For those of us with a jar full of loose coins at home, this may be the moment we have been waiting for.
A promotion Coinstar is running this month will let you turn $40 in loose coins into $50 in gift cards or vouchers for a limited number of businesses.
Nobody's going to get rich on this deal, but it's a rare chance to quickly turn one amount of money into a larger amount, just by converting it into a different kind of cash equivalent.
I'll take $50 in gift cards to Lowe's over $40 in loose change any day.
And you'll avoid the hassle of taking coins to a bank, some of which still charge fees or require you to wrap coins.
Here's the detailed explanation:
Coinstar owns machines that typically are found at grocery stores. Locally, most Harris Teeter, Bi-Lo and Food Lion locations have one.
The machines allow you to deposit loose coins and receive back a voucher that can be redeemed for cash on-site.
Normally, the fee is as high as 9.8 percent, but this offer has no fee.
Through Dec. 31, if you cash in at least $40 and choose a gift card or "e-certificate" voucher for certain companies, you'll receive a promotional code on your receipt that's good for a $10 gift card for the same company.
To get the gift card, go to Coinstar's website, coinstar.com/nofee, choose the appropriate retailer, fill out the form and they'll mail you the gift card. For Amazon or Rixty, you'll get a promotional code to use online. For Lowe's, Borders, Regal and iTunes, coins must be cashed in by Dec. 31 and the promotional codes must be redeemed for gift cards by Jan. 31.
Amazon and Rixty have different deadlines and the $10 bonuses have expiration dates, so choose those only if you're going to use them right away.
There's a limit of one promotional gift card per company. So if you have $80 in coins and you cash in the coins $40 at a time, you can get two $10 bonus gift cards for two participating companies.
According to Coinstar, most people have about $90 in loose change at home. Visit www.coinstar.com for information and locations.
On a different note, also related to gift cards, keep an eye out for restaurant promotions when you dine this month.
A few weeks ago, I was at an Outback Steakhouse location with about a half-dozen friends.
We ran up a check of more than $200, and when the time came to pay it, we bought $200 in Outback gift cards, used those to pay most of the bill, and received $40 in Outback gift cards for future use as a promotional deal. So we spent what we would have anyway and got $40 in free gift cards.
A number of national franchises are running similar promotions. In most cases, the bonus gift cards must be used between certain dates.