Link to the description of a pretty simple method by which Coinstar machines can reportedly be compromised into counting spare coins, without charging the user Coinstar's standard 9% transaction fee. I'm fairly certain this may not be legal, and it's posted here for technical analysis purposes only. (via, thanks Andrew)
Reader comment: Gabe says,
Your mileage will vary on the Coinstar trick. A few weeks ago I dumped $60 worth of coins into my local Coinstar and selected the "Starbucks Card" option. The system spun for a few minutes trying to connect (I did not pull the phone cord; I really wanted a Starbucks card), and then dumped me to a screen saying my selected option was unavailable. It prompted me to try another. I tried a few other options (Amazon gift certificate, iTunes card), and they all failed.
If you live in NYC, Long Island, CT, NJ, or the Palm Beach area of FL, Commerce Bank has coin machines that are 100% free. You don't have to do anything potentially illegal, and you don't even have to have an account at the bank. I go there all the time to dump off my coins. And their coin machine is awesome, it has a video screen with Penny from Pee Wee's Playhouse, who counts your change while you pour it in.
Back in 2004, the Wall Street Journal tested Coinstar and other similar machines, and found them all to be inaccurate, especially the "100% free" Commerce Bank machine:
"For consistency, we began with equal piles of $87.26 worth of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters that we had gotten from a local bank in coin envelopes. Talk about a tough economy. The machines at both Commerce Bank and Coinstar gave us less back than we put in -- Commerce Bank missed by a whopping $7.02, while Coinstar was off by 57 cents."
The article is on-line but it's subscriber-only. The link, for those with access, is here
One way to legally enjoy fee-free Coinstar services, albeit not all in cash, is to make a legitimate attempt to put the amount on one of their gift cards - every machine I have tried has choked at this point, and the machine is programmed to eventually just print out a voucher. In every case, the transaction fee has been included.
I have emailed Coinstar about this problem each time it's happened (making sure to include the transaction ID off the voucher) and in every case, they have responded within 24 hours with a credit for the fee applied to my Starbucks Card. Using this method, you'll get 91% in cash and 9% on your Starbucks Card - not a bad exchange, really.
(Via Boing Boing.)