Loose change

As with others, we dislike carrying change in our pocket and place it in a bowl when we come home. When the bowl’s full we empty it into a coin bag. And when that’s about all we can lift, we take it to the bank.

But even if your coin bag or whatever you use is half empty, the Tennessee Bankers Association is asking you to turn in your coins.

You’ve probably seen the signs at your favorite grocery asking you to pay by debit or credit card. Walmart is requiring a debit or credit card at self-checkout stations. If you have only cash, it means standing in line at manned registers.

We’re in a coin shortage.

It’s not that the U.S. Mint is cutting back on producing coins. To the contrary, it will nearly double last year’s production by December. It’s that folks aren’t returning coins for recirculation at pre-pandemic rates.

“There is adequate coin in the economy; however, the slowed pace of circulation means that a sufficient amount of coins is not readily available where needed,” said Tennessee Bankers Association President Colin Barrett.

In a nutshell, the pandemic slashed the normal flow of coins in circulation through stores and businesses, U.S. Mint spokesperson Michael White said. “During this pandemic, the demand for circulating coins has drastically increased, in part, because precautions taken throughout the nation to slow the spread of the virus have reduced retail sales activity and significantly decreased deposits from third-party coin processors,” White said.

Then too, some folks don’t wish to deal in cash in the belief that you can get sick from it. And maybe you can. In early March, Business Insider said money can carry the virus, quoting an epidemiologist that “coins will transmit a virus better than cash ... the basic rule of thumb should be to consider money dirty anyway, because it is. It goes through too many hands not to be.”

If the government has issued recent, definitive information on your risk of catching COVID-19 from bills or coins, we’re not aware of it.

Throughout the pandemic fewer customers have been using cash to shop to avoid hand-to-hand contact and are using their credit card. That pushes us toward a cashless society, but that’s a problem with those who don’t have a credit card. And the more we use plastic, the greater the demand for coins.

Back in the day, Bing Crosby recorded a song, “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” a phrase from the Great Depression of the 1930s as those in need begged for help. Now, it’s the bankers who are asking, the people who supposedly have all the money.

If you’ve got a dime, or any change at all, turn it in.