If you haven’t traveled outside of Colleton County lately, you are lucky. For those who have, well, it’s a shock. Stores have no change.
It’s unbelievable to go to a Hardee’s in Greenville, make a $6.19 purchase, and then be told by the cashier that either you pay by debit or credit card or your meal will be rounded up to $7.
It’s no different in Columbia, Walterboro or elsewhere across the country.
Katelyn Sightler of BB&T in Walterboro said that the shortage has been going on for weeks, and the bank is seriously short on coins. “We are encouraging customers to spend their coins at businesses and get more into circulation. That will help us here at the bank,” said Sightler.
Annette Lyons of Bank of the Lowcountry agreed. “We are thankful to our customers who have brought in enough coins that we have been able to increase our stock,” said Lyons. “We have rolled them and have just enough to satisfy our customers.”
Bank manager David Johns, senior vice president of Enterprise Bank in Ehrhardt, is also grateful for his customers. “We really haven’t had too much of a problem,” he said. “Customers who heard about the shortage have started to bring in their jars and cans full of change, so we have been able to stay caught up and have also been able to take the time to roll the coins ourselves instead of going into Walterboro to use the rolling machine. This is the one time that bankers are smiling while receiving a lot of change instead of actually charging folks for having to roll coins,” said Johns. “But we are grateful that we have not had to request coins from the Federal Reserve, and I do believe they will eventually get caught up. But as of now they are limiting the amount of coinage each bank can have, so our customers have made sure we have enough for now. Unfortunately, I have noticed that many stores in Walterboro are struggling with a lack of change. They really need the coins, too,” he said.
In the Midlands and Upstate, there are signs located on most business windows that say “Exact Change Only” or “No Cash; Cards Only.” For people who only like to pay using cash, this is remarkably inconvenient, not to mention expensive, when the price is rounded up to exclude paying out change or coins.
How did this happen?
It’s simple. When Covid-19 shut down the country, cash spending practically ceased, restaurants closed and workers stopped working. That includes those who work for the U.S. Mint. In essence, coins stopped circulating.
Because of coronavirus fears, many people switched to using credit cards and mobile payments to avoid handling money. Meanwhile, the shutdown also forced some businesses to close that would normally help keep coins moving: retail shops, banks and laundromats. When these places closed, the typical places where coins enter the economy slowed or even stopped normal circulation of coins.
On June 15, the Federal Reserve said it would start capping the amount of coins allotted to banks and financial institutions. This situation is expected to be temporary.
The Federal Reserve, the U.S. Mint and other financial groups are working to fix the problem. But it’s unclear when the shortage will end. The challenge is biggest for businesses, which are running short on coins and may not be able to get their full order of coins from banks.
The U.S. Mint returned to full production in mid-June and expects to produce 19.8 billion coins by the end of the year — 7.4 billion more than last year. Until the U.S. Mint churns out more coins, consumers should consider depositing their coins at a bank or spending them at a local business to get coins back in circulation.
So, check the kids’ piggy banks, bring out those rainy day jars full of change, check under the sofa or car seats and get those coins to a bank to help start circulating the change.