The following is a revision of a post I last posted about over the summer. The number of people reading this blog has grown quite a bit since then (and I hope some of that is attributable to folks thinking there is some value to the blog), and I thought it appropriate to repeat it: I was reminded of this post as I’ve got another big jar of coins I gathered at home while doing some much-needed cleaning of the closets!
I personally don’t think we exited the recession despite our government telling us it officially ended three years ago – looking at what the global financial markets have been doing, the lack of adult behavior in Washington (no matter which party you prefer), and the out of control debt of countries across the world and no plans to reduce it makes me think it’s going to last a little longer and 2013 has a lot of challenges where adult decisions have to be made – although I certainly hope I am wrong. The fiscal cliff is real.
Kindles and other eBook readers have some costs to them: by the time you purchase the Kindle and other related accessories (cover to protect it, maybe an extra charger, etc.) can certainly add up. However, you’ve made your initial investment in the Kindle hardware, and there is enough free content out there for you to read the rest of your life without buying another book. Forever.
Forever is a mighty long time.
While I do read a lot of the free books I talk about here in the blog (and the “to be read” pile is increasing, thank goodness for storage on the Kindle) I still enjoy certain authors and will purchase a lot of books. Some of them are inexpensive offerings from independent authors and some are from your mainstream “big name” authors, and I don’t care what the price is – I’ve gottagetitnow. Well, I do care what the price is but I may just wait until it gets below $10 for most offerings. I’m sure there are offerings by favorite authors you want to buy, too.
So, what’s my point with this post? Great question because, as in real life, I am getting long-winded.
You have a source of “free” money you can spend in the Amazon store and you probably don’t realize it as it is right under your nose. I’m talking about your loose change.
Most of you have seen the change conversion machines in grocery and other stores, and a lot of you have used them: you take in your coffee can of loose change, dump it in the hopper, the machine counts it and then spits out a receipt you take to the cash register to redeem for paper currency or a credit in the store. The one main drawback to these machines, to me, is a lot of them take an 9.8% or more commission / cut of whatever you brought in as their profit. For example, at an 9.8% commission rate you would need to bring in $11.09 worth of change to receive a $10 bill. Some people will say “so what” and accept that as a cost of doing business vs. rolling the money yourself and either turning it in to a bank (if they accept the change these days – my local branch of Bank of America does not) or taking it to a convenience store who needs it and having everyone behind you steam as you and the convenience store clerk count out a bagful of pennies.
If you were following along and did the math to see what the effective annual interest rate is on my $11.09 example above, great. If you didn’t, I’ve performed the calculation for you: assuming the vendor collects the change from the machine every three days and takes it to their bank, that 9.8% rate for a three day holding period converts to a whopping 1192.3% annual interest rate (9.8% over three days equals a 3.27% daily rate, multiplied by 365 days per year). The grocery store usually splits the fee earned 50-50 with the owner of the equipment, but even if the grocery store is providing a three day loan to the equipment maker until they are reimbursed, that is one heck of a money maker (why didn’t I think of that?)!
I’m sure some of you are still wondering what my point is with this post. I’ll get to it, I just had to set the stage.
Coinstar is one of the largest providers in the USA of this equipment to stores; they are also the parent company behind the Redbox DVD rental machines you seem to see everywhere. They have partnered with Amazon and other companies to not charge you a fee for the change you bring in if you bring in a minimum of $5.00 worth of change, but they will give you a gift card eligible for 100% of the change you bring in to be used at the Amazon website; I am assuming Amazon is paying the 9.8% commission fee as a customer acquisition cost.
That’s actually a huge benefit for you and me as we feed our Kindle book addiction.
Using my earlier example, if you brought in $11.09 worth of change and selected the Amazon gift card option, you would get a $11.09 Amazon gift card as your receipt. You would then enter the gift card details on your Amazon account on your computer (or Kindle, if the wireless feature is on with the browser pointed to the Amazon website). You can then use those funds now applied to your account and buy not only Kindle books but anything else on the Amazon website.
You also don’t have to roll the coins yourself or, if your house is like mine, have a couple of containers here and there full of spare change. You’re also not giving up any of your money as a commission just for someone to accept your spare change. I hope that’s change you can believe in as we move forward into 2013 (political pun intended).
Coinstar has partnered with other companies in addition to Amazon to offer gift cards with no fee to you – you turn in $11.09 worth of coins, you get a $11.09 gift card to the Amazon store or to the other store(s) participating in the program; Coinstar is also running a program right now if you put in $40 worth of coints, they will give you an extra $10 on your iTunes, Old Navy, or Dell eGift cards. While Coinstar is one of the largest providers of this equipment to stores in the USA, they are not the only one so don’t assume your local grocery store is a Coinstar machine.
To find a Coinstar machine, you can point your web browser to http://www.coinstar.com and do two things from this page: (1) enter your zip code in the top right-hand corner to find a Coinstar machine near you, and (2) see a list of companies that have signed up for the gift card promotion by clicking “details” under the name of the store / retail location. When I just did the same for a location near me, in addition to an Amazon gift card my selections were to Kroger, JC Penney, Lowes, iTunes, Gap, and a few others. You can also donate the change to eight different charities vs. taking a gift card, and the charity will receive 100% of the proceeds.
My old quart-sized Mason Jar I use to hold my change is about two-thirds full of silver coins, plus I have another jar full of pennies, so it’s off to the Coinstar machine on the way home from work today!
Hope that helps!
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