Julien Perrotte stood in front of the representative at his local bank last week, unsure he properly understood what she was telling him.
He was carrying about $800 worth of coins, neatly sorted and rolled, that he had collected over the past year. But she said Laurentian Bank wouldn’t deposit them.
“I’m like, ‘It doesn’t make sense,'” Perrotte told CBC News.
The woman told him he could exchange the coins for bills at local grocery stores, corner stores and pharmacies because “they love coins.”
But Perrotte, who works as an independent insurance claims adjuster, says he doesn’t have time to shop around for a small business to take his change — especially when it’s a service he expects to receive from his bank.
He called Laurentian Bank’s customer service line to see if there was any other way the bank would take his hundreds of loonies and toonies.
He was told it was a new policy at the bank not to accept coins.
“Pretty much, I was exasperated,” said Perrotte, who says he’s been a loyal customer for 15 years.
“It’s so absurd.… Everyone has coins, that’s for sure. Poor people, rich people.”
The other option Perrotte considered was to exchange the coins at a Coinstar machine, which are at some grocery stores and malls, but the machines charge about 12 per cent in fees for the service.
“So I would lose like 80 bucks just to try to get rid of money. And my bank doesn’t want my money!” Perrotte said.
Some bank branches going cashless
As Perrotte points out, the Canadian Mint is still producing coins as legal tender. But he now wonders who is ensuring that banks will take them.
He’s worried other banks will follow Laurentian’s lead.
In a response to a request for comment from CBC News, Canadian Mint spokesperson Alex Reeves said the Crown corporation’s mandate is limited to manufacturing and distributing Canadian currency.
It has no authority over how coins are exchanged, he wrote in an email.
“Canadian businesses are free to determine what forms of legal tender they will accept as payments or deposits,” Reeves said.
Reeves noted CIBC’s decision to open some cashless branches as an example of “the level of discretion allowed in Canada.”
A Canadian Bankers Association spokesperson told CBC News that the majority of financial institutions that take cash deposits still accept rolled coins at their branches.
‘If they don’t want to take my money, I’ll change banks’
In a statement, Laurentian Bank said it “transitioned its branch network from a traditional offer to 100% Advice.”
Spokesperson Hélène Soulard wrote that the “only service no longer offered in our 100% Advice model to retail customers is the deposit of coins.”
Notes can still be deposited via the bank’s network of automated banking machines.
Perrotte says he understands the bank’s need to cut costs, but wonders whether Laurentian Bank is having more trouble than it lets on.
“I love my bank. I live right near it, it’s my neighbour. It’s a nice bank, but at the end of the day if they don’t want to take my money I’ll change banks,” he said.
Laurentian Bank is in the process of implementing a transformation plan with the goal of boosting profits and doubling in size as more Canadians use online banking services.
In February, the bank said it would lay off about 300 employees and close 50 branches this year in an effort to save up to $20 million per year in operating costs.
In July, the bank announced it was phasing out tellers at its physical locations.
In its quarterly report ending in July, the bank reported a profit of $47.8 million, down nearly 13 per cent when compared to a year earlier.
“I would be OK, as a millennial, to stop the coins and just go full electronic,” said Perrotte.
But as long as coins are still in circulation, he says that banks should still take them.
In its quest to compete with digital startups, Perrotte says Laurentian Bank has just lost a loyal customer.