Another Aussie “Oddity”

5 March 2013

For those of you outside Australia, another Australian custom of which you may not be aware – and which is a bit confusing if you’re a visitor to the country.

Australia has no coin smaller than 5c – the 2c and 1c coins were phased out some time in the 1990s.  This means that, when paying by CASH, the total bill is rounded up or down.

For example, if you buy three items for 97c, 98c and 99c, ie a total of $2.94, you will pay $2.95.  If your three items are 96c, 97c and 98c, ie a total of $2.91, you will pay $2.90.  And if they are 97c, 98c and 99c, ie a total of $2.95, you will pay that exact amount.

The rounding rules only apply to the total bill – NOT individual items (so if you’re buying only one item at 99c you will be asked for $1, but one item priced at 96c will actually cost you 95c), and only apply to cash payments.  If you’re paying by any other means (electronic funds transfer, credit card etc), the exact amount will be charged.  

The rule is that 1c and 2c balances go down to the 10c below, 3c and 4c up to 5c, 6c and 7c down to 5c, and 8c and 9c up to 0 (ie the next 10c). 

And since 1988, Australia has used polymer bank notes, not paper ones.  They invented the technology and now make notes for a number of other countries around the world.

Well, you did ask about Australian customs! 

And a note to Judith, who enquired about changing the clocks.  This year we change them (in Sydney) on 7th April.  I believe in the UK, that takes place on 31st March (but in the opposite direction).  Some parts of Australia don’t change their clocks at all.    



  1. I loved that at Daimaru in Melbourne (now sadly closed) they always rounded the price down.

  2. We were discussing the Aussie rounding up and down of the total price a couple of weeks ago on A N Other internet forum! My cousin used to live in NSW and work in QLD (or it could have been the other way round) so used to keep her clocks at home set to her workplace time!

  3. It’s the two northern most states and territories that don’t have daylight savings, and there is one sensible reason why ( and lots of stupid ones ). Because the hour of sunlight is shifted from early morning, when few people are outside, to the end of the day when many people are outside, an individual’s total sun exposure is increased, leading to an increased risk of skin cancers in the regions which already have the highest incidence.

  4. I found David’s answer very interesting. In Norway, where there is hardly any light in the winter, working hours change in the summer, when most offices, etc, finish work at 3 pm so that people can get out in the sunshine for sufficient hours to top up their vitamin D ready for the next winter.

    Re paying for goods, I have always got caught out in the US, thinking that I was tendering the correct amount, but forgetting that local tax is added to the total bill.

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