Shortage of coins in circulation prompts some stores to offer free items

WBAL-TV - 7/20/20 | Written by: Phil Yacuboski

The toilet paper shortage of 2020 seems so long ago, and now there is something else during the coronavirus pandemic that is causing people to change the way they shop.

Rolls and rolls of coins are piled up at Howard Bank in Canton, but there is a nationwide shortage that includes the Baltimore area. The U.S. Treasury slowed production of coins because of the pandemic, and fewer people are using cash and coins when they shop.

"We have a shortage of coins because of the lack of circulation. There’s not really a shortage of coins, there's just not a circulation of coins because of the pandemic. People are not coming out, they aren’t spending money," said Drew McKone, chief deposit officer at Howard Bank.

"Honestly, I hadn't really thought about it that much because I'm in such a habit of not carrying coins or change. For me, it's really the convenience, and now you can use your phone to swipe and things like that and there's less stuff in my pockets and less to touch," said Ben Wexstein, of Baltimore.

"I know things like Apple Pay and just having a card, they got a chip and it's no surprise that no one is really carrying cash anymore," said Rayane Jones, of Baltimore.

Cash businesses, like Royal Farms, are posting signs that read, "Bring in your change and you'll get a free beverage."

At Wawa stores, signs read, "More coins will get you a free sandwich." They're asking customers to pay with credit or debit cards.

A similar sign at Harris Teeter asks customers to round up their purchase if possible or pay with plastic.

At Sheetz locations across Maryland, stores are encouraging purchases through the Sheetz app as well as with credit or debit cards. Customers who come in with loose change will have part of it going to charity.

"We don’t really have any expectations moving forward, which is why we are doing what we are going to be proactive with it and to try and lessen the impact on our store locations," said Nick Ruffner, with Sheetz.

Many experts say the more people get out and about and the more they shop, the less the coin shortage will be a problem.

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