When you’ve gone to the store lately, you may have noticed the reappearance of signs that ask you to use exact change. Great Coin Shortage Part II? Not exactly.
Neither the Federal Reserve nor the U.S. Mint has announced any recent developments relating to a shortage of coins. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t circulation issues.
In this article, I’ll explore the U.S. coin supply issue and share money expert Clark Howard’s advice on some ways to save money when you cash in your loose change.
Is There a Coin Shortage?
According to information the Federal Reserve released in May 2021, there was an adequate amount of coins in the U.S. economy, but circulation was affected by banks and other businesses not being open to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To mitigate the situation, the Fed says it took several steps, including forming the U.S. Coin Task Force, which was charged with coming up with solutions to ensure that coins flowed freely. The Fed also put temporary caps on coin orders from financial institutions — first in June 2020 and again in May 2021 — to allow for a more fair distribution of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.
But in March 2022, several trade associations sent a joint letter to the U.S. Treasury Department asking for help reinvigorating the nation’s coin commerce, saying that “coin circulation has slowed and coins are being rationed once more.”
Whether you call it a shortage or just a circulation problem, it’s clear that signs like the one below are popping up again in stores. (I saw this one in October 2022 in Atlanta.)
Here’s What You Should Do With Your Coins
Got a coin jar that’s sitting on your dresser or functioning as a doorstop? Is it getting full?
Clark says there’s a very good reason to do something about it, coin shortage or not.
“That change sitting around isn’t getting better with age: It’s losing value with age. 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.”
But Clark says you also want to be strategic about how you go about getting rid of those coins.
1. Use CoinStar — for Free
Perhaps you’re familiar with Coinstar, a brand of coin-cashing machines that you typically see in grocery stores and similar retailers.
But using those machines isn’t free.
According to its website, Coinstar charges an 11.9% processing fee. That means it will cost you $2.38 to cash in $20 worth of coins.
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’s generally not a gift card guy, he says 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.
Here are just some of the retailers Coinstar partners with to offer eGift Cards:
- Southwest Airlines
- The Home Depot
- Texas Roadhouse
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.
“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.
Instead of sitting on your change, follow Clark’s advice: Turn it into money you can use and help solve the coin circulation problem.
But there’s one method he doesn’t want you to use: “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,” Clark says. “That’s too much, especially when there’s a line behind you.”