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Coinstar change equals Amazon cash
Coin counter will skip its 8.9% service fee if customers opt for Amazon.com gift certificates.
September 13, 2005: 10:09 AM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Instead of turning their nickels and dimes into crisp $1 and $10 bills, Coinstar is now letting customers convert their spare change into Amazon.com gift certificates, the coin-counting machine company announced Tuesday.

Coinstar (up $0.85 to $20.06, Research) will roll out its "Coin to Card" program this week, allowing the company's customers to forgo the standard 8.9 percent processing fee if they opt to spend their money at Amazon.com.

"We're thrilled to offer gift certificates redeemable at Amazon.com as part of our Coin to Card(TM) program," said Peter Rowan, vice president of New Business Innovation at Coinstar, Inc. "Using idle change or found money to make online purchases brings 'shopping freedom' to consumers who either prefer to use cash or don't have access to credit."

The agreement between the companies is an effort to drive new customers for both Coinstar and Amazon.com (down $0.45 to $44.05, Research), The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Many consumers avoid using Coinstar machines because of the surcharge, while Amazon's growth has been limited because of its limited access to consumers without credit cards, according to the Journal.

Coinstar will make the option available on 3,500 of its machines in the U.S. this week. The company anticipates the option will be available on 5,000 machines by the end of the year.

The Amazon partnership is not the first deal that Coinstar has inked, the Journal reported. In 2004, it tested a similar program in three cities, which offered customers a Starbucks (down $0.23 to $48.23, Research) gift card in exchange for their change, according to the newspaper.

The newspaper reported that Coinstar is essentially purchasing discounted gift certificates from Amazon.com and will keep the difference between the price of the gift certificate and the amount it collects from the customer.

Coinstar estimates there is $10.5 billion in loose change within American households.

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