Why It’s Time To Kill The Five Cent Coin

It’s near-impossible to use, it takes up space in your wallet, and it might soon cost more to manufacture than its actual face value. It’s time for Australia to get rid of the five cent coin.

The topic of what to do with loose change is one which we visit quite frequently here at Lifehacker. We’ve covered many of the obvious strategies: use the coins in vending machines; make occasional trips to the bank to change everything over; keep them in your car to pay tolls; put them into self-service supermarket checkouts; take time to pay for things exactly so that you get less change in the first place.

Many of these strategies fail when faced with our smallest unit of physical currency: the five cent piece. Vending machines often won’t take them in the first place, the coins take ages to collate but still aren’t worth very much, and there is pretty much nothing left in Australia that you can purchase for five cents. You can give any shop up to $5 in 5 cent pieces and they’re not legally allowed to refuse it, but if you try that with your local coffee shop too often I bet someone will end up sneezing in your latte.

As a confirmed clutter hater, I was extremely happy when we ditched the one and two cent pieces in 1991, and 20 years later I can see an even better case for ditching the five cent equivalent. Quite aside from the fact that we’re increasingly favouring paying by electronic means in many cases anywhere, it looks like five cent pieces might actually cost us more to produce than their face value.

In a piece in yesterday’s Australian Financial Review (which I can’t link to because of that paper’s paywall policy), Jason Murphy notes that the 0.7g of nickel and 2.1g of copper used in each five cent piece is in itself worth 3.6 cents at current prices. Add to that the manufacturing and handling costs, and this already looks like a coin that is costing us money. Despite that, the Australian Mint produces an average of 160 million new five cent pieces each year, and the total value of five cent pieces on the market is estimated as $198 million.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s $198 million that could be better deployed as other types of currency. New Zealand ditched its five cent piece in 2006; it’s time to emulate our Kiwi neighbours and cut down on coin clutter.

Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.

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