Coins in Canada are a fact of life. It almost appears as though, over the years, coins have gotten heavier in our pockets; this despite the phasing out of the penny. Even though we use Interac debit and credit cards more and more, coins seem to creep into our pockets and weigh us down. When the coins accumulate, many turn to time consuming counting and rolling, or costly services that charge fees such as 11.9% to count the coins. You can do all this free if you want. I’ll show you how.
The most important thing to know is that banks are starting to offer coin counters for free. There is always a catch, so do your homework. The counter I currently use is at select Bank of Montreal (BMO) branches (find one). As of this writing, coins totalling $250 or less are counted for free, and over that, an 8% fee is levied on the total. Counting coins at BMO does not require an account, you’ll get a slip and the cashier will provide the cash (and change, naturally). Toronto Dominion also offers coin counters (find one) but you’ll need to be a customer or pay an 8% fee on the total. Word is that there is a $300 limit too, but I’ve not tried this service.
More than having the coins counted, however, you really want to be smarter about how coins accumulate. I’m going to show you how I make sure that I’m always under the limit, and my coins are always counted free.
1. Basic sort – I used to sort like crazy, but it was too much. What I do now is keep it as simple as possible. Any Loonies and Toonies I keep on the side (or in my pocket). For those that drive, keep those $1 and $2 coins for parking meters or coffee purchases. The added bonus is that coins under a Loonie tend not to add up to a large sum quickly. You should never use a coin counter to count $1 and $2 coins.
2. Know what you have – The limits imposed by banks have been a moving target. This limit might go higher or lower and you’ll have no control. The best way to take some measure of control is to invest in a simple coin counting jar. As your coins accumulate, you’ll get to see how much is in the jar. Bring in coins when the jar is full or hit roughly $160-$200, don’t go higher than that.
3. Pre-Check the bank – Once you’ve found a bank that counts coins, go into the bank first without the coins (if you can) to assess the situation. Go to the information counter and ask if coin counting is still free, if there are limits, or if you need an account. Check out the coin counter device and read anything on the screen. Don’t bring in the coins unless you’re satisfied that the bank still does this for free.
The important thing to remember about your coins is that they are valuable. Don’t throw them away. Within a few months, you’ll have saved more than you thought, and with this knowledge, those coins won’t be lost in the cushions somewhere or whittled away by a bank or coin counter. Be smart about your money.