A lot of people are pinching pennies during the pandemic.
This means if you typically pay with cash, you may run into trouble if you don’t have exact change.
“Everything from toilet paper to masks, hand sanitizer, PPE and now we have a coin shortage,” said Ted Rossman, a credit card analyst at Bankrate.com.
Rossman said that during the pandemic, less cash has been changing hands and it’s having an impact on businesses that rely on coins and people who rely on cash.
“It’s not so much a shortage as it is a displacement. It’s like a mismatch a lot of coins right now are just locked up in homes, they’re in their piggy banks. They’re in jars. There are businesses that have been closed,” he said.
“I hadn’t heard of it, but I’m really worried about it. I’m worried if we play poker what we are going to do and for the (laundromat) machines here. Thank God the meters in the streets now take credit cards,” said Fabrice Pecola of West Hartford.
NBC Connecticut chatted with him and others doing their laundry at Park Road Cleaners in West Harford.
Owner Steve Maiolo said he’s been having to keep watch on their machine that changes cash into change.
“A few more folks kind of coming in very nonchalantly. They come in to use the machine, get their change out, and they're not using it for the (laundry) machines. They take it outside.”
We got an industry expert’s two cents.
“Clean out your piggy bank, clean out your junk drawer. If you can get those coins back into the economy, it will help. A lot of banks are really eager to get them these days and retailers too,” said Rossman.
Rossman doesn’t expect the shortage to last for more than a couple of weeks, two months at most, as the federal reserve figures out a fix.
In the meantime, if you run into trouble, he said look into getting a prepaid card, but watch out for fees.
Or, he said talk to the cashier.
“In most cases these are suggestions, not mandates. So if a store has a sign about exact change or cards, there may be some wiggle room to still use cash.”
When State Rep. Kim Rose spotted an exact change sign at her local coffee shop, she reached out to state leaders concerned about the folks who don’t have or use credit or debit cards.
“One-fourth of Americans are either unbanked or underbanked, so for them its more than an inconvenience. It’s a really big deal,” said Rossman.
“We have received several complaints and are looking into the matter with our partners at DCP. It is very important that stores disclose their policies upfront so that consumers can make informed decisions. However, so long as there is a disclosure, stores may limit purchases to exact change or credit cards," Attorney General William Tong said.
For folks who only use cash, Rose suggests struggling businesses consider refunding the change owed to cash-paying customers in the form of a gift card or some other way until the shortage is over.