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TD Bank’s Penny Arcade: An Investment With a 58% Return

This article was written by in Banking. 24 comments.

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.

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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.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Yeah, not sure it’s a good long-term investing strategy but it’s fun to get a surprise bonus once in awhile!

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avatar 2 Anonymous

hey, which td branch was this?

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avatar 3 Anonymous

That is awesome! Congrats!

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avatar 4 Anonymous

That is awesome! Congrats!

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avatar 5 Anonymous

You know it’s funny. Over the years TD Bank has gouged me again and again by rearranging my debit transactions and causing me to overdraft on 2 or more purchases at once. Accounting is basic math and balancing a checking or savings account should not entail more than that. With TDBank, I was never sure what was going to happen with my account even though I spent within what my balance reflected, especially on the weekends. Then come Tuesday I would be surprised with 2-3 overdrafts. Sometimes all they had to do was pay one transaction out of order and that would trigger everything else.

They treated me as if I were a P.O.S. yelling at me when I would call wanting to know why I had overdrawn during times when I really needed my money. They REFUSED to give me any money back. Talking down to me and treating me as if I were a degenerate customer. I have a deposit account AND a loan account with TDBank. Ever since they started this practice which from what I can recall was some time in 2006, I have had trouble with my money. There have been times when they have overdrafted me which has made it impossible for me to pay my car payment on time and actually get my account balance back into the black and stay there for just once. The loan department had the nerve to tell me that they aren’t even making money on my car loan anymore (i’ve made over 40 payments on the loan, you mean to sit there and tell me you didn’t make any interest on those payments) where I countered by saying that if TDBank had not stolen nearly $8000 from me over the last four years I would have never had a problem with my paying my car loan on time. So don’t sit here and tell me that you haven’t made your money back from me.

It wasn’t until this month August 2010 that I have actually seen a change in my account because I have since they have made it available in our online banking accounts to OPT OUT of their TD Advance. Suddenly low and behold I’m not getting raped with fees. Ohhh wow, Gee! Here all along I thought TDBank was telling me it was my fault I was getting charged. Wow, imagine my surprise to see that my transactions HAVE NOT BEEN rearranged this month and nothing has overdrawn.

I am truly livid over this. I really want to know if there is a class-action lawsuit against them because I am due so much money back it’s not even funny. They have been a huge part of my financial demise over the last few years. I am self-employed and my income does not flow into my account on the same days of the week and it has just really put a chink in my whole life. Furthermore, I am not the type of person who blames others for my problems whether they be financial or what have you. They have been stealing from me with their dubious business practices and have been allowed to get away with it for years.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

Hi Nicole,

Sorry to hear that but at least you’re not alone. I was with PNC Bank first and now Sovereign Bank and they both pull/ed that bull-pucky with me. Thank you for inspiring me to opt out. They say I’ll avoid embarrassment in case I don’t have enough money in my account, well I think they can shove that. I’ll suffer the “embarrassment” and save $35+.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

I have a simple question: what would you do in your situation if the machine was working properly; but instead said $52.45 on receipt (not $55.00)?!?? I’ve heard Penny Arcades at banks and the coinstar machines in grocery stores (not including the fee they may charge) do not count accurately; there was an article in newspaper about this too. The bank manager, and the machine, would probably have no evidence that it really short-changed you?. So, what do you do in that situation?

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avatar 8 Luke Landes

I haven’t had a Penny Arcade short change me yet, but if I was sure I deposited $55 and the machine counted $52.45, I would bring it to the manager’s attention but not expect them to do anything about it. If I deposited $85 and the machine spit out $55, I would make sure the bank made it right for me.

No matter what, it’s important to know how much you’re bringing to the bank.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

So you are willing to leave 4.65% behind? That is five times higher than most savings accounts. I complained over $0.96 and the poor customer service I received to “help me.” I am not happy with TDBank and this is day two with them. How much worse can it get?

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avatar 10 Anonymous

Good on you for being honest. A lot of people wouldn’t have been.

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avatar 11 Anonymous

I just had the opposite experience with BOA: For 2½ years we put everything less than quarters into a box for our son to start a coin saving. We didn’t count all the coins but already after 1 year it was at least $12 in the box. This branch didn’t have a coin counter so the coins were put into a bag with amount TBD note and shipped to be counted at a central location. 10 days later I noticed a deposit of only $5.15 in my account – and now I don’t really know what to do – I thought that my sons coins would be safe as soon as I got them to the bank, but as I didn’t count the cash before going to the bank (I expected a machine to count them) the amount is my word against theirs. Right now I feel very naive for trusting that BOA could handle my sons petty cash without stealing!!! I though BOA made enough money from outrageous fees without having to steal coins from little kids!!! Shame on BOA…

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avatar 12 Anonymous

Before you go to the coin counting machine, you can estimate how much money you have just by weight alone using the iphone app called PiggyBank By Weight. Works pretty good for me.

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avatar 13 Anonymous

For everyone’s information, TD Band is now charging to use the Penny Arcade with not prominent sign. It’s an outrage after putting your change in only to find out at the teller window that oh, btw, there is a 6 PERCENT FEE now as of November 1, 2010. I will never go back there again, and I hope no one else does either. They’re jerks and are robbers of 6 percent of your hard earned money.

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avatar 14 Anonymous

The same thing happened to me–I’m never going there again. I wouldn’t have mind if there was a sign, but nothing not even a word from the teller that had asked if I knew how to operate the penny arcade——Very unprofessional!!!!

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avatar 15 Anonymous

Actually there is a sign for the 6%, has been since day 1. People just don’t read it.

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avatar 16 Anonymous

It hasn’t been there from “day 1”. I am not a TD/Commerce customer and have never paid a fee, until today…again like previous posters there was no prominent sign.

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avatar 17 Anonymous

Thank you all for your comments regarding Penny Arcade. I am a TD Bank customer and actually rolled all my coin! Then I thought…they have Penny Arcarde. Well, looks like I will keep them rolled and bring the rolled coins to the teller!

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avatar 18 Anonymous

My TDBank will not accept rolled coins (or loose coins) for that matter. So, no Penny Arcade, no deposit.

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avatar 19 Anonymous

The Penny Arcade is no longer free for non-customers (At least in NYC) with a 6% transaction fee being applied. It wasn’t applied since “Day 1” since until recently I never had to pay anything for my change even after I closed my accounts and was asked by the tellers if I had an account and answered “No”. I understand the machines break down but then the fee should have been applied since the beginning. Coinstar and Penny Arcade are now no different. I Guess the bank also has to find a way to pay for all the lollipops and dog biscuits they give away for “free”

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avatar 20 Anonymous

The penny arcade in Brooklyn on Montague st. shortchanged me by $8. I told the teller about it and she just said I should have pressed some button on the machine again. With the 6 percent fee the total money I lost was $17 –From $68 to what I received: $51 and change. I had the same experience at the same bank in the past except for more money. Spoke to the manager who told me the same thing about the button. They told me they would have to wait until the money was counted to see if there was a discrepancy and gave me a number to call and took my number. After calling, nothing came out of it and they never called back. I’m not a account holder but the way they are lackadaisical about respecting your money (not theirs) makes me suspicious of ever dealing with this bank. I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened frequently.

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avatar 21 Anonymous

I just sent a letter to my TDBank Manager and asst. Manager as well as my council member, the banking regulators in my state and the US Treasury in regards to the 2% discrepancy in my transaction.

Money is important to me. I live because I can pay for stuff I need to buy like food, transit fare, bills, mortgage. I would love to live in society where money doesn’t matter but it does. It does so much so that our country is falling apart because of huge deficits. It matter so much that banks do not want to lend for fear of losing money. 2% is 2%. It may be a little as two cents but it is still money. TDBank is a financial institution and not an aunt that gives you a quarter every time you help her with her groceries.

The Penny Arcade needs to be calibrated the same way that your butcher’s scale is calibrated and the local gas pump (should be) calibrated. It is money! We are taxed on it coming out of our pay checks and if you save it, you are taxed on the interest. Don’t be fooled that “what goes around comes around.” TDBank is a BANK! They shouldn’t be ripping people off. I plan to keep this battle going. It sucks for those who lost more. If you gained the system, good for you! I hope you spent it on a local business.

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avatar 22 Anonymous

I can explain what happened.

There’s an extraordinarily basic design defect in the Penny Arcade machine. How do I know this? I’m a mechanical engineer and saw a Penny Arcade machine opened in front of me today.

Here’s what happened. I dropped a large amount of change – a little over $126.00 – into the Penny Arcade in Lexington, Mass. It was my son’s money and he had counted it before I took it to the bank. Part way through my coin deposit the Penny Arcade signaled a bag was full and stopped counting. A bank employee opened the machine in front of me and I watched as he changed one of the coin bags.

Here’s what I saw. Any coins that are not successfully counted by the machine are returned to the customer in a reject tray at the bottom front of the machine. But – and here’s the design defect – the channel inside the machine that feeds rejected coins to the reject tray is horizontal. In other words, this channel for rejected coins has no slope. It is flat. So instead of being returned to the customer the rejected coins just pile up in the channel – a white plastic pipe – that is supposed to feed the rejected coins to the reject tray.

The TD bank employee scooped a few of the coins out of the logjam in the white plastic pipe and gave them to me to be recounted. He then closed and locked the machine. Assuming they were all mine, I asked him to reopen the machine and remove the rest of the coins from the white plastic pipe. Which he did, reluctantly. Realizing at that moment the design defect in the machine and understanding exactly what was happening, I commented “I guess that was your lunch money.” From his goofy embarrassed reaction, I can tell you that is exactly how he viewed the situation.

So what we have here is a BIG scandal in my opinion. There’s a design defect in the Penny Arcade that systematically skims a little from every customer’s deposit into the machine. It’s so obvious a defect that the technical people at TD Bank HAVE to know about it. I’m sure all the branches know about it. Some of the branch people are honest and some of them regard it as their little perk.

So, that $32.00 did not belong to the previous customer, nor to any one particular customer. It was the accumulated skimmings from a number of previous customer’s deposits. In your case the young manager did not regard the money in the rejected coin channel as his pizza money, he merely emptied the rejected coin channel and gave it all to you. This also explains his unconcerned reaction when you told him you received more than you deposited. He knew about the problem but has no way to address it.

My guess is that TD Bank senior management knows about this problem but has chosen to ignore it as fixing it would require an expensive redesign and retrofit of all the Penny Arcade machines.

And me? After making the TD Bank employee empty out the reject channel, I got back quite a bit more than the $126.00 that I put into the machine.

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avatar 23 Anonymous

td penny bank is the bigest fraud and shuld be shut down when you carry lots of change if you have a st ore and they open t5he machine to change the bag they ll tell you to thrugh in the change while the door is open the attenand would turn off the count button so all that money that goinn in is not regester i would say th ey got me over 30 000.00 between td and comerce its a big scam there are btime they said the machine need to be reset and turn the machine off and once they do that its erase the past count

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avatar 24 Anonymous

TD bank is the worst, i don’t know how long you all have been with them, but maybe five or six years ago when they switched over from Mastercard to Visa or vis-versa I deducted $200 from my checking via an ATM. A couple days later I call the mobile banking number to check my balance and I’m over $2000 in the negative. I asked to speak to a rep and they told me I had 15 separate withdraws from the same ATM each for $200. I tried calmly explaining that it wasn’t possible, I tried arguing with the woman, but she treated me like a total degenerate (probably because I overdrafted frequently, due to all of their fees and living paycheck to paycheck, but this was by no means my fault and I needed this money to pay my bills!) I just didn’t understand how she couldn’t see that if I didn’t have the money in my account how they would allow me to continue taking money out that wasn’t there, PLUS I had account protection so after two withdraws my card should have been shut off incase someone was draining my account. So frustrating. I still “owe” them that money, the account is in collections, killing my credit score.

The best thing I ever did was open an account with my local bank, Univest. I have gold checking so I pay five dollars a month for overdraft protection, however if I had $500 or more in my checking i wouldn’t have to pay that. Plus I’ve never gone negative with them.. surprise, surprise. And they always have warm cookies!

My best advise is to go to a local bank, so much less slimey. They treat you like a human and actually appreciate your business.

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