We’ve all been there. You want a soda, but all you’ve got is some dimes, nickels, and pennies. Logically, every penny should count, right? So, why does the vending machine keep returning your small coins to the refund slot? The answer isn’t as nearly exciting as it sounds.
Some vending machines only accept certain coins and bills because of space requirements. The machine measures coins based on weight and then routes those coins into components, where the technician can easily remove them. If certain components are full, the machine will reject specific coins.
Other reasons can include mechanical malfunctions, damaged coins, and just the machine’s programming itself. In this article, I’ll talk about why vending machines are so darn picky about coins and what this means for you.
Why Do Vending Machines Only Accept Certain Coins and Bills?
As cheesy as it sounds, not all vending machines are created equal. The vending machines you find at airports and stadiums are different from those you’ll find near a high school gym. Why? Well:
Some Vending Machines Store Less Money Than Others
The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) reported that there were 4 million vending machines nationwide in 2015. These machines generally carry less than a few hundred dollars at a time for many reasons, usually because of storage capacity.
Once these machines hit their storage capacity, they stop accepting money. They might accept certain coins, like quarters and dimes, but might reject others, like nickels and pennies, which aren’t worth as much.
Some Vending Machines Don’t Want to Give Change
Behind the glass case, you see many tasty treats. However, under the hood, there’s some intense computer programming. Suppose that you want a snack that’s 75 cents, so you put in a dollar. If the machine doesn’t have the remaining change, it could spit your dollar back out.
If you give the machine exact change, however, it’s less likely to reject your money.
Some Machines Can’t “Read” Certain Coins and Bills
Vending machines measure coins by weight. Dollar bills, however, are a different story. The machine usually relies on a scanner to evaluate certain bills. If the machine’s scanner isn’t working or otherwise clogged by dirt, dust, or debris, it might not work.
Do Vending Machines Take Pennies?
Many vending machines don’t take pennies simply because it’s usually not worth it:
- It complicates making change. It’s easier to make change when dollar amounts are in increments of five. Adding pennies into the mix could complicate making change and prolong the transaction process.
- It takes up too much room. Think about it: if a soda costs a dollar, would the machine rather store 100 pennies or four quarters? For the sake of space, it’s the latter.
- It affects the storage process. Many vending machine workers have to service multiple machines a day. It takes time to remove expired items, place new items, and extract money. For the sake of time, energy, and resources, it’s easier just to reject pennies.
Do Vending Machines Take $5 Bills?
Some vending machines take $5 bills; others do not. It all depends on the vending machine’s owner, how it’s programmed, and how much money it can store. Today, newer vending machines can accept credit cards, Apple Pay, and larger bills.
The biggest reason a vending machine wouldn’t take a $5 bill is that it’s difficult to make change. When a vending machine does make change, it usually relies on coins–very rarely does it spit out dollar bills.
You might think that a single vending machine can hold hundreds of dollars in coins or bills at a time, so giving change from a $5 bill shouldn’t be a problem. But that’s where you’d be wrong. Vending machine owners generally collect money every month or so, depending on the location. That being said, these vending machines usually don’t have a lot of money.
Can You Put Foreign Coins in a Vending Machine?
I live in Texas, and let me tell you, there’s a lot of coins from Mexico in circulation passing as legal U.S. tender. While these coins could be virtually indistinguishable to a cashier, vending machines are smarter than that. That’s because they have scales inside the machine that weigh the money as you put it in.
It’s an exact science. For instance, an American dime weighs approximately 2.268 grams. Any coin that tries to “pass” as a dime but doesn’t weigh that exact amount will return to the coin slot. This is sometimes why bent, corroded, or old coins are rejected.
Theoretically, if you had a foreign coin that weighed as much as an American coin, the machine wouldn’t tell the difference. However, with modern technology, it’s better just to save that money for your next vacation.
Vending machines are just that: machines. Their goal is to take money and dispense snacks and drinks. By limiting the types and amounts of coins a machine can take, owners can maximize their profit margins and keep everything running smoothly.