ALEXANDRIA, Va.—October is Get Coin Moving Month, and the U.S. Coin Task Force is encouraging Americans to return coins into circulation. NACS is a member of the U.S. Coin Task Force.
The U.S. coin supply experienced major disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic and while it has improved since 2020, retailers continue to experience coin supply issues. While there is about $49 billion in coin circulating in the U.S., most of it is sitting dormant inside America’s 128 million households. Returning coins into circulation by spending, depositing or exchanging them at banks or kiosks will help the millions of American people and businesses that rely on coins to support cash transactions.
Americans tend to save loose change in jars, piggy banks or cupholders, and over time, these coins build up and don’t make it back to businesses that depend on cash and coin for daily transactions, including convenience retailers. Also, many financial institutions have removed coin redemption capabilities at the branch level.
Because of the pandemic, people were not spending cash and coin at retailers, toll booths, parking meters and other traditionally coin-intensive businesses, using digital payments and home delivery instead, and coin circulation is still not back to pre-pandemic levels.
“Disruption in the coin supply hurts our cash-paying customers the most who depend on our stores to make change,” said Anna Ready Blom, director of government relations for NACS. “It also creates additional burdens on our store associates to divert time and resources to finding coins.”
Up to 25% of Americans do not use or underuse banking services and rely on cash and coins to make purchases and pay their bills. Without cash and coin in circulation, it’s harder for underbanked families to buy basic necessities, other goods and services, and to fully participate in the economy.
In 2021, NACS was invited to serve on the U.S. Coin Task Force, which is dedicated to identifying and promoting strategies to get coins moving again. The United States Mint and Federal Reserve convened the task force, which is made up of members representing all major participants in the coin supply chain.
The Federal Reserve is working closely with banks to identify ways to make coin redemption easier for their customers. The task force also released a paper earlier this year examining the reasons behind the disruption in coin circulation, its impacts and what the coin industry has done to address the situation. The goal of the paper is to generate awareness and support, as well as serve as the baseline for further study and action.
The task force stresses that the coin disruption is not a coin shortage and is not an issue that can be rectified by producing more coin.
“Economic and behavioral changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as shifting business and consumer payment preferences and decisions, suggest most of these coins are sitting dormant inside America’s 128 million households,” wrote the task force in the report.
Last year, NACS surveyed a sample of its members and found that 80% of convenience stores said that dealing with the coin issue was diverting organization resources. Specifically, the problem requires additional time and resources from the workforce to provide change and search for coins from other vendors. The inability to make change is leading to customer frustration, and 76% of respondents reported that store staff had been adversely impacted.
“As the coin industry starts to emerge from the pandemic, the big questions now are which behavioral changes will stick and how the coin supply chain should accommodate the new normal,” writes the task force.
The U.S. Coin Task Force has published toolkits and resources, including sample media posts, for retailers, financial institutions and armored carriers, as well as fun and engaging learning resources for kids and families.