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Cashing in: The accuracy of coin counting machines

You've probably seen them in your local grocery store, and maybe at some point even used them. They're coin counting machines that turn your coins into cash.

But how accurate are they?

KFOX14's Jillian Fertig put some CoinStar machines to the test in a special assignment.

We took four a jar full of coins to four different CoinStar machines in El Paso. Each jar had a different amount of coins inside. First we counted the coins by hand. Then we counted them a second time using a coin counting jar.

"We'll use it every once in a while," said CoinStar machine user James Enos. "We've counted out before and had it pretty close."

Enos is one of hundreds of El Pasoans who use CoinStar machines to convert coins to cash in a matter of minutes.

Our first stop on our quest to test the machines was at the west El Paso Albertson's at 7022 N Mesa.

We put $37.59 into this machine. Minutes after it finished counting, the machine gave us back $35.33.

It's important to note CoinStar charges a 10.9 percent processing fee off the top. That's basically $11 for every $100 in coins.

Doing the math, it should have taken $4.10 as a fee. So this machine actually gave us $1.84 more than it was supposed to.

Our second stop was an east El Paso Wal Mart at 7101 Gateway Blvd W.

At this machine, we started with $19.43. We were eight cents short on the return.

Our third stop was the Lowe's Big 8 Foods store in central El Paso at 3518 Montana Ave.

We had $25.32 for this machine. We were shorted 46 cents on the return.

Our last stop was a northeast El Paso Wal Mart. We put $9.38 into this machine and were short eight cents.

After our test, we reached out to CoinStar. The company said it tests the machines for accuracy at least once every 90 days.

It also gets alerts when a machine isn't working properly so a technician can tend to it immediately.

CoinStar said my method for counting coins wasn't the same methodology it uses and "human error" may have contributed to my results.

CoinStar invited us to go test two machines with them. This time they brought the coins and did all the counting while we sat back and watched.

The technician took 10 of each denomination of U.S. coin.

Per their policy, the coins are counted twice: once before arriving to the store and again before the coins are put into the machine.

They tested the machine at the same Albertson's we went to on the west side and the machine at the Big 8 Foods in central El Paso. Their test results show the machines were accurate to the penny.

CoinStar also said sometimes coins can slip down the sides of the basket into which you dump coins, and that also could have contributed to our results.

According to CoinStar, it collected $7,819, 351 through 225,791 transactions at 44 kiosks in the city of El Paso for the year 2016.

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