Cash not accepted. No coins on hand. Are we running out of money, or is something else going on?
COVID-19 has changed every point of daily life for Americans, and the way we pay for goods and services is no exception.
“Business and bank closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coins,” the Federal Reserve said in a statement. “While there is an adequate overall amount of coins in the economy, the slowed pace of circulation has reduced available inventories in some areas of the country.”
The United States Mint confirmed in a press release that there is no real shortage of coins, but there is a lack of circulation.
In a public service announcement video, Mint Director David J. Ryder asks the public to “help get coins moving by using exact change when making purchases, taking your coins to financial institutions, or turning them in for cash at coin recycling kiosks.”
“Right now, coins aren’t circulating through the economy as quickly as they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that sometimes coins are not readily available where needed. This is not a coin supply problem. It’s a circulation problem,” Ryder says in the video.
One big-name Texas business has turned to its customers for help.
H-E-B told the San Antonio Express-News that it is asking customers to use credit cards instead of cash payments to help them with their shortage of coins.
“H-E-B is testing several strategies to buy and conserve coins so we can serve all of our customers in the way they want to shop and pay for their purchases,” said spokeswoman Julie Bedingfield, emphasizing that the store will still accept all forms of payment.
According to the article, the Texas grocery chain has launched a Change for Charity campaign where customers can donate coins to charity groups.
The grocer also is encouraging patrons to use the Coinstar kiosks in the stores to deposit coins for cash to help with the coin inventory.
It’s hard to know when the coin circulation problem will end. The Federal Reserve has a task force looking into ways to mitigate it. Recommendations are expected this month.