Making cents of change

A nickel for your thoughts just doesn’t quite have the same ring.

With the demise of our penny (the copper coins ceased circulation Monday), all those one-cent sayings will also eventually be dropped.

So say goodbye to the days of pinching pennies as nothing will cost a pretty penny anymore.

While the decision to phase out pennies is expected to save our country $11 million a year, it could come at a cost to consumers and businesses.

Here’s the scoop: all purchases ending in one, two, six or seven will be rounded down to the nearest nickel. Purchases ending in three, four, eight or nine are rounded up. So that .99 cent sale item that used to add up to $1.11 with tax will actually be a penny cheaper.

Therefore depending on your purchase total, you could end up with a few more or a few less pennies to rub together.

The trick to avoid paying more (ie. if your coffee costs $1.43) is to pay with plastic, since only cash transactions require rounding. If you’re paying debit or credit there will be no change (literally speaking).

For those who do pay with cash, I wonder if those ‘take a penny leave a penny’ trays will be replaced with nickel options?

Those with pennies stashed in drawers, piggy banks and pockets also need not fret that their change is worthless. Pennies will still be accepted indefinitely by businesses who choose to accept them (they don’t legally have to but the fact is pennies will still hold their monetary value). And you can still cash in any rolls of pennies at the bank. There’s no time limit for redeeming your coins.

While making cents made no sense, one NDP MP is now eyeing the nickel, and eventually the quarter.

Winnipeg Centre MP Pat Martin plans to launch a private-member’s motion to eliminate the five cent coin and re-jig the rest of Canada’s currency.

That’s not all that’s changing on the Canadian scene.

n Starting July 1, 2013, Canada will begin issuing ePassports to new applicants and renewing passport holders.

The new passports will feature enhanced security using chip technology, plus the choice for a five or 10-year duration, but they too will come with a cost.

Application and renewal fees for an adult passport will jump from the current $87 to $120 ($160 for a 10-year). Kids passports currently costs $37 for children three to 15 and $22 for kids under three, but the new travel documents will cost $57 for all youth.

I suppose you’re actually saving money with a 10-year passport. But what good is that if no one can recognize you in the photo because you’re a decade older, cut and died your hair and added a few extra pounds? Try explaining that one to the border authorities.

With such threats as identity theft, terrorists and criminals entering our country I suppose the enhanced passports have their case. But anyone who has ever been through customs (whether here or abroad) can tell you that airport security is already pretty thorough. Heck, just applying for a passport is a strict process.

n Another change this year, just in B.C., is abandoning the recently introduced HST. Following a public outcry, British Columbia is reverting to the old GST/PST system April 1, but it will be a new version of the old combination.

It will take some time to make cents of all this change, but in the meantime I question whether it’s penny wise or pound foolish.


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