Even in a world of debit and credit cards, coins are still a big deal. As a result of that scarcity, Kroger customers paying with cash will not be getting physical coins handed back in change starting Monday or Tuesday this week.
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The Federal Reserve warned everyone about this nearly a month ago:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coin. In the past few months, coin deposits from depository institutions to the Federal Reserve have declined significantly and the U.S. Mint’s production of coin also decreased due to measures put in place to protect its employees,” the Fed said June 15.
On that day, Reserve Banks and Federal Reserve coin distribution locations began allocating coin inventories, “based on historical order volume by coin denomination and depository institution endpoint, and current U.S. Mint production levels,” the Fed said then.
“They’re sending portions of what we order,” Koons said. “So we’re trying to order big.”
In a brief statement, Kroger spokeswoman Erin Rolfes said the Federal Reserve is experiencing a coin shortage. Coin change from cash transactions will be applied to our customers’ loyalty cards then automatically used on their next purchase.
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For now customers are being asked to use exact change when possible.
If not, there are a couple of options. Customers are asked to either round up their payment in support of Kroger’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative, Rolfes also said. Or they can have that coin change applied to a customer’s loyalty card.
Any remaining change will automatically apply to the customer’s next purchase under that last option.
“What’s happened is that with the partial closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy, it has gotten all — it’s kind of stopped,” Jerome Powell, the chair of the Fed, testified to Congress in June. “We’ve been aware of it, we’re working with the (U.S.) Mint to increase supply.”
It’s not just Kroger. Convenience store chain Wawa is making the same request of customers as Kroger, asking them to use exact change, or to pay with a credit or debit card.
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The Dallas Morning News reported that Tulsa, Okla.-based BOK Financial Corp., which operates banks in eight states and has seen a 60% to 80% drop in its coin supply from the Fed since the June 15 limits.