These days, most of us go around using plastic for just about everything: bills, dining, shopping, etc. And coins are becoming more and more obsolete for things like parking meters and even vending machines. Nevertheless, in many places around the country you still might need to pull out some quarters for various needs.
In this article, I’ll show you different ways that you can get quarters (including rolls of quarters) in this day and age and give you some tips so you don’t end up wasting time and in some cases money.
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Getting quarters from the bank
The first place you might think of when you need to exchange dollar bills for quarters is the bank and you’re mostly correct that it’s a good place to check out. Banks will have “quarter rolls” which are rolls full of 40 quarters that comes out to $10.
Thus, if you want to exchange cash for an entire quarter roll, you’ll need $10 in cash. Of course, you can ask for less than that, it just makes thing easier when your request is in $10 increments.
Here’s the thing about heading to banks to get your quarters: they won’t always do it for you.
If you are a customer of that bank (meaning you have something like a checking account or savings account) they should honor your request. In that case, you could also make a withdrawal specifically for quarters or simply tell the teller that you’re in need of quarters.
If you are not a customer, you might be met with some resistance for your request. For example, some banks might be hesitant to honor your request and say something like “we don’t exchange money here” (because what kind of financial institution would do something of the sort, right?).
Sometimes you can simply ask them to make a one-time exception and they might do it. Your odds of them saying yes to your request are better with smaller amounts. For example, you will usually be more successful asking for one roll of quarters versus three.
Other banks like Wells Fargo might be more accepting and will honor your request even if you are not a customer but many times it just comes down to your specific location and what kind of day the teller has had.
If you know you will be needing quarters on a regular basis over the span of several months or years, you probably should have a bank account with a local bank where you can always go in and get quarters without issues.
Just watch out for the bank fees which could end up costing you something like $10 or $15 a month and thus not be worth it in many cases. Also be on the lookout for ways to get free money when opening up an account.
If you’re worried about a bank refusing your request then simply call around your town to inquire about whether or not they will honor your request.
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Head to a grocery store or corner store
Many stores, such as grocery stores, gas stations, and some pharmacies, will exchange your dollar bills for quarters but you’ll typically need to make a purchase. For a grocery store, you can simply purchase something like a piece of candy or bottle of water and then ask for change in quarters.
You might have better odds if you approach the customer service desk at many places, too. At these desks, you may not have to make a purchase at all and they may be more willing to give up rolls of quarters. This would be my recommenced approach.
Depending on how they are stocked in their register, stores may have to limit your quarter request to a certain amount. Often you may be limited to only $5 or $10 worth of quarters but this type of thing will just depend on the place. Once you start asking for over $10 worth of quarters, that’s when things really start to get difficult.
(This is when being extra polite can go a long way.)
If you need a lot of quarters then simply rinse and repeat this process at different stores and eventually you’ll have all the quarters you need. This approach is good for Sundays especially when banks are typically closed but note that the customer service desks might be closed during very early or late hours.
You could also insert a larger bill into a vending machine to get quarters. For example, you could insert a $5 to pay for a $1 snack and get 16 quarters back. Or some machines allowed you to hit the “change” button right after you insert your bills and you wouldn’t actually have to purchase anything.
The only risk with this is that if the machine is low on quarters, it’s possible that it could spit you out dimes. Also, these typically only work on more “old-school” vending machines.
This same type of trick could be applied to other machines where quarters are often used like car washes, arcades, etc. Car washes can be good places if you need change late at night when other places are closed. Just make sure the machine is dispensing quarters and not tokens for the car wash.
If you need quarters for laundry, many laundromats should have change machines located inside and many are also open late at night or even open 24/7. Back when I lived in Berkeley, California, I don’t recall a laundry mat ever NOT having a change machine on the inside but I know many others are not so lucky.
The only problem was that occasionally that machine would run out of change or it would not be functioning so be prepared with a back up plan.
Also, there may be some ethical issues with utilizing quarter machines at places like laundromats. Your use takes a toll on the machine and could cost the business owner maintenance costs and inconvenience their paying customers.
Street performers often have a lot of change, such as quarters. You might be able to approach them (when they are not performing) and ask if they are willing to exchange. Having a large bill on display could help their odds of getting bigger tips but they might also ask for more value in the exchange so you might have to trade $5 in cash for $4 in quarters, etc.
Pre-1965 quarters are worth more $
If you’re dealing with quarters a lot there’s something you should know. Before 1965, all quarters were made of 90% real silver. This means that the silver in those quarters makes the quarter worth much more than 25 cents.
Of course, you can’t use the quarter for more than 25 cents at a store but you could hold on to that quarter and potentially sale or trade it.
So this is just something to keep in mind.
Tip: The best back-up plan is to have a stash of quarters. Whenever you pull out quarter rolls or you get quarters you should always try to pick up an amount that is 2X or 3X the amount you’ll need at that time. This will help remove a lot of the headache when dealing with quarters.
A full quarter roll contains 40 quarters.
40 quarters comes out to $10.
20 quarters comes out to $5.
100 quarters comes out to $25.
Many vending machines do not take 20s unless they have the ability to give change in dollar bills. Therefore, it’s very rare to receive quarters as change when paying at a vending machine with a $20 bill.
Pre-1965 quarters were made of 90% real silver and are worth much more than 25 cents. The exact value will depend on the silver spot at the time but the quarter could be worth around $3.50.
As we move more into the future, I’m sure coins will eventually be completely obsolete. But for now, many people still need to use quarters for various purposes and some even depend on them for daily tasks like laundry or even parking. I’d recommend getting set up with a bank for quarter needs but if they are closed then head to to a customer service desk at a grocery store.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.