Because of coronavirus-related shutdowns, fewer coins are circulating throughout the economy, leaving stores short on nickels and dimes and seeking alternate solutions.
It could also be a burden to some retailers, for which accepting credit and debit card purchases can come with fees that cash transactions don’t.
“This is a problem that has escalated very quickly and it’s only gotten worse over the past few days,” Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives for the National Association of Convenience Stores, told CNN Business in an email. “We have heard from retailers who are saying that some of their stores are completely out of coins and others are within a day’s supply.”
Whereas consumers and stores typically swap coins and cash on a regular basis, store closures and more people shopping online have meant fewer coins in circulation.
“We were alarmed to hear that the system for distributing coins throughout the country is at the breaking point,” the group wrote in the letter. “Some of our member businesses are being told that they cannot get coins from their banks at all. This threatens the functioning of our member businesses and, by extension, the needs of their customers.”
Wawa said it is recommending that customers pay with credit or debit, its mobile app or exact change to avoid being affected by the shortage.
The retailer, which operates 640 convenience stores in five states, is also encouraging customers to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the remainder to its foundation, which provides funds to local charities.
At some Wawa stores, customers can exchange rolled coins for dollar bills.
Pharmacy chain CVS is also encouraging customers to pay with credit or debit, check or exact change, if possible.
“We’re working with our bank partners to minimize impact to our customers and are monitoring the situation closely,” CVS said in a statement.