Coin Shortage: What To Do With Your Old Coins

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In stores you frequent, you may see signs once again asking you to use exact change: Great Coin Shortage Part II? Not exactly.

Neither the Federal Reserve nor the U.S. Mint, which prints America’s currency, have announced any recent developments relating to a shortage of coins. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been and aren’t circulation issues.

In this article, we’ll explore the U.S. coin supply issue in detail as well as share money expert Clark Howard’s advice on a great way to save money when you cash in your loose change.

Is There a Coin Shortage?

According to the latest information on the subject by the Federal Reserve, there is an adequate amount of coins in the U.S. economy, but circulation continues to be affected by the loss of banks and other businesses that closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To mitigate the situation, which was most pronounced in the early months of the pandemic, the Federal Reserve says it took several steps, including forming the U.S. Coin Task Force, which is charged with coming up with solutions to ensure that coins flow freely in the economy. The Fed also put temporary caps on coin orders — the first one in June 2020 and the second one in May 2021 — at some institutions to allow for a more fair distribution of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

But soon thereafter, the Fed lifted its measures, according to a letter to the U.S. Treasury Department asking for help reinvigorating the nation’s coin commerce.

The March 2022 correspondence, sent by several trade organizations, including the American Bankers Association, Credit Union National Association and National Association of Convenience Stores, said that since the Fed’s actions, “coin circulation has
slowed and coins are being rationed once more.”

Regardless of how bad the situation was and is, Clark agrees that something more has to be done. 

Here’s What You Should Do With Your Coins

To help the situation, Clark says there are some easy ways to put those coins of yours to good use. And no, he’s not talking about lugging around a bag of coins when you shop. 

“I don’t want you to carry around a sack of coins every time you go out and pour them out on the counter of a business. That’s too much, especially when there’s a line behind you,” he says.

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1. Use CoinStar — for Free

Perhaps you’re familiar with Coinstar, a brand of coin-cashing machines that typically can be found in grocery stores and similar retailers.

Clark says if you’re just putting your coins inside the machine and receiving cash in return, you’re actually losing money.

According to its website, Coinstar charges an 11.9% processing fee. That means if you were putting in $20 worth of coins in a Coinstar machine, it would cost you $2.38. 

Convert Your Change into an eGift Card

To get around the fee, Clark wants you to turn your change into a Coinstar eGift Card. That’s what he does.

Although Clark is generally not a gift card guy, he makes an exception for Coinstar gift cards because he’s able to get 100% of his money.

“Whatever the number of coins I put in, I get a gift card kind of thing for a place that I know we’re going to use,” he says.

According to Coinstar’s website, “Our paper eGift Cards have a unique code printed on them. They work just like plastic gift cards. Use your code when you pay at the store or when shopping online.”

Here are just some of the retailers Coinstar partners with to offer eGift Cards:

  • Amazon
  • DoorDash
  • Nike
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Starbucks
  • Steam
  • The Home Depot
  • Texas Roadhouse

See the complete list here.

2. Cash in Your Coins at Your Local Credit Union

Clark says he was surprised to hear that people who take their coins to their local banks are being charged a fee to get them turned into cash. “Whoever heard of such a thing?” he says.

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“You can avoid that by being a credit union member and not being charged a fee to turn your coins in and add them as a deposit to your account,” Clark says.

Final Thought

Clark says we’re living in a time when every penny counts. Instead of sitting on your change, turn it into money you can use.

“That change sitting around isn’t getting better with age, it’s losing value with age,” he says. “So gathering up all those coins, going and turning them into a money equivalent that you can use and replace to push coins back into circulation, that’s good for you.”

Read our guide on the best Coinstar alternatives.

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