Here's Why There's a Coin Shortage and How You Can Help

two u.s. quarters

You may have noticed signs at your financial institutions and grocery stores about a "national coin shortage," and that giving exact change or using a credit or debit card will be appreciated.

How did this happen? You can blame COVID-19. Coins started getting more scarce in February when, because of the pandemic, many businesses shut down and consumers stopped using cash for purchases. As a result, the circulation of coins in the economy slowed.

The Fed announced earlier this spring the formation of the United States Coin Task Force to address the circulation slowdown. The task force includes representatives from a number of government organizations and trade groups, including the National Credit Union Association (NCUA).

It's important to know that there's an adequate supply of coins in the economy according to the Fed; it's simply that fewer coins are being circulated than normal. Still, the U.S. Mint (Mint) is stepping up coin production. In 2019 the Mint contributed 17% of newly minted circulating coins into the supply chain, with third-party coin processors and retail activity contributing the remaining 83% but because of the coronavirus outbreak, reduced retail activity and decreased deposits have put pressure on the Mint to produce more coins. 

In early August the task force made their preliminary recommendations for how to end the "shortage," starting with the request for people to stop calling it that: "Many have referred to this as a shortage; however it is not," their statement said. "There is approximately $48 billion in coin already in circulation, most of which is sitting dormant inside America’s 128 million households."

Thus, there are things you can do to help "change" the situation. The task force issued a public call to action for all Americans to return their spare change to circulation. This can be accomplished by:

  • Paying with coins at retail and only using paper currency if you have exact change
  • Making coin deposits at your financial institution
  • Redeeming spare change at coin recycling kiosks
  • Using the hashtag #getcoinmoving in your social media posts to encourage others to get their coins circulating

Hanscom Federal Credit Union's retail branches have coin counting machines that make returning your spare change to circulation easy! You'll find them at these branches:

  • Barnes
  • Bedford
  • Beverly
  • Billerica
  • Burlington
  • Devens
  • JFK
  • LIttleton
  • Main Office (Hanscom AFB)
  • McLean, VA
  • Natick
  • South Bay (Dorchester)

Our machines are simple to use: just dump your change in the hopper, press a button, and our machines will do all the work of sorting and counting. When the machine is done counting, it'll print a receipt you can bring to a teller window for deposit.

So empty out those piggy banks on your bookshelves, the coffee cans in your kitchen, and even your winter coat pockets. Hanscom FCU members get free use of the coin machines; non-members are charged 10% of the coins' value.

Find a Hanscom FCU Branch or Surcharge-Free ATM Near You

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About Author

Matthew M. Robare
Matthew M. Robare

Matthew M. Robare is a freelance writer based in Boston. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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