Why can’t we get rid of small change in most of the modern vending machines?

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August 2, 2018 – Have you been to Spain, recently? When paying your parking ticket at the parking garage, you can insert all your 1 and 2 Cent coins in order to complete the amount. In this way, a lot of small denominations reenter the circulation. Why do Spanish vending machines take small change? And why do others not the same thing? We have asked Erwin Wetzel, Director General of the European Vending Association. This is what he answered:

“In the vending industry there is a harmonised acceptance for low denomination coins across Europe and therefore the vast majority of coin validators/changer accept 5 to 50 Euro Cent coins. No matter the price differences between the different Eurozone countries, vending operators will mostly round the price to the lower or higher decimal in order to avoid to give change in 1 and 2 Euro Cents. In very rare cases, this could occur that the lowest denominations are accepted, but in general this is not standard. Indeed, you have to take into account that if a change giver is equipped with only 5 tubes, it is better to work with less denominations to ensure that enough change can be given to the consumer during a longer period. Basically operators will practice prices which are easy to work with and which are also convenient for the consumer. If you sell a snack for EUR 1.85, there is a high chance that the consumer will introduce two 1 Euro coins or one 2 Euro coin. In this case, the change giver will have to give back one 10 Cent and one 5 Cent coin. If the price is set at EUR 1.9, only one coin is needed. So it is all a question of efficiency.
Recently, the Euro coin Sub-committee of the European Commission and in which the EVA Coin group is an active contributor, announced that a new series of 1, 2 and 5 Euro Cent coins will be released by the end of this year. There will be slight changes of the outer copper layer of those coins. Since 5 Euro Cent coins are used in vending, a smaller copper layer was agreed in order to prevent an adaptation of field-based equipment. However, we recommend adapting the coin sensors in cases where customers complain about acceptance problems in the fieldbase and to adapt new equipment. The introduction of the modified 1, 2 and 5 Cent coins will be very slow as some Euro countries have no orders for these new coins and other countries such as Germany have fixed contracts for the next years to produce according to old specification. Furthermore, some countries such as the Netherlands or Finland are currently getting rid of 1 and 2 Euro Cent coins in their production. These denominations are still used in the cashless system, but if a consumer wants to pay cash, he will have to pay either 3 cents more or 2 less, because the price will be rounded by 0.05. So, if the price is € 2.22, the cash price will be € 2.20, if the initial price is € 2.23 then it will be rounded to € 2.25. Ever more States try to get rid of low denomination coins and therefore it is also not in the interest of our industry to accept them if their circulation rate is shrinking.”

This article was published originally at the Mint News Quarterly 17/3.

To learn more about the European Vending Association, visit its website.

There, you can also find further information on EVA’s Director General Erwin Wetzel. 

Recently, CoinsWeekly published a news item on the generally ceasing production of 1 and 2 Euro Cent coins, using the example of Italy.