Many retailers and restaurants still display signs requesting that customers pay with exact change or only use debit or credit cards for their purchases since the U.S. is experiencing a national coin shortage due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Shutdowns and reduced traffic at businesses and banks “significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coins,” says the Federal Reserve.
The U.S. Mint has operated at full production capacity since mid-June and is scheduled to produce 1.65 billion coins per month for the rest of the year.
As the economy reopens, more coins will flow back into circulation, which should alleviate the coin shortage, the Fed says.
Stephanie Konvicka, executive director of Hesed House, a small community nonprofit in Wharton, Texas, wound up rolling $500 in change while she watched “Grey’s Anatomy” during the pandemic. She carried it in several shopping bags into her local bank.
“I had to make two trips to the car because it was so heavy, and it made quite the scene because I tied up one of the two teller lines forever because she was new and had to count it all four times because her totals didn’t match,” she says. “I visited with everyone in the bank while we waited.”
Konvicka says she felt she needed to cash in her change because many people in her community use cash to pay for items.
Why Your Bank Is Probably the Best Place to Cash In Coins
Consumers can turn in their coins for cash at banks, which will give them their full value. Banks do not charge a fee to their customers when they deposit coins, but many require that the coins be rolled in wrappers. Some banks like Wells Fargo will exchange rolled coins for noncustomers without a fee.
Wells Fargo says they offer coin wrappers and encourage people to deposit their rolled coins.
“We are actively managing our coin inventory and working with customers to meet their coin needs to the extent possible after the Federal Reserve put limitations on coin deliveries to all financial institutions nationwide,” says Beth Richek, vice president of corporate communications for Wells Fargo.
Check your bank’s policy. Some credit unions and community banks still have coin-counting machines. The majority of large banks such as Bank of America, Chase and Capital One do not have coin-counting machines for their customers anymore, though you can still receive coin wrappers from banks.
Amber Albrecht, a vice president in public relations in San Diego, says she turned in $100 in coins at the urging of her 6-year-old son, Cooper, and 8-year-old daughter, Rylee. The children split the proceeds but deposited the money in their new savings accounts at Mission Federal Credit Union.
“With the change shortage and them getting older, they pushed me to bust open their piggy banks last week and start their own accounts,” she says. “This was also motivated by them wanting to see how much money they have online, which I thought was interesting, too.”
Hyperion Bank in Philadelphia has a coin-counting machine in its lobby that is free for customers and charges a 5% fee for noncustomers. A husband and wife recently competed to see who could save the most coins and brought them to the bank; their change added up to $429.13.
“The husband won – he had saved the most coins,” says Lee Green, a Hyperion branch manager.
Since they did not have an account at the bank, they opened one to waive the coin-counting fee, which would have amounted to $21.46.
Coin-wrapping machines sort the coins for you and cost from $28 to $180 – though you could spend up to about $500. Some machines will place the coins into preformed wrappers. Among the retailers selling the machines are Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy and eBay.
Ian Rosen, former CEO of StockTwits, made his children roll their coins and took the rolls to a Chase branch. They cashed in about $120, and each of his children received $10. The task was “to make them do something both tedious and requiring accuracy,” he says. “A good time was had by all.”
What Are Your Alternatives to Cashing In Coins at a Bank?
If you opt to cash in your coins at a Coinstar machine, found at many supermarkets, you have to pay a fee of 11.9% if you choose the cash voucher option. Coinstar waives the fee if consumers trade in their coins for an e-gift card to use at more than 20 businesses and restaurants, such as Amazon, Southwest Airlines and Starbucks, or make a donation to a nonprofit organization.
Consumers can also exchange their coins for cash or a gift card at Tulsa, Oklahoma-based QuikTrip, which has 800 gas stations and convenience stores in 11 states – Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. The coins do not have to be rolled.
For two years, everyone’s pocket change went into a large plastic tube in the study of Doug Chapin, an election researcher in Virginia. When he heard about the coin shortage, he lugged it to his grocery store and dumped the change into the coin counter. The tally was $222.78.
“The most amazing thing is how quickly we managed to spend the Amazon gift certificate purchased with all those coins,” he says.