Article | 2:51 min read

What is a Coin Shortage?


A coin shortage affects many people and businesses you use in your daily life – but what is it, why did it happen, and how can you help?

Jar of coins

The United States is facing a coin shortage, and many businesses are only accepting contactless payments or exact change for transactions. A coin shortage affects the businesses and banks that you use in your day-to-day life. But what is a coin shortage, why did it happen, and how can you help?

What is a coin shortage?
A coin shortage means the demand for coins exceeds the available supply. Places like restaurants, laundromats, grocery stores, gas stations, and even banks, do not have enough coins for customers. This can make it difficult for businesses to give change to customers who pay in cash, or whose business relies heavily on coins. A growing number of businesses are asking customers to pay with contactless payments, such as debit or credit cards, or pay with exact change.

Why is there a shortage?
There are many reasons as to why we’re experiencing a shortage of coins. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing many businesses to close their doors for a period – meaning customers do not have the opportunity to pay with cash or coins.

Coins are not circulating through the economy as readily, since people are going out less, spending less money, and choosing to pay through digital or contactless payments.

The U.S. Mint, also in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, reduced its production of coins after implementing safety measures to protect its staff. According to the Federal Reserve, consumers are depositing fewer coins at U.S. financial institutions1.

How does this affect me?
The coin shortage hurts people whose only option is to pay using physical cash, as well as businesses who might lose customers that are not able to pay in exact change.

Using cash is especially common for smaller transactions, with $1, $2, and $5 bills seeing a 2.5% increase each year2. Now, because of the shortage, small transactions have come to a halt. Most people don’t anticipate the price of the items they intend to buy and do not prepare exact change, and unfortunately, businesses don’t have the change to give you.

What can I do to help?
The Federal Reserve and the U.S. Mint continue to work toward a long-term solution, but you can help by depositing coins at your bank branch, or spend them at a local business to add them back in circulation.

Now is a good time to search for loose change around your house – couch cushions, old coat pockets, the washer or dryer, in your vehicle – and trade in coins for dollars.

Check out our bank branches that have an automatic coin counter:


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1Why is There a Coin Shortage in the U.S.?, Fortune

2Liabilities and Capital: Other Facts Draining Reserve Balances: Currency in Circulation: Week Average, The Federal Reserve of St. Louis

Fact check: Yes, there's a national coin shortage. Here's why, USA Today


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