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The Real Reason Walmart Wants You to Pay This Way

Coronavirus-related supply chain issues go beyond just food.
Walmart checkout

Walmart locations across the nation are now asking customers to use credit cards or debit cards when making purchases. The reason? A coin shortage is changing the way they are doing business. While cash is still accepted at all Walmart stores, many self-checkout registers now only allow customers to pay with a card.

Turns out, the COVID-19 outbreak has led to a growing concern of a severe coin shortage for many retailers across the country.

"Like most retailers, we're experiencing the effects of the nation-wide coin shortage," spokesperson Avani Dudhia said in a statement via KXTV. "We're asking customers to pay with card or use correct change when possible if they need to pay with cash." Walmart isn't the only national chain to launch a new payment policy due to the coin shortage.  Kroger recently announced they will no longer be giving out coin change to their customers. That money is now added to customers' loyalty cards and automatically applied to their next purchase.

The coin shortage is very real, and many grocers are limiting the total number of coins being exchanged by simply rounding up or down on amounts owed.  Why is this happening? Well, it seems that the long arm of the coronavirus pandemic hasn't simply affected the supply of meatproduce, and seafood these days.

The supply chain and circulation patterns for coins have been "significantly disrupted" by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a statement from the Federal Reserve. Banks that typically provide boxes of rolled coins for this very purpose are very low in supply. "What's happened is, with the partial closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy has… kind of stopped," said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told CNBC last month. "The places where you'd go to give your coins and get credit… those have not been working."

"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 government explained. "Federal Reserve coin orders from depository institutions have begun to increase as regions reopen, resulting in the Federal Reserve's coin inventory being reduced to below-normal levels."

As a result, grocery stores and supermarkets are having to come up with new solutions to unexpected problems. Walmart, Kroger, and Midwest-based grocery chain Meijer ha stopped taking cash altogether at its self-scan lanes due to the coin shortage, requiring all shoppers to use debit or credit cards instead. Others are simply rounding to the nearest quarter or total-dollar value.  So don't be surprised if you're at the grocery store and your bill is $45.78, but your cashier asks for $45.75 to limit the coins that need to be exchanged. And for more great grocery shopping advice, make sure you're up to speed on The Single Worst Thing You Can Ask at the Grocery Store Right Now.

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