How To Get Free Stuff From A Vending Machine ( Best 7 Ways)

Vending machines are ubiquitous symbols of modern convenience. Dotting hallways in schools, offices, and public places, they offer instant gratification to those hunger pangs or sudden thirst. But what if you found out there were secrets to these metal monoliths? Secrets that could offer you snacks or drinks without a single penny?

Indeed, vending machine codes have intrigued many. These are potential shortcuts or hacks that promise free goodies from these machines. While some might argue the ethics of exploiting such codes, there’s no denying the buzz they generate, especially among the younger, tech-savvy generation.

The world of vending machine hacks is diverse. Some swear by old-school methods, while others rely on modern tools and technology. Amidst this, a debate ensues: Is hacking a vending machine an innocent exploration of technology, or does it tilt towards theft?

What is a Vending Machine?

A vending machine is an automated device that provides items such as snacks, beverages, cigarettes, and even lottery tickets to consumers after cash, a credit card, or a specially designed card is inserted into the machine. They’re practically everywhere, from schools to offices to public transportation hubs, making them an integral part of our daily lives.

Brief History and Evolution

Originating from ancient civilizations, the earliest vending machines dispensed holy water in Egyptian temples. Fast forward to the 19th century, the first commercial coin-operated vending machine in London offered postcards and notepaper. As technology and society advanced, so did the sophistication and versatility of vending machines.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, vending machines in the U.S began offering gum at New York City train platforms and simple toys. The subsequent decades saw a rise in machines dispensing drinks and candy, further cementing their place in urban culture.

Importance in Modern-Day Convenience

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, time is of the essence. Here, vending machines shine as symbols of instant gratification. Be it a soda to quench your thirst or a candy bar to satiate your sweet tooth; these machines are your quick fix.

Moreover, the ability to access necessities without human intervention, especially in off-hours, is the key to their widespread acceptance. For instance, in cities that never sleep, if you’re craving a midnight snack or need a quick coffee boost during an all-nighter, vending machines become lifesavers.

How To Get Free Stuff From A Vending Machine

Types of Vending Machines

Vending machines have significantly evolved over the years to cater to various needs. Let’s explore some of the popular types that grace our surroundings.

Drink Vending Machines

From refreshing sodas and iced teas to steaming cups of coffee, drink vending machines are ubiquitous. They are especially common in educational institutions and workplaces. These machines often offer a range of beverages, sometimes even providing options to customize the sugar level or temperature.

Snack Vending Machines

Arguably the most recognized type, snack vending machines offer a plethora of treats. From classic chips and candy bars to more healthy alternatives like granola bars or dried fruits, these machines satiate hunger pangs at any time of day.

Combo Vending Machines

A step ahead in terms of convenience, combo vending machines offer both drinks and snacks in a single unit. They are a common sight in places like hotels and large office buildings. These machines provide a balanced mix, ensuring users find something to both drink and munch on.

Specialty Vending Machines

Diving into more niche markets, specialty vending machines can dispense items that aren’t typically associated with traditional vending. Think electronics, books, or even personal protective equipment. In airports, you might find vending machines selling headphones or chargers. Meanwhile, in busy urban centers, book vending machines might offer literary escapes for those on the go.

Popular Methods For Hacking Vending Machines

Vending machines, while designed for convenience, are also embedded with technology. Like all technology, they aren’t entirely immune to manipulation. Let’s explore some methods that individuals might employ to exploit vending machines. But a word of caution: attempting unauthorized access or manipulation of any machine can lead to severe repercussions, both legally and ethically.

1. Finding Out the Default Code

Every vending machine comes with a default code that technicians and maintenance workers use to access machine settings, run diagnostics, or reset the machine.

Explanation of Default Codes and Their Purposes
  • Access Settings: The default code might grant access to the machine’s internal settings, allowing individuals to change prices, view sales data, or modify other configurations.
  • Diagnostics: Running diagnostics can help pinpoint any issues or malfunctions within the machine.
  • Machine Reset: In cases where the machine malfunctions, the default code might be used to execute a complete reset.
Risks Associated with Using Default Codes
  • Legal Ramifications: Unauthorized access, even if just using a default code, can be considered a breach of property rights, leading to legal actions.
  • Machine Damage: Mishandling settings or running unnecessary diagnostics can lead to further damage.
  • Ethical Dilemmas: Unauthorized use, even without malicious intent, raises ethical concerns about privacy and theft.

2. Inserting Multiple Coins or Bills to Get a Free Item

This method takes advantage of potential machine glitches, hoping for an error in its operation.

Mechanism Behind the Trick
  • Overloading Input: By rapidly inserting coins or bills, the aim is to confuse the machine’s counting mechanism.
  • Waiting for an Error: If the machine registers more money than inserted or doesn’t count correctly, it might dispense products without the requisite payment.
Possible Outcomes and Repercussions
  • Temporary Success: It might work occasionally, depending on the machine’s age, model, or condition.
  • Machine Lock: Some modern machines detect rapid inputs as suspicious activity and lock themselves to prevent theft.
  • Legal and Ethical Issues: While seen as a harmless trick, this is still a form of theft and carries its set of legal and ethical consequences.

3. Using a Card Reader to Get a Free Item

With technological advancements, many vending machines now accept card payments. This has opened another avenue for potential hacks.

How Card Readers Interact with Vending Machines
  • Transaction Authorization: When a card is swiped or inserted, the machine communicates with the bank to authorize the transaction.
  • Data Transmission: The card’s data, including its number, expiration date, and CVV, is transmitted, albeit securely, during this process.
Safety and Security Concerns
  • Data Theft: Using a manipulated card or card reader can potentially harvest data from the vending machine or other users.
  • Unauthorized Transactions: Fake card readers might initiate unauthorized transactions, leading to financial theft.
  • Security Measures: Vending machine companies are aware of such threats and have integrated advanced security measures to counteract them. Attempting to hack can lead to immediate detection.

4. Pressing the 5th Drink Option Button for Free Items

Origin of This Myth

Legends from school cafeterias and office break rooms have long spoken about the mysterious fifth button hack. The lore goes that pressing the fifth drink option button in a specific sequence can unlock a free drink. Often, these myths arise from programming quirks in earlier models or isolated incidents that get amplified over time.

Success Rate of This Method

In reality, modern vending machines come with sophisticated software, rendering such simple hacks virtually impossible. Most people who try this method end up with the same result: a paid-for drink or, more often, a puzzled look from onlookers. The actual success rate is negligible at best.

5. Using the Refund Button Trick for Free Items

Mechanism of Refund Buttons in Vending Machines

The refund button is a feature allowing users to reclaim their money if they change their mind or if the machine fails to dispense the chosen product. The idea behind the hack is to confuse the machine into refunding money while still dispensing the item.

Potential Pitfalls of This Method

Not only is this method unreliable, but it’s also likely to draw attention. Frequent or suspicious use of the refund button can be flagged by the machine’s software. Moreover, persistent misuse can lead to the machine disabling the refund feature or even freezing up entirely.

6. Manipulating Sensor with External Light Source

Using a Flashlight or Phone Light to Interfere with Vending Machine Sensors

Vending machines use infrared sensors to detect whether an item has been successfully dispensed. The trick here is to use an external light source, like a flashlight or phone light, to interfere with these sensors, making the machine think it hasn’t dispensed the product and thereby prompting it to try again.

Chances of Success and Potential Signs of Tampering

Most modern machines have safeguards against such interference, making this method’s success rate very low. Moreover, shining a light into a vending machine is an obvious sign of tampering, making it easier for onlookers or security cameras to spot the act.

7. Shaking and Tilting the Machine

Old School Method and Its Dangers

The age-old image of someone shaking a vending machine to get a stubborn candy bar to drop is familiar to many. In desperation or frustration, people might resort to shaking or tilting the machine to get their purchased item or to illicitly snag a free one.

Potential of Triggering Anti-Theft Alarms

Modern vending machines are far more advanced than their predecessors. Many come equipped with tilt sensors and anti-theft alarms. Attempting to move or shake the machine can trigger these alarms, alerting nearby security or staff. More alarmingly, it’s worth noting that every year, there are reports of injuries, and even fatalities, caused by vending machines toppling onto individuals. The risks associated with this method far outweigh the potential reward of a snack or drink.

Reasons Why People Hack Vending Machines

The act of hacking vending machines, though on its surface may appear as a mere act of mischief, is rooted in various motivations. From economic to psychological reasons, the allure to manipulate these machines is driven by diverse factors.

To Save Money and Be Thrifty With Resources

Every coin saved adds to the savings jar. People often justify their actions based on a need to economize, and the idea of getting something for less or even free is enticing.

The human brain is wired to seek rewards, especially if they come without the expected cost. This inherent desire pushes some individuals to seek shortcuts, including hacking vending machines, as a way to save those few extra coins.

To Make Money Through Reselling Items Found in Vending Machines

While it might sound surprising, there’s an underground market for items that can be procured from vending machines, especially if they’re rare or collectible. Some individuals hack vending machines, not for personal consumption but to resell these items at a markup.

However, this method of making money isn’t without its pitfalls. Selling items procured through such means can lead to legal repercussions. Moreover, there’s an ethical dilemma involved in profiting from what is essentially theft.

To Show Off Skills and Have Fun Exploring Technology

For tech enthusiasts, the real prize isn’t the snack or drink inside the machine but the thrill of outsmarting the system. Vending machines, being electronic devices, present a technological challenge to hack, and there’s a certain satisfaction derived from cracking the code.

With the rise of the internet, hacking communities have flourished, where individuals share their achievements, exchange tips, and celebrate their technological victories. Vending machine hacks become badges of honor in such circles.

Curiosity and Boredom-Induced Exploration

The adage ‘curiosity killed the cat’ holds a kernel of truth. Humans possess an innate drive to challenge norms and explore the unknown. Sometimes, the act of hacking a vending machine isn’t driven by need or greed, but merely a curiosity to see if it can be done.

As a Feat of Rebellion Against Society or Authority

Often, acts of rebellion are manifestations of deeper frustrations or a sense of powerlessness against larger entities or systems. Vending machines, often found in institutional settings like schools or offices, can become symbolic targets. For some, hacking such a machine is a small act of defiance against perceived oppressive systems.

Tools Used in Hacking Vending Machines

In the vast world of DIY and home improvement, it’s essential to be aware of the tools people use for various tasks, even if some are less than noble. Vending machine hacking, though not an honorable endeavor, has its own set of tools. Here’s a look at what’s in the toolkit of those who choose this path.

Basic Tools

There’s no denying the efficacy of good old-fashioned hand tools.

  • Slim Jims: These flat, springy tools are originally designed to open car doors but can sometimes be used on vending machines too.
  • Pliers: Versatile and effective, they can manipulate, twist, or even cut wires inside a vending machine.
  • Other Manual Tools: Screwdrivers, wrenches, and wire cutters can also play a role in physical hacks.

Electronic Tools

As technology has advanced, so have the tools that match it.

  • Card Readers: Some individuals use these to read data from the machine’s payment system and manipulate it.
  • Scanners: These can help detect weaknesses in the machine’s electronic defenses.
  • Electronic Lock Picks: These sophisticated devices can sometimes decode or reset a machine’s lock.

Software Tools

Tech-savvy hackers employ software to outsmart the electronic brains of modern vending machines.

  • Custom Software: Programs specifically designed to exploit vulnerabilities in a vending machine’s software.

Specific Hacks

Certain hacks target the unique characteristics of specific types of vending machines.

Old Vending Machine Hack

Some older models, built before advanced security measures, are vulnerable to basic hacks. These machines often have simpler mechanisms and lack modern security features, making them an easier target.

Crane Vending Machine Codes

Crane machines, those claw games filled with toys or other prizes, operate differently than snack or soda machines. Exploits for these machines might revolve around timing, sequences, or identifying default codes left unchanged by operators.

Practical Tips

Now, while we don’t endorse these activities, it’s good to be informed.

How Do You Get Free Snacks from a Vending Machine?

Several methods have been touted over the years. Some people swear by certain button sequences or tricks with the coin slot. However, it’s essential to note that modern machines have improved security, and the success rate for these methods is often exaggerated.

How Do You Get a Free Drink from a Vending Machine?

Again, there are tales of button sequences, coin tricks, or even tilting the machine (though this is dangerous!). Much like the snack machines, drink machines have also upped their security game in recent years.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are vending machine hacks legal?

No. Tampering with vending machines, including using hacks to get free items, is illegal and unethical. It’s considered theft and can lead to penalties or legal actions.

Do all vending machine codes work?

Not necessarily. Vending machines have various models and manufacturers. While some codes might work on certain machines, they won’t necessarily work on others. Moreover, many companies frequently update their security features.

Why do people search for vending machine hacks?

The primary reasons are curiosity, the thrill of getting something for free, and the challenge of overcoming a technical obstacle. However, it’s essential to understand the ethical and legal implications.

Is it easy to spot a hacked vending machine?

Modern vending machines come equipped with advanced security features that can detect tampering. If a machine suspects any fraudulent activity, it can trigger alarms or even shut down temporarily.

What is the risk associated with vending machine hacks?

Aside from the legal consequences, hacking a vending machine can lead to damaging the machine, which may result in hefty fines. Furthermore, individuals can injure themselves, especially if they employ physical methods like shaking or tilting the machine.


The allure of free snacks and drinks, combined with the thrill of cracking a code, makes vending machine hacks a tempting endeavor. However, it’s essential to view these “hacks” with a lens of responsibility. These machines are designed to offer convenience, and hacking them disrupts this very essence.

While the creativity and technical prowess displayed in some of these hacks can be commendable, it’s crucial to channel such skills into more constructive outlets. After all, the mark of true expertise isn’t just in cracking systems but in creating and enhancing them.

Lastly, as homeowners and DIY enthusiasts, we can appreciate the art behind these machines, ensuring they serve their purpose seamlessly. Embracing technology with respect and ethics leads to genuine progress and innovation. Let’s enjoy the convenience of vending machines the way they were intended: by paying for what we want.

I'm Jimmy, the creative mind behind Drawing from extensive expertise in home improvement, I founded this platform to help individuals transform their living spaces. My dedication lies in empowering homeowners with dependable advice, ensuring that every DIY project not only elevates your home but also enhances your lifestyle. Join me as we redefine homes, one project at a time.