How you can help end nationwide coin shortage
GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Make a wish. Any wish. Will Ayala did at the fountain at Westgate in Glendale. “I wished that the Rams would actually go to the playoffs,” he said. That wish worked out pretty well. Ayala credits the kind of coin he used. “I toss coins in there, but the only time I actually make a wish is with a quarter,” he said. “It has to be the quarter. Can’t be a penny. Can’t be a dime. Can’t be a nickel. Has to be a quarter.”
The wishes at Westgate -- via those quarters and pennies, nickels and dimes -- are swept up and collected when the fountain is cleaned. There are a lot of coins there, but they’re just a drop in the bucket when it comes to a nationwide coin shortage.
“There is a continued mismatch because a lot of money is just not moving. A lot fewer people are paying with cash,” said Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst with CreditCards.com. He says consumers use cash for just 19% of all transactions. “I think a lot of businesses like the cashless thing,” Rossman added. “I almost think COVID has been used as a bit of a scapegoat here to further this trend.”
In a recent letter, several trade groups, including the American Bankers Association, the National Grocers Association, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, called on the U.S. Department of the Treasury to raise awareness about the need to get coins back into circulation. “The consequences of a coin circulation slowdown fall hardest on consumers that do not have the ability to pay electronically,” the group wrote. “If retailers are not able to offer change for cash purchases consumers who rely on cash will be vulnerable.” Coin circulation also plummeted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite an increase in the number of coins produced. According to the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Mint produced 14.8 billion coins in 2020, a 24% jump from the prior year.
Coinstar noted a drop in coin volume at the beginning of the pandemic, but according to Kevin McColly, the company’s president and CFO, the number of coins being cashed in at kiosks has returned to near pre-pandemic levels. “We typically process coins from our kiosks through a processing facility, which are then made available to banks and retail outlets for consumer use within three days,” McColly said. “However, over the last two years, we have been moving coins directly to our retail partners to get coins back in circulation more quickly and efficiently.”
“A lot of this comes down to consumer behavior,” Rossman said. “If you’re watching this and really want to help, the best thing you can do honestly is probably just spend your coins.” Even if it’s on a wish. Those coins tossed into the fountain are guaranteed to end up back in circulation. A Westgate spokesperson says that once the coins are swept up and collected, the undisclosed amount of money is donated to local charities, including the Boys and Girls Club, to make new wishes come true.
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