How to Save Money » Frugal Living

The Canadian penny – will rounding pennies save or cost you money? {An experiment}

Canadian penny rounding.

Canadian Penny

When the Federal government removed the penny from circulation on February 4th of this year, it seemed like people had a lot to say about the subject.

After talking to people and reading comments online, many seemed concerned that when their pennies were rounded up, it would add up to a lot of money over time. Others wondered if it would really work out that transactions would be rounded up half the time and down the other half to balance everything in the end.

So for the month of March I decided to do an experiment. I wanted to see how much money I would save by paying cash for purchases that would round down and by paying debit to avoid purchases rounding up.

  • Ends in $0.01/$0.02/$0.06/$0.07 – pay with cash
  • Ends in $0.03/$0.04/$0.08/$0.09 – pay with debit

I also wanted to see just how often bills would round up and down and to see if it does really balance out to a 50/50 split. So for the entire month, I tracked all of my purchases and this is what I found:

  • 43 total transactions in March
  • 6 times I paid cash so my purchase would round down
  • 15 times I paid by debit to avoid having my purchase rounded up
  • 20 transactions ended up with an exact total ending in $0.00 or $0.05
  • 2 transactions I got mixed up and paid with the wrong tender

Rounding Pennies

Paying cash saved me $0.10 and paying by debit saved me $0.25 so the whole penny experiment saved me a grand total of $0.35. Multiply that by 12 months and doing this for an entire year would save me an average of $4.20. Not exactly substantial savings, but savings nonetheless.

But what was most interesting was how often my purchases round up and down:

  • 51% of my transactions ended in an exact total
  • 35% of my transactions would have rounded up
  • 14% of my transactions would have rounded down

So if you only look at the transactions from this experiment, it averages out to penniesrounding up 70% of the time and rounding down only 30%. Not even close to being evenly split!

So does everything balance out in the end? It’s hard to say since I only did this for one month, but I will be making an effort to watch the register and try to pay with the “right” tender. This experiment tells me it’s more likely that penny rounding will cost me money versus save me money and when it comes to saving money, every little bit helps. Even an extra $4.20 a year.

What do you think about this experiment? Was it just a fluke or does everything balance out in the end?


  1. Jennifer

    This is an interesting experiment, but I would add that I think you also need to consider additional bank fees you’re (potentially) incurring making extra cash withdrawals + gas money you’re spending driving to the bank.

    That sounds like a lot of time/effort to save $4.20 in a year!

    I know for me, I’d be incurring the extra bank fees and/or gas. I’ll be sticking with debit!

    • sally

      About driving to the bank, no need with bank machines in many stores (e.g. Loblaws, No Frills, RCSS,etc) or asking for cash back when buying groceries with debit. One stop shopping. Sometimes it is good have cash on hand — studies has shown that people spend more with plastic – credit or debit.

  2. Julie

    I’d definitely would be losing out to extra bank fees if I did that!

  3. Vernell

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every day.
    It’s always useful to read through articles from other writers and practice a little something from their sites.

  4. Michelle

    Anyone been to Timmies? My husband paid for a coffee at Tim Hortons….the total was something like $1.76…he gave $2…they gave 20 cents back. He asked for his nickle back..on principle and a nickle is a nickle and goes in his “boat jar”. They said they round…he said they are supposed to round to the nearest nickle and theys said that’s not how it works. I told him to write a letter that he hasn’t gotten to. Anyone else find this? Should I make some noise?

    • Canadian Gal

      Timmie’s is definitely ripping your husband off. That’s not how rounding is supposed to work.

      $1.76 should’ve rounded down to $1.75. I’m not sure what Math they’re using but I’d report them. Some of these independent owners will try to scam every penny (literally) they can get out of you.

      Also, wave this in their face.

      Sorry I get annoyed when businesses try to pull fast ones on nice, unsuspecting consumers.

      • Michelle

        Thank you!!! That is helpful. I plan to write to head office with that link AND go back to Timmies for an explanation. It is completely on principle and well it does add up especially when hubby works long shifts and can’t come home to make coffee.

    • Liz

      my only bad experience so far with rounding was also at Timmies! I can’t even remember what I ordered but my total was $2.62 so I gave her $2.60 cash. She asked for 2 more cents. I told her that according to her own register which had a screen explaining the rounding procedure, I was rounding down due to the penny no longer being in circulation. She continually asked me for 2 more cents and said she couldn’t open the register until she had the money. At that point I asked to speak to her manager and she walked away and magically when she came back I didn’t owe her the 2 cents. It was totally a matter of principle for me too. When I asked when the manager was coming over to speak to me she said it was okay…

      • Michelle

        Liz…so this is clearly not isolated to one location. Really rough math but if my hubby had 1 coffee a shift for say 17 shifts a month…it works out to like $10.20 / year. Imagine…they do this with every customer what the extra revenue is that they are bringing in? Not sure if they are being sneaky or just suck at rounding.

    • lul

      I think you should complain. I think next time get a receipt so that you have a transaction to relate to. I think that is so not fair. They are big money makers. They shouldn’t be pocketing the 4 cents.

    • Olivia

      Definitely make some very loud noise, please, for all of our sakes.Thanks in advance.

  5. Anita Maio

    I was at Giant Tiger the other day and noticed a sign at the checkout that states that they will always round down to save their customers even more money. I thought it was a nice gesture on their behalf.

  6. Renata


    I thought the “rounding up or down” guideline was only a suggestion for stores… not quite the rule yet… so stores are only “suggested” to follow it but not legally bound.
    Did that change? It would be nice!…

    • Josie

      Yes, the rounding is just a suggestion!
      Stores can and should still be accepting pennies as legal tender!
      When WalMart starts their rounding (automatically done through the register itself) for cash transactions near the end of April, they will still accept pennies (everyone should) but they will be rounded to the nearest 5 (automatically) so you would just give 5 pennies if you still want to use your pennies!

  7. Leighann

    Great Post. I’ve been wondering how the loss of the penny was affecting us. I would love to know how this works over the long term.

  8. heather

    Is anyone else here old enough to remember when they brought in the GST way back when? I remember that prices over time were adjusted upwards so that they would once again end in even .00 or .05 intervals, rather than the odd .03s and .07s. So it did cause a slight price increase as merchants adjusted prices… always upwards and never down! I wonder if we’ll see the same thing with penny rounding?

  9. Chantelle

    I love the post. And although using the “right tender” would help, some people may also have to change there banking fee package as some banks charge for point of sale transactions. So saving the .04 is great it’s not if your paying .30 for using your card. Great experiment.

  10. kim

    Was at the Superstore the other day and was surprised to get a nickel back when it ended in .04 The only time I use cash is for the receipt for checkout51 otherwise my receipts are too long and harder to submit

  11. Nicole

    I had an experience at McDonalds that I wasn’t happy with. I ordered my son a small drink & small fries. The total was $3.11 & I gave $3.10 cash & was asked for the additional penny. When I brought up the rounding, I was told that it was not mandatory & that their independent location was still fully using the penny.
    I was done arguing the the woman and won’t go to that location again.

  12. Roberta

    It would be nice if stores adjusted pricing of items to either end in 5 or a 0 (ie: $2.95 or $3.00)that way they wouldn’t have to worry about rounding up or down the final price.

    • MEG

      That would be nice, but in provinces that have 12% tax it wouldn’t help. In AB where we pay only 5% it would be great.

    • Kim

      That is what they do in Australia, in farct their shelf price is EXACTLY what you pay….taxes in so there is con calculating/rounding to be done( oh and fyi they don’t have a 1c coin either) 🙂

  13. teachermum

    I use my PC Mastercard for everything so don’hadn’t really paid much attention, but did notice that our No Frills has posted signs at all the registers that they are rounding down for everything. I love my No Frills!

    I have in the past, when checking a Walmart bill, noticed that they always seemed to round up. Not this penny issue, but when tax is calculated, they always rounded up. That extra penny on each bill sure would add up to a lot on all the transactions they do…

    Nicole, may I say that I LOVE that you did this with a notebook, pen and highlighters!!!

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