The saying is, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” But starting today, pennies will no longer be distributed to businesses and banks. That means retailers and restaurants will begin rounding up or rounding down your bill to the nearest nickel.

On February 4th, shopper Bob Johnson can no longer expect to receive pennies back with his change. That’s when the penny phase-out by businesses and banks begins.

Johnson is still unclear on what happens when it comes time to pay up. “Does it go up a nickel or down a nickel? I think there will be a lot of (people), particularly seniors, who are like ‘I want my due!’”

By scrapping the coin, the federal government hopes to save taxpayers about $11 million. Transactions will be rounded up or down to the nearest nickel, depending on the amount. That means that under the guidelines, a transaction costing $1.52 will be rounded down to $1.50, and a transaction costing $1.53 will be rounded up to $1.55.

Foodfare grocery chain owner Munther Zeid says he’s investing about $1,000 to upgrade his cash registers so cashiers don’t have to do the math.

Zeid says this is to prevent confusion and to be fair to customers. “Somebody might constantly round up when it’s not needed,” he says. “We want to try to be as fair as possible to our customers and at the same time be as fair as possible to ourselves.”

The Retail Council of Canada says that the rounding will only apply to cash transactions – not if you pay with a debit or credit card. They say that consumers likely won’t be paying any more or less at the till.

Lanny McInnes of the Manitoba branch of the Retail Council of Canada says it will be fair. “Half the time it will be rounded down, so when you’re making your purchases it should even out.”

But what about charities who rely on your spare change at the register?

Val Dunphy, executive director of the Kidney Foundation of Canada Manitoba chapter, says, “In the short term, I think we’re all going to feel a bit of the pinch.”

The Kidney Foundation of Canada says it brings in about $2,000 a year from its penny boxes. Officials say the loss of the penny means coming up with other means of fundraising.

“We’ll probably be looking at increasing our walk. Our door-to-door canvassing campaign is coming up in March, and all those campaigns will be very important to us this year,” says Dunphy.

The Retail Council of Canada says it expects stores to begin rounding out prices over the next few weeks.

If you have jars and jars of pennies, don't worry: banks will still accept them as long as they're rolled.

They are legal tender, so stores will accept the coins as well, as long as you have at least five of them.


- with a report by CTV’s Karen Rocznik