The government officially started phasing out the penny from Canada’s coinage system on Feb. 4. One of the main reasons for the decision was ‘common cents’, as the government estimated it could save $11 million a year by no longer minting the penny.
The government recommended that businesses start rounding off cash transactions as of Feb. 4, and this was true for many local businesses.
“Change, and cash, is being used less and less these days,” said Don Shumlich, CEO of the Weyburn Credit Union. “Transactions are going more and more electronic, and there are lots of changes to the way people make payments.”
“We will always accept pennies,” said Joe Cayen, owner of the Weyburn Canadian Tire. Canadian Tire stores had programming done on their tills, to follow retail guidelines of rounding at fair market value for all cash transactions.
This means if the value ends in one, two, six or seven cents, the amount is rounded down to the nearest 10 or five cent value. If the price ends in three, four, eight or nine, it is rounded up to the nearest 10 or five cent.
“It was also recommended that we start stocking up on penny rollers,” said Cayen. “There are lots of pennies still out there in circulation.”
Even though the government is no longer minting pennies, the one-cent piece will retain its value indefinitely. While there is no official number to how many pennies are left in circulation, best estimates are over 20 billion — $200 million worth.
Over at the Weyburn Co-op, it will be “business as usual” for the month of February, according to Don Kraft, general manager. He noted that in March, their tills will be doing penny rounding at fair market value.
“Cash transactions are a small part of our daily transactions,” said Kraft. According to government guidelines, the penny value will still be charged to customers using credit or debit card, or cheque, all transactions that the Co-op accepts for purchases.
“We have some customers who are saving the pennies, and some who want to get rid of them,” said Kraft.
Over at the Weyburn Pharmasave location, where they still do a fair amount of cash, their computerized tills were automatically upgraded to round up or down, to fair market value.
“It is pretty much business as usual because we are still accepting pennies,” said Krista Missal, store manager of the Weyburn Pharmasave.
“Just like most other stores, we are just rounding up or down, to the closest value,” said Lynette Richards, co-owner of LJ’s Hillside Store. Their tills don’t do the work automatically, since they still have a lot of customers using either debit or credit.
This means the staff are LJ’s Hillside are responsible for rounding up, or down accordingly, when a customer is paying with a cash transaction.
The Wholesale Club is rounding down all cash transactions to the customer’s favour. “This was a corporate decision,” explained Janelle Grant, assistant manager for the Weyburn store.
Cash transactions are either rounded down to the nearest 10 or five cent value, depending on the price of the product. Grant noted that an upgrade to the tills at the Wholesale Club is expected to occur in March or April to reflect the change.
“We are seeing a lot of customers still paying with pennies, and of course we are still accepting them,” said Grant.
All pennies returned to any bank will be sent to the mint for recycling into their base materials.
According to the Canadian government, the cost for banks for transportation, handling and storage of coins cost about $20 million each year. Eliminating the penny saves a portion of the costs associated with processing.