Heartland retailers welcome coin payments

Madam Koh Hong Cheng of Tung Kuang Trading and Refrigerator Service says she never rejects coins. While heartland firms welcome coin payments, five-cent coins are out as customers are unwilling to take them as change.
Madam Koh Hong Cheng of Tung Kuang Trading and Refrigerator Service says she never rejects coins. While heartland firms welcome coin payments, five-cent coins are out as customers are unwilling to take them as change.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Despite recent bad press, large coin payments are fine in the heartland

He had a customer who paid for $100 worth of items with coins two weeks ago. But far from being annoyed, Mr Ganesan Thangaraju said that for small businesses like his, the more coins, the merrier.

"I always need coins to give to my customers as change, so no matter the amount given in coins, I accept them," said the 44-year-old shopkeeper of Ambra Enterprise Flower Shop in Yishun.

Coins have been in the news of late, in particular the use of them to make large payments.

Last month, cellphone shop Mobile Air at Sim Lim Square gave a customer a refund of more than $1,000 in coins.

Two weeks ago, Mr Lester Ong left $19,000 worth of coins as payment at Exotic Motors' car showroom.

Despite the bad press, coins are very much the darlings of heartland shop owners, hawkers and supermarkets.

Mr Edmund Li, 31, who owns Fei Zai Mixed Vegetable Rice Porridge at Maxwell Food Centre, is among those who need lots of change. "We have to change $50 worth of notes for coins every day because we are always short of coins," he said.

He accepts up to $10 in coins and often asks his customers to pay in coins if they can.

Likewise, Madam Koh Hong Cheng, 61, a shopkeeper at Tung Kuang Trading and Refrigerator Service in Toa Payoh, said she never rejects coins. "There are those who really do not have any money except for coins, and we have to be considerate."

At YES Supermarket, coins worth about $50,000 are ordered each month to meet demand at its five outlets, said its managing director Kwek Hong Lim.

Occasionally, the supermarket also gets a customer who asks to change a few hundred dollars' worth of coins for notes.

While heartland businesses welcome payments in coins, the five-cent denomination is an exception. The reason is customers are unwilling to receive them as change, although they expect shopkeepers to accept them as payment.

"We end up with jars of five-cent coins, as it costs money to deposit them in the bank," said Mr Lin Yi Zhong, 62, who owns Tuo Yong Trading, a provision shop in Toa Payoh.

Banks typically charge $1.50 for every 100 coins deposited, regardless of denomination. There is no cap on the number of coins that can be deposited.

Under Singapore's Currency Act, coins in denominations of less than 50 cents - in other words, 20 cents, 10 cents, five cents and one cent - can be used for the payment of a sum not exceeding $2. For payments in 50-cent coins, the limit is $10; there is no limit for payments in $1 coins.

But retiree T. Jeganathan, 69, was told off by a hawker recently when he tried to pay for a $1 bowl of bean-curd dessert with three 20-cent coins, two 10-cent coins and four five-cent coins.

Said Mr Jeganathan: "Five cents is also money and I think paying with four five-cent coins is reasonable. Of course, I would never give 10 five-cent coins at one go - that would be unreasonable."

samboh@sph.com.sg