Christine Pollack is vice president of government relations at FMI-The Food Industry Association. In that role, she leads the Washington, D.C.-based trade group’s federal legislative advocacy efforts across key policy areas for the grocery retail and food industry.
Wonder why your grocery store cashier has been asking you if would like to round up your total for charity at the checkout? It’s because our country has a major coin circulation problem.
There is not enough coin — pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters — in circulation to make change at the registers.
And why isn’t there enough coin in circulation to make change at the grocery checkout counter? It’s because Americans are hoarding their coin. Yep, you read that right. We have a major coin circulation problem because people are not using cash and coins for purchases.
Instead, Americans are hoarding their pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in jars, plastic containers, couch cushions, boxes and bags at home, in their cars and offices. Much of the $48.5 billion in coin already in circulation is sitting dormant inside America’s 128 million households.
This isn’t a problem we can mint our way out of, and it wasn’t all caused by the pandemic.
For several years, Americans have been shifting their tender away from cash in favor of debit and credit cards. The pandemic compounded the use of plastic for reasons such as lack of knowledge about how the virus spread, leading to more card-only lines and contactless payments, preference for online purchasing and use of third-party delivery services, and younger generations wanting more portable payment methods such as phone apps.
FMI is a member of the U.S. Coin Task Force, a joint effort of the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Mint and stakeholders including retailers, banks and credit unions, coin aggregators and armored carriers formed to address the coin circulation problem. This diverse group of public and private sector entities was first brought together at the beginning of the pandemic to mitigate the near-term issues with coin circulation. However, the task force quickly realized that the coin circulation problem is ongoing, even though we are well beyond the initial reactions of early pandemic lockdowns and mandatory store closures.
How can you help with coin circulation? Please move that coin out of your house/car/office by spending, donating or redeeming. And guess what? That coin sitting idle in your house/car/office is actual money, that is worth value and is doing nothing for you, your community or our nation’s coin circulation problem, besides collecting dust and probably annoying others that live with you.
October is “Get Coin Moving” month, a great time to do your part to get coin back into circulation. Here are some suggestions to #getcoinmoving:
• Use coins to buy that morning cup of coffee or afternoon pumpkin-spiced latte instead of using your debit card.
• Take a handful of coins out of the car console at lunchtime for the tip jar at your local sandwich shop.
• Donate coins to your local elementary school, food pantry, charity shop or house of worship. They will gladly take your loose, unrolled change.
• Ask a local community bank or credit union if they will accept your coins without requiring a bank account or the coins be rolled. Chances are that smaller financial institutions have programs to accept loose change.
• Enlist the help of kids or older adults to roll coins for deposit. (Speaking from experience, my mom — who is of a seasoned age — loves rolling coin.)