I have a love-hate relationship with coins.
When I was young, there was nothing as satisfying as filling my piggy bank with coins and counting the small fortune my seven-year-old-self had amassed at the end of one year.
Now that I’m older, I still try to feed Piggy, albeit with just the S$1 and 50-cent denominations that would come in useful for the annual Chinese New Year Games (read: mah-jong, dai dee, banluck etc). The remainder, change from my S$3.20 cai png or S$1.20 kopi-C-kosong-gao, just languishes in my wallet, transforming it into a brick after a few months (I try to PayWave or GrabPay everything else).
Being the thrifty person that I am, even the S$0.015 per piece fee I would incur from my convenient neighbourhood DBS/POSB Coin Deposit Machine is like a lunch lost (I would incur about S$4.40 if I deposited a maximum of S$294 in one-dollar coins, or yikes, a minimum of S$2.94 in one-cent coins, which results in a net loss).
There had to be a better way to satisfy my prudent instincts. And joy, for there are other ways!
For the thick-skinned
Most Singaporeans, including myself, like to keep to ourselves. Why speak to a stranger when I can stare at my mobile phone? But if you are of the more sociable breed, make friends with those everyday faces around you: the coffee shop auntie, the newspaper vendor, the canteen uncle, the BreadTalk lady, the MRT Station Control staff and so on.
These friendships and rapport could come in useful when you have a ton of coins in your possession.
But first, organize all your coins swee swee. Sort them by denomination, wrap a row of coins in paper as you would candy, and write the value on the paper BIG BIG.
Then, during off-peak hours, approach your friendly neighbourhood coffee shop ah chek, Starbucks meimei, provision shop ah boy, market vegetable seller etc. and politely ask if they would like to swap notes for your coins. Who knows, you might be their go-to coins/notes changing service from here on out.
If you are super outgoing (and have time to spare), you can also try approaching tourists queuing to buy their single-trip tickets at busy MRT Stations. Chances are, they will need to break big notes into small change/coins – and your help in using the machine. But don’t act suspicious and loiter lah, else you may get chased out by security.
For the Internet-savvy
Good news for those averse to approaching strangers in real life, because you can also do it online.
Post your request or look for a listing on Carousell, search forums such as HardwareZone, Singapore Expats, MyCarForum, ClubSnap and even Reddit, and even send mass messages via WhatsApp (surely a friend of a friend of a friend is a business owner who needs coins?).
You could even set up a website, taking a cue from Absolute Vending (which charges a fee for changing coins to notes and vice versa), or cold-email businesses like CoinChanger.sg to see if they will take your mountain of spare change.
For the parents/uncles/aunties
Children are a blessing, especially if they can help you waive those coin deposit bank charges. Even if you have none of your own, there is a high chance that a sibling has a kid or a close friend has a little tot. You might even have a younger brother or sister who fulfils the bank’s criteria for a waiver.
The ePOSBkids Account offers a waiver of coin deposit fees until the child turns 16 years old. There is a limit though – this waiver is limited to the first 1,000 pieces per calendar month at the coin deposit machine.
Or get a UOB Junior Savers Account, also for those 16 years and below. Charges for coin deposits are waived for these accounts, but only at specific times and over the counter (on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9.30am to 11.30am for normal banking branches and from 11am to 1pm for extended hours banking branches).
Another bank that waives these charges is Standard Chartered Bank. Coin deposit fees are waived for e$aver Kids! Account (for children below 18 years old) transactions.
This is also waived for Maybank’s Youngstarz Account (for children below 16 years of age), subject to a maximum of 200 pieces of coins per account per day. Coin deposit and withdrawals are available only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Get an HSBC bank account
As of now, HSBC seems to be the last bank standing that offers as free coin deposit up to 50 pieces. Seeing that UOB’s waiver for deposit of the first 199 coins has ceased as of 1 July 2018, it is not known if HSBC will follow this route.
The following are not exactly ways to convert coins into notes but are tips to lighten your coin load if you are doing grocery shopping, buying a drink from a vending machine or just going through life in general.
The vending machine hack: Word has it that vending machines, in general, are programmed to dole out the biggest denomination when pressed for a refund. Did I try this? Yes, I tried inserting 10 x 10-cent coins into a vending machine, pushed the return lever and was rewarded with a shiny S$1 coin.
The Sheng Siong supermarket hack: I visited the Sheng Siong supermarket at Upper Thomson one quiet weekday. Picked up some groceries and got them scanned before proceeding to the payment machine. These accept coins, but I was not sure if I had to have exact change. Too impatient to care, I grabbed a fistful of coins and slung them into the coin deposit slot. Let me tell you, the sound of those coins jangling as they trickled down into the machine was shiok. And call me suaku, but I was half-worried and half-amazed to see the amount on screen change from S$6 to -S$5.10. At the end of it, a crisp S$5 note and a 10-cent coin popped out. Wow, I paid for my groceries and managed to transform some coins into a note! Okay, impressed. Payment facilities may differ at other Sheng Siong outlets.
Try to pay for stuff as much as you can in coins: Small-ticket items like my cai png and kopi-C-kosong-gao definitely qualify. But can vendors reject your coin payment? Yes, if it exceeds a certain amount or if there is prior written notice by the shopkeeper on what he/she will/will not accept. Check out these Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) guidelines (full version here):
What’s legal tender (coins)?
- Coins of a denomination exceeding 50 cents – for the payment of any amount
- Coins of a denomination of 50 cents – for the payment of an amount not exceeding S$10
- Coins of a denomination lower than 50 cents – for the payment of an amount not exceeding S$2
The writer and BankBazaar.sg shall not be liable if any of these methods go awry. Try them at your own risk. If you know more methods, let us know in the comments on Facebook!