As if we needed any more challenges in 2020, earlier this month a national coin shortage hit America. That right, America doesn’t have enough physical change to go around. And yep, you can blame that on the pandemic, too. In short, coins aren’t circulating through the economy as readily as they once were since people are going out and spending less–and opting for digital or contactless payments wherever they can.
This coin shortage hurts people who still need to, or want to, pay in cash. That’s because some businesses are now requiring exact change, or for customers to pay via debit or credit card because they have no other options. This, in turn, hurts small businesses who may lose customers who want to pay in cash but don’t have exact change. The coin shortage has gotten so bad that last week Kroger, the country’s largest grocery store chain, announced it would stop giving exact change.
And as the coin shortage continues to swell across the country, now banks are stepping in to get their hands on more of the currency–by offering to pay people to bring in their spare change. As CNN reports, the Community State Bank in Wisconsin has launched a Coin Buyback Program, which will pay people a premium for their change. If you bring in $100 in coins, the bank will pay you $105 in cash. That $5 bonus is higher than the interest rates most savings accounts offer.
The Coin Buyback Program is open to anyone who has spare change–not just customers of Community State Bank. And everyone can receive a maximum coin bonus of $500 provided they bring enough of the clackity-clank currency in their pockets with them. All coins brought in via the program will be used to supply local businesses that are being affected by the shortage.
As Katie Stolp, assistant VP and retail operations director of Community State Bank noted, “We are certainly encountering crazy times. Our goal from this program is to provide local business owners with the funds and tools they need to run their business. Many other financial institutions charge up to 10% of the value for coin counting. We’re not only waiving that charge, but paying community members to bring us their coins.”
Update: The bank suspended its buyback program after only a week, saying it reached its goal of generating enough coin inventory to help local businesses. This post has also been corrected to clarify that the program offered $5 for every $100, not 5% of any sum as originally suggested.