar charges an 11.9% service fee, which is a steep charge to take off the top of your savings. However, cashing in your coins for electronic gift cards or charitable donations is free.

If you don’t want to pay a fee, check with your local bank or credit union. Some financial institutions offer coin-counting machines to their customers free of charge (or to non-members at a lower fee than Coinstar).

Before you start bringing coins to your bank, check if your local branch will even accept them. Every bank has its own policies on coins. Some only accept rolled coins, some will accept loose coins and some may not accept coins at all.

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Image: Steve Johnson