Along with closing schools and businesses, it seems COVID-19 is also having an impact on coins. But is there a national coin shortage? The Federal Reserved has warned the ongoing public health pandemic has caused "low coin inventories," meaning this may be the perfect time to crack open your kid's piggy bank.
While concerns about contracting coronavirus from money have led many to temporarily halt their use of cash, shoppers across the country have begun noticing that more and more retailers are rounding purchase prices to the nearest dollar or rejecting cash altogether due to their inability to give change. For example, Walmart has converted some self-checkout registers to be card-only, according to NPR. In Texas, consumers spotted a sign asking H.E.B. customers to pay with either exact change or debit or credit cards in light of the "national coin shortage." A similar sign was reported by the Sun Journal to have been posted by a Lowe's in Maine.
Although stores, banks, and laundromats are certainly scrambling to get ahold of change, it seems the issue is not necessarily a shortage, but a disruption in coin circulation and supply.
"The COVID‐19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coin," the Federal Reserve said in a statement issued June 11. "In the past few months, coin deposits from depository institutions to the Federal Reserve have declined significantly and the U.S. Mint's production of coin also decreased due to measures put in place to protect its employees."
According to the Federal Reserve, business closures combined with drops in consumers' cash spending caused the circulation of coins to drop significantly. A decrease in coin production at the U.S. Mint — a result of staffing reductions due to social distancing recommendations — has further compounded the issue. In fact, the Federal Reserve has stressed there is "adequate coin in the economy." It's just that circulation of those coins has been interrupted or slowed, making it harder for banks and businesses that need coins to get them.
"With establishments like retail shops, bank branches, transit authorities and laundromats closed, the typical places where coin enters our society have slowed or even stopped the normal circulation of coin," the Federal Reserve said in a June 30 statement outlining their efforts to mitigate the effects of low coin inventories.
Banks are also working to help encourage consumers to put their coins back into circulation. Community State Bank in Wisconsin recently held a Coin Buy Back Program, offering a $5 bonus for every $100 worth of coins customers brought in before July 21. Gorham Savings Bank in Maine has offered customers an extra 10% for any coins they bring in to exchange for cash.
Even some businesses are looking to sweeten the deal for consumers willing to part with their coins. According to American Banker, some 7-Eleven locations are offering free Slurpees to customers who bring in coins to exchange for cash. While not all 7-Eleven locations may be offering this deal, what better way to cool off this summer than with a Slurpee you earned just for busting open your kids piggy bank?
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.