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Canada Kills the Penny

Rounding is the new rule of the road for cash transactions . / Credit: Canadian coins image via Shutterstock

It's the end of the line for the Canadian penny in retail purchases. On Feb. 4 the Canadian Mint, which stopped producing pennies last spring, will stop circulating the coins to financial institutions and will encourage them to send back any pennies they have on hand. And the majority of retailers will follow the government's proposal to round the prices of all cash transactions.

It's billed as a cost-savings move.

"The penny is a currency without any currency in Canada, and it costs us 1.5 cents to produce a penny," said Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

While there may be some nostalgic souls north of the U.S. border who lament the passing of the iconic twin-maple-leaf coin, Flaherty said that when the Canadian senate committee held hearings on axing the penny last year, not one witness came forward to say it should be preserved.

Canadians, though, won't be forced to go cold turkey. Retailers will still be allowed to make exact change in pennies until the supply runs outs. And rounding  applies only to cash transactions; it will not affect electronic forms of payment, such as credit and debit transaction.

And the rules on rounding aren't hard and fast. Retailers are expected to follow a variety of rounding approaches, with some expected to round down all transactions to the nearest nickel, others rounding down all sales below 5 cents and rounding up all sales above five cents, and still others using the government's more complicated penny-by-penny rules.

[Top 10 Rarest U.S. Coins]

All are good in the eyes of the government. There are also no requirements that retailers change their cash registers. They can simply have their staff use "rounding rules in their head," as long as they are consistent in the approach.

Canada will not be the first penniless nation. New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway and Finland are among those that  have made smooth transitions to a penny-free economy, according to the Canadian government.

The great consolation for U.S. citizens is that the Canadian penny will now be as useless north of the border as it is south of the border when Americans find one among their change.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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