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Pocket change is the new toilet paper

By Steve Coulter

The coronavirus pandemic has caused many people to stop using coins. (File photo)


At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic we had a shortage in toilet paper, hand sanitizer, masks, cleaning supplies and even meat. Now you can add pocket change to that list.
The pandemic has created an unexpected nationwide shortage of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Big-name retailers and fast food restaurants are asking customers to pay with credit cards or use exact change.

Wendy’s restaurants in Oklahoma have signs posted that read “Change is necessary, but hard to come by. Due to a national coin shortage, please pay by credit card or use exact change if you can.”
And now the Federal Reserve is rationing the amount of coins at banks.

“We are full force in it. Banks ordering money and the Federal Reserve is rationing the amount of coins you can have. It’s based on the average amount of coins that you utilized in 2019,” said Valliance Bank Executive Vice President and COO Alicia Wade.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused people to just stop using coins.

“I feel like that comes from a couple different reasons. One, we’ve gone contactless as much as possible. Two, money is dirty. At the beginning, they were like don’t touch things you don’t have too. If you have to touch money wear gloves. You know the fear factor. Three, is that the traditional cash and coin users are baby boomers and older. Baby boomers tend to operate in cash and coin. Those are the generations that are still staying home. And then you add on the fact that the Mint hasn’t been printing any additional coins during all this,” said Wade.
Oklahoma Businesses are adapting and making some changes due to the coin shortage.

“Dollar Tree isn’t charging tax right now. Everything is a dollar. If you buy two items, it’s two dollars. Normally it would be two dollars and thirteen cents. They’re not charging tax so they don’t have to deal with coins at all right now. OnCue has a sign that says free drink if you pay in quarters. Or trade in a roll of quarters for a ten-dollar bill and get a free drink,” said Wade.

Oklahoma banks are limiting coin rolls to customers and retailers.

“Some banks are saying we are on a ration. This is the most we can do for you. Maximum of one roll or two rolls. Much like Walmart and other retailers had to do with toilet paper, hand soap, sanitizer and things like that,” she said.

The coin shortage could last for months as we remain contactless as possible. Some are wondering if this is the start to a cashless society.

“We are starting to be forced into some of these types of models. You know working from home models and things like that. We may just get to where we adjust without pennies or without dimes. I’ve seen some places go to only accepting Visa and Mastercard. They’re not taking cash. The coin is somewhere. The Mint not producing as much is a game changer as well,” said Wade.

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