Coin Shortage Forces Banks to Beg for Spare Change

August 13, 2020

In recent years, banks across the country have either phased out coin services or started charging fees for counting change. At Community State Bank in southeastern Wisconsin, for instance, the institution usually charges non-customers a 10 percent service fee for coin counting. But that certainly wasn’t the case a few weeks ago when Community State Bank had to beg people to bring in spare change to offset a coin shortage that has developed during the pandemic. 

In fact, the bank was so desperate for coins that they offered an extra $5 for every $100 in change that customers collected. “People brought stuff in cans, bags and jars,” said Greg Wall, the bank’s chief innovation officer. “People have been sitting on this stuff for a long time and they finally had an opportunity to do something.” One person brought in $4,000 worth of coins, earning a $200 bounty. Although this promotion solved the coin shortage at Community State Bank, many businesses and financial institutions across the country are still struggling to get their hands on change.

80 percent of the coin supply comes from recirculation, which has plummeted dramatically during the pandemic. Not only have businesses like laundromats and coffee shops shut down or altered operations, but also consumers have been discouraged from using cash in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. “You’re not the first person to touch it; you’re not the last person to touch it,” said Patricia Herndon of the Michigan Bankers Association. As a result, the Federal Reserve estimates that the gap between supply and demand for change could range as high as 3.5 billion coins until the end of 2020. The Fed has created a task force to address the growing coin shortage, but in the meantime many companies are resorting to exchanging cash and gift cards for any coins their customers have on hand. 


  1. Why is the U.S. currently experiencing a coin shortage?
  2. How are businesses and financial institutions responding to the coin shortage?

Source: Susan Tompor, “Banks Are Begging for Spare Change: How Long Coin Shortage Could Last,” Detroit Free Press, August 1, 2020.