I’m generally a fan of TD Bank and my local branch’s generous operating hours, and I’m also a fan of the bank’s coin counting machine called the Penny Arcade. After my interesting experience last weekend, I’m an even greater (and slightly wealthier) fan.
Last weekend, my girlfriend and I counted the coins in our coin jar and took them over to the local TD Bank branch about a half mile from my apartment. TD Bank has a coin counting machine called the “Penny Arcade.” It is similar to the Coinstar machines in grocery stores, but it’s free to use. We pour our coins into a receptacle at the top, and when it’s working properly the machine sorts and counts the money. When it is finished, the machine prints a receipt which we can take to the counter and exchange for cash (bills, preferably) or deposit into my account.
Banking Deal: Earn 1.00% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Barclays.
Unfortunately, the machine was not working when I arrived, but there was no way to know this before unloading our cash irretrievably into the hole in the top. I emptied my $55.00 in cents, nickels, dimes, and quarters, but the machine would not count them. I made the nearest teller aware of the problem, and a few moments later, one of the managers was on the way to offer some assistance. This was the same young manager who opened my account at this branch a few years ago, when the bank was known as Commerce Bank.
He opened the Penny Arcade and changed the coin collection bags, some of which had become full and were in need of replacement. After a few moments, and with a line forming behind us, the counting machine was working again. The manager waited with us for the machine to stop counting and spit out our receipt. Although we deposited $55.00, the machine reported $87 and some change. Whoever was using the machine before us must not have realized the Penny Arcade stopped counting, didn’t know how much money to expect, and was at that point missing $32 or so.
I brought this discrepancy to the manager’s attention almost immediately. No one had reported missing money, and the bank was fine with providing us the full amount on the receipt. If the rightful owner of the extra $32 comes back to the bank claiming the machine malfunctioned and short-changed him, the bank would cover the mistake.
We left the bank with an immediate 58% return on our money — a better result than just about any investment choice I made this year, but unfortunately not likely repeatable. If, however, we arrived at the bank any later, the individual next in line would have been the beneficiary of the generous but unaware previous customer.
If I learned one thing from this experience, it would be that it’s worthwhile to count your coins yourself before taking them to the bank to ensure the coin counting machine is working properly. The Penny Arcade lets you guess the total value of your coins and accurate guesses are rewarded by a prize from the teller, so even if you don’t have a malfunctioning machine you could walk away with a bag clip or a magnet.
Lest readers think I am wasting my time counting money when the machine can do it faster with the benefit of being able to catch inaccuracies which would in most cases be very small and not worthwhile, I also look through the jar to find uncommon coins to gradually complete a collection. I might as well count the money at the same time.
If I learned two things from this experience, the first would be to count the coins in advance and the second would be that I can continue to expect satisfying and perhaps lucrative customer service from TD Bank.
Updated September 24, 2015 and originally published August 16, 2010.