Economy

Now, mint money from coin-for-notes biz

Shobha Roy Kolkata | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on August 04, 2017

Shop-owners are more generous these days in giving change in coins   -  Debasish Bhaduri

Money-changers are offering a premium to clear their pile of coins

Want to earn a quick buck? Come to Kolkata and exchange ₹500 in currency notes for ₹575 in ₹1 or ₹2 coins – a clear margin of 15 per cent, twice as much you earn on fixed deposits.

There is, however, one rider. Banks are not taking deposits in coins. Paying with coins for purchases is no easy option either. From the housemaid to the auto-rickshaw driver, no one likes coins anymore.

And that marks a great ‘change’ of heart from the past, when people often fought for change with bus conductors, shop-owners and others.

Till a few months ago, bus conductors in the ‘City of Joy’ were known to change ₹100 notes into coins worth ₹90 from illegal roadside battawala or money-changers.

But those times have, well, changed. As there are few takers for coins, money-changers are offering a premium to clear stock of coins to customers. “Bus conductors are sitting on a pile of coins these days,” said Jagdish, a roadside battawala in Kolkata’s central commercial district.

From the coin-for-notes business, he has now moved to changing bigger denomination notes into smaller currencies.

Rumours gain currency

When demonetisation came into force in November 2016, the Reserve Bank issued large volume of ₹10 coins to ease the cash crunch. But the RBI claims it did not push out more ₹1 or ₹2 coins into the system. It did not have an immediate response as to why there had been a flood of coins.

However, the perception that the supply of coins is above average is widely shared.

Subhra Tandon of Mumbai no longer faces any trouble in paying ₹18 for an auto-rickshaw anymore. Shanti Nagarajan from Saidapet in Chennai says shop-owners are more generous these days in giving change in coins.

There are also quite a few rumours floating around. Purnima Halder, who hails from Chandipur in the Sunderbans and works as a maid in Kolkata, says ₹1 coins are not tradeable in her village for fear that they may be counterfeit or ‘not-in-tender’.

Banks not taking coins

The RBI’s guidelines specify that banks “have to accept” legal tenders, but in fact, banks either refuse outright to accept coins or put up unrealistic barriers to keep such customers away.

Officials at the Rasoi Court branch of ICICI Bank in Kolkata flatly refused a deposit in coins. “Where shall we keep coins?” wailed the customer care executive.

United Bank of India too would not accept a deposit of ₹500 in coins. “Bring 25 packets of 100 coins of the same size, design and denomination,” the cashier told this correspondent who posed as a customer.

But how can a regular customer follow such restrictions? The cashier pleads helplessness. “We don’t count coins manually to avoid wastage of time and the machines cannot take any denomination or size either.”

The bottomline: the 15 per cent return may prove notional. Coins are now a bad investment.

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Published on August 04, 2017
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