What is Coinstar
Coinstar is a company that operates self-service money changers found in grocery stores, banks, and other retail stores. These machines allow customers to exchange change for cash, e-gift cards or charity donations. Coinstar charges a fee for this service, usually around 11.9 cents per dollar. In addition to coin counting, Coinstar also offers a digital gift card exchange where customers can exchange unwanted gift cards for cash.
The history of Coinstar
Coinstar was founded in 1991 by Jens Molbak, a graduate of Stanford University. Originally called “Pac Rim Exchange, ” the company operated as a traditional foreign currency exchange business. However, Molbak soon realized that there was a significant demand for a more convenient way to convert loose change into cash, and he began developing the self-service coin counting machines that would become Coinstar’s signature product.
The first Coinstar machine was installed in a Safeway supermarket in Santa Clara, California in 1992. The machine was an immediate success, and Coinstar soon began expanding into other retail locations across the United States. In 1998, the company changed its name to Coinstar and went public, trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the ticker symbol “CSTR.”
Over the years, Coinstar has continued to innovate and expand its services. In addition to coin counting, the company now offers digital gift card exchange, as well as a range of financial services for retailers, including cash handling and management solutions. In 2013, Coinstar was acquired by Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm, for approximately $1.6 billion.
How Coinstar works – the algorithm
The Coinstar machine uses a simple algorithm to count coins and determine their value. Here are the basic steps:
- Customer selects the payout option: cash, e-gift card, or charitable donation.
- Customer pours loose change into the Coinstar machine’s hopper. The hopper funnels the coins down a chute into the machine.
- The machine uses a series of sensors and mechanisms to separate the coins by denomination (penny, nickel, dime, quarter, etc.).
- If the customer has opted for cash, the machine dispenses a voucher for the total value of the coins, minus the Coinstar fee. The customer can then take the voucher to a nearby customer service desk to exchange it for cash.
- If the customer has opted for an e-gift card, the machine prints out a voucher with a unique code.
- If the customer has opted for a charitable donation, the machine prints out a receipt indicating the total amount donated. The customer can then choose from a list of eligible charities and deposit the receipt into a collection box near the machine.
The Coinstar algorithm is designed to be accurate and efficient, with the goal of making it easy for customers to convert their loose change into a form that is more useful to them.
How do you get cash from Coinstar
To get cash from a Coinstar machine, follow these steps:
- Locate a Coinstar machine at a participating retailer, such as a grocery store or bank.
- Pour your loose change into the machine’s hopper. The machine will sort and count the coins automatically.
- Select the cash payout option on the machine’s touchscreen display.
- The machine will deduct its fee, which is typically around 11.9 cents per dollar counted.
- The machine will print out a voucher for the remaining cash value, which you can take to the retailer’s customer service desk to exchange for cash.
Note that some retailers may have a maximum limit on the amount of cash they will exchange for Coinstar vouchers, so it’s a good idea to check with the retailer before using the machine if you have a large amount of coins. Additionally, be sure to double-check the accuracy of the coin count and the voucher amount before leaving the Coinstar machine.
Is using Coinstar worth it
Whether using Coinstar is worth it depends on your personal circumstances and needs. Here are some factors to consider:
- Convenience: Coinstar machines are widely available at many grocery stores and other retailers.
- Time-saving: Counting and sorting coins by hand can be a time-consuming process, and Coinstar machines can save you time and effort.
- Charitable donations: Coinstar offers the option to donate your change to a variety of charities, which can be a convenient way to support causes you care about.
- Fees: Coinstar charges a fee for its services, which can be relatively high, typically around 11.9 cents per dollar counted.
- Limits: Some retailers may have a limit on the amount of cash they will exchange for Coinstar vouchers, which can be inconvenient if you have a large amount of coins.
- Alternative options: There may be alternative ways to convert your loose change into cash or other forms of value that don’t involve paying a fee.
In summary, if you have a large amount of loose change and value convenience, Coinstar may be worth it for you despite the fee. However, if you have the time and resources to sort and count your change by hand or are looking for an alternative option, Coinstar may not be the best choice.