289 dimes, 195 nickels and 405 pennies

That's $42.70 if you're keeping track.  And that's how much change was sitting in a jar in my kitchen when I finally dragged it off to the supermarket and dumped it into the coinstar machine.  That's right, I paid a big green box 8.9% of my hard-earned change just to count it.  (I've already ranted about the sizes of coins vs bills available in this country) Well, actually, I would have been happy to do that, and I've done so before, but I noticed something different about the contraption.

Instead of paying 8.9% to count your change and getting a voucher good for use at that supermarket, you can now pay no fee and either donate your change to one of coinstar's nonprofit partners, or get a gift card for it from one of coinstar's gift card partners.

None of the charity partners were quite what I was looking for (and because I've been doing the charity thing in various other ways) I chose a gift card.  I know that gift card issuers make good money when people end up with unusably small balances or lose their cards, so I'm always wary of getting them unless I'm confident they'll get used.  With options like Amazon, Starbucks and iTunes, this didn't seem to be a worry.

I was an early defender of the coinstar system, even with the fee.  Since I keep quarters for laundry and parking meters, and I don't see much use in carrying coins smaller than that, it seemed an efficient tradeoff.  I applaud these clever additions to their offering.  I assume they collect a similar fee from the gift card merchants and charities, but as a consumer, I don't much care.

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