Thursday April 24, 2014





An end to cents on Monday

You can still spend them, but banks will stop issuing them

While Canada's one-cent coin is in its last days, there's no rush to cash in the more than 20 billion pennies sitting in jars, cups and piggy banks across the country.

Banks might not hand them out anymore, but rolls of pennies can still be deposited, said Wendy Wright, a customer relations co-ordinator for TD Canada Trust.

"We will still accept pennies for cash deposit," Wright said Wednesday.

On Monday, Canada's financial landscape changes as Canadian banks stop distributing the penny.

The coin's demise was announced in last year's federal budget, with the government saying the copper piece had become too expensive to produce. The Royal Canadian Mint halted production in May.

There's been a rush of customers dropping off penny rolls, Wright said. Some people think the penny will be worthless come Monday, but that's not the case.

"We've got posters all saying people can bring them in. It's just that we're no longer giving them out," said Wright, who works at the downtown branch.

Starting Monday, electronic transactions will be calculated to the penny, but cash-back exchanges will be rounded to the nearest nickel, said Wright.

According to the Royal Canadian Mint, transactions that come to $1.01 or $1.02 will drop to $1 and those at $1.03 or $1.04 will increase to $1.05.

From a business perspective, the penny's retirement doesn't change a lot. Some local store and deli owners in the city's downtown actually forgot the penny would be taken out of circulation.

"I haven't really prepared for it at all," said Mario Pietramala, co-owner of Fratelli's Foods on Victoria Street. "I think we'll probably just round out prices now that (the penny) is coming to an end."

He anticipates a smooth transition, saying customers haven't expected pennies to be given in change for years. A lot of the time, people walk away if all they're owed is a couple of pennies.

"We've always had the philosophy that, if something costs $3.03, it's just $3, especially if its cash," said Pietramala. "If we owe the customer three pennies, we round it up to the five."

With have-a-penny-leave-a-penny trays, customers have become accustomed to not taking their pennies with them, he said.

That's also the case at nearby Caffe Motivo. Owner Ian Harding said his staff always round prices in favour of the customer. Any stray pennies are absorbed into the float at the end of the day.

"A cup of coffee is $1.96. We're not going to give somebody four pennies back," said Harding.

Harding has never received notice from a bank or the mint about how he should conduct business once the penny is retired. Everything he's learned he's picked up through the media, he said.

All of Jason Wiggins' stock at The Book Place on Third Avenue is rounded to the quarter. Wiggins said it's the GST people pay that creates the need for a penny.

As a penny collector, Wiggins has more on hand than he needs. He didn't anticipate changing the way he does business come Monday.

Meanwhile, students at Aberdeen elementary are doing their part to turn some of those billions of pennies into cash.

Principal Anthony Rempel said the school's Me to We team has organized a penny drive to raise $800 for the Free the Children Clean Water Project.

The project is organized through the Royal Bank of Canada, and the money will be used to a build a well in a third-world community, he said.

An announcement is made every morning asking the school's 400 students to save 200 pennies each. Rempel said that might sound like a lot, but in reality, it isn't.

"A toonie seems like less than 200 pennies, but we're trying to do it with pennies," he said.

Rempel isn't yet sure where the well will be built.

* * *

* The Royal Canadian Mint produced 816 million pennies a year

* The penny's official name is the one-cent piece

* It has a mass of 2.35 grams and a diameter of 19.05 millimetres. Its thickness is 1.45 millimetres

* It is composed of 94-per-cent steel, 1.5-per-cent nickel, and 4.5-per-cent copper plating

* The first pennies were minted in bronze

* A 2007 study by the Desjardins Group of Quebec estimated that it costs 1.5 cents to produce one penny

* The penny is worth only five per cent of the value it had in 1908


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