It’s a common occurrence for Michiganders. When at the local party store, sorting through your change to pay for your Big Gulp, you see that phantom Canadian penny in your palm, lurking next to the ball of lint from your pocket. 

It seems the Canadian penny is always the one you choose to pass on to the clerk, to continue its journey across the American heartland. Canadian bills don’t seem to magically appear in your wallet, it’s just those pesky pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, with the embossed image of the Queen, that seem to wander into your stash of spare change. The question is...are they legal to pass on to an unsuspecting clerk? 

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Canadian Money Must Be Cool. They’re Our Friends..Right? 

It’s true, our neighbors to the north seem to be a friendly bunch, and the Mounties have cool uniforms, but the world’s economy seems to be putting a crunch on what is acceptable cash within the borders of Michigan. Business owners never seemed to mind a few Canadian coins filtering through their cash drawers, but that will soon become an issue in some future transactions. 

But It Looks Just Like Ours!..Sort of...

Canadian Money Is Becoming A Problem In Michigan
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The Mackinac Bridge “Just Says No” To Canadian Cash 

Beginning October 1st of 2023, the Mackinac Bridge Authority will no longer accept Canadian cash for tolls. Mackinac Bridge Director Kim Nowack explains, 

As the Mackinac Bridge is not an international bridge, and we cannot offer an attractive exchange rate to customers, the Authority has decided to stop accepting Canadian currency. We’re certainly not looking to inconvenience our customers, but we’re one of very few businesses or agencies in Michigan that accepts Canadian cash.

This quote came as somewhat of a shocker. In all my years of dealing-out change with various vendors, Canadian money never seemed to be an issue. Growing up as a kid, you quickly became aware that the pop and candy machines would reject the coins, but that seemed to be the extent of denial. Signs were never posted next to cash registers proclaiming, “No Canadian Cash Accepted!”. 

What Triggered The Rejection of Canuck Cash? 

It’s all about “exchange rates” and hauling the cash around in armored trucks. The Mackinac Bridge Authority says, 

When the MBA receives Canadian currency for tolls, following MBA Board policy, it first seeks two exchange rates from two different banks. After selecting a bank based on those rates, the MBA then must pay for an armored vehicle to transport the cash and pay wire fees for the amount exchanged.

The MBA typically receives about $4,000 each month in cash. To cover handling costs and exchange fluctuations, they double the toll when handed Canadian cash. When Canadian motorists are informed of that policy, they usually pay with credit or debit cards. 

So, Is Canadian Money Accepted In The United States? 

Not according to ChatGPT. The artificial know-it-all reports, 

Canadian money is not accepted in the United States because it is a different country with its own currency. While the Canadian dollar may be accepted by some businesses as a form of currency, it is not considered legal tender in the United States. Additionally, the exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and the US dollar may affect the acceptance of Canadian money in the United States. 

So, now that you know that Canadian cash is technically illegal in the United States, are you going to feel guilty about slipping a Canuck coin to an unaware store clerk?.....ya....I thought so. 

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