The following is a revision of a post I last posted about in October 2013. The number of people reading this blog has grown 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! If you are reading this post on the blog’s website or Facebook page, I would appreciate a “Like” or “Share” so your friends and family can be notified of this tip, also!
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 long time.
While I do read a lot of the free books I talk about here in the blog 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 unless it’s a new one by Harlan Coben. 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 8% or more commission / cut of whatever you brought in as their profit. For example, at an 8% commission rate you would need to bring in $10.87 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 $10.87 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 8% rate for a three day holding period converts to a whopping 266.7% annual interest rate. 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 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 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 or shopping habits on Amazon.
Using my earlier example, if you brought in $10.87 worth of change and selected the Amazon gift card option, you would get a $10.87 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 (pun intended).
Coinstar has partnered with other companies in addition to Amazon to offer gift cards with no fee to you – you turn in $10.87 worth of coins, you get a $10.87 gift card to the Amazon store or to the other store(s) participating in the program. 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 Sears, JC Penney, Lowes, iTunes, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, The Home Depot and a few others. You can also donate the change to seven 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 almost full of silver coins, so it’s off to the Coinstar machine!
Hope that helps!