Tag Archives: mint

pennies

Mint tries to make cheaper change

When it comes to making coins, the Mint isn’t getting its two cents worth. In some cases, it doesn’t even get half of that. A penny costs more than two cents and a nickel costs more than 11 cents to make and distribute. The quandary is how to make coins more cheaply without sparing our change’s quality and durability, or altering its size and appearance.

A 400-page report presented last week to Congress outlines nearly two years of trials conducted at the Mint in Philadelphia, where a variety of metal recipes were put through their paces in the massive facility’s high-speed coin-making machinery.

Evaluations of 29 different alloys concluded that none met the ideal list of attributes. The Treasury Department concluded that additional study was needed before it could endorse any changes.

“We want to let the data take us where it takes us,” Dick Peterson, the Mint’s acting director, said Wednesday. More test runs with different alloys are likely in the coming year, he said.

The government has been looking for ways to shave the millions it spends every year to make bills and coins. Congressional auditors recently suggested doing away with dollar bills entirely and replacing them with dollar coins, which they concluded could save taxpayers some $4.4 billion over three decades. Canada is dropping its penny as part of an austerity budget.

To test possible new metal combinations, the U.S. Mint struck penny-, nickel- and quarter-sized coins with “nonsense dies” — images that don’t exist on legal tender (a bonneted Martha Washington is a favorite subject) but are similar in depth and design to real currency.

Test stampings were examined for color, finish, resistance to wear and corrosion, hardness and magnetic properties. That last item might be the trickiest, as coin-operated equipment such as vending machines and parking meters detect counterfeits not just by size and weight but by each coin’s specific magnetic signature.

Except for pennies, all current U.S. circulating coins have the electromagnetic properties of copper, the report said.

A slight reduction in the nickel content of our quarters, dimes and nickels would bring some cost savings while keeping the magnetic characteristics the same. Making more substantial changes, like switching to steel or other alloys with different magnetic properties, could mean big savings to the government but at a big cost to coin-op businesses, Peterson said.

The vending industry estimates it would cost between $700 million and $3.5 billion to recalibrate machines to recognize coins with an additional magnetic signature. The Mint’s researchers reached a lower but still pricey estimate of $380 million to $630 million.

Another challenge for the Mint is the rising cost of copper (used in all U.S. coins) and nickel (used in all except pennies).

Only four of the 80 metals on the periodic table — aluminum, iron (used to make steel), zinc and lead — cost less than copper and nickel, the report stated. Lead isn’t an option because of its potential health hazards.

Mint.com screenshot

Five Great Apps For Mobile Finance

Mobile finance is about to boom (some say we’re already there). You may have dabbled a little with your own bank’s mobile app for easy money transfers and to check balances. Or you might be quite savvy with Google Wallet and PayPal on your phone. There are a myriad of new apps to help you with all of your financial needs and are great for both personal and business use.

Most of these apps are available across Apple, Android and Blackberry platforms, and new ones are coming out every week. They help with everything from debt reduction, to managing how payments, to investing.

Here are five mobile finance apps to check out:

Debt Tracker

Most Americans are carrying some debt right now, and businesses are no exception. Debt Tracker helps you store all of your debt information in one place, plan how to pay it off quickly, and it calculates how long it will take you to pay off each debt. This app subscribes to the popular “snowball theory” of debt-repayment — where you aggressively pay off one debt at a time, while paying the minimums to the rest — and has tools to help guide you through. Free and paid versions are available.

Mint

You’ve probably heard of Mint.com, as one of the first free and easy-to-use budgeting tools to hit the Web. This app is free and connects your phone to your bank accounts. It helps you track spending, and stick to a budget. The features in both the online version and the app make it almost a no-brainer, doing all of the hard work for you. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, this is a dependable way to go.

Pageonce

This company claims to manage all of your financial data, and lets you pay bills, from one simple app. They also claim to take security quite seriously, which is important for anyone accessing financial data online. Keep in mind that the payment card industry hasn’t kept up with mobile transactions, in terms of security standards. Anyone who accesses financial information via a mobile device should heed this. However, Pageonce makes a point of touting security as one of the best values of this application.

BillTracker

Sometimes you just forget to pay a bill. It happens to even the most responsible of us. BillTracker keeps you in line and lets you know when bills are due, so you’ll never suffer from a late fee again.

iExpense

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little financial planner in your pocket? That’s the point of this nifty app. iExpense does more than just help you budget and make payments, it actually gives you advice on how to achieve financial goals — whatever those goals are. This app was designed by financial advisors. While it can’t quite replace a real professional, it can act almost like a coach to keep you in line between that annual visit with your planner.

Just keep in mind that mobile finance apps like these are only as good as the person using them. They won’t suddenly make you a financial guru or do all of the work for you. But they can help keep you in line to achieve your financial goals — whatever they may be.