Thursday, April 13, 2006

Canada's second currency

As I continue on my decluttering mission I keep coming across stuff that makes me think, "Hey, I could stop dusting for a minute and blog about this!" Today was one of those moments.

If you're Canadian or have lived in Canada for any length of time, you'll probably be familiar with conversations like the ones I had with my brothers (who are almost always broke) last time we visited Vancouver.

Me: Hey, that's a nice little motorcycle trailer. Must have cost a bundle. How'd you pay for it - with Canadian Tire Money? Ha ha.
Bro #1: Actually, wiseguy, I DID pay for it with Canadian Tire money.
Me: I'm impressed.

Bro #2: Got any Canadian Tire money?
Me: I've got a whole purse full.
Bro #2: Excellent. Let's go shopping!

And just what is this 'Canadian Tire money'? Well, it's a loyalty program started in 1958 by Canadian Tire, a Canadian retail chain that sells hardware, automotive, sports, camping, gardening and electronics products. The 'money', actually coupons which come in denominations of 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents and one and two dollars, looks like this:

For every purchase paid for in cash or by debit card, the customer receives Canadian Tire money at a rate of 1.5% of the pre-tax total. If you shop at Canadian Tire a lot, that can add up.

Many Canadians have so much Canadian Tire money stuffed into various drawers, purses and pockets that they don't know what to do with it. It seems to multiply overnight and will follow you everywhere. In fact I found the two examples from the photo above in my kitchen drawer here in Germany and I have NO idea how they got there.

It seems some people will go to any lengths to get rid of their coupons, as evidenced by my next photo taken at the Frankfurt airport on our way back from Vancouver in 2004. Mr M had gone into the duty free shop to buy something, and as the boys and I were hanging around outside waiting for him I spied a large plexiglas container with a sign encouraging travelers to throw any spare change into it. My kids love foreign currency so we went over to take a look. There were American dollars, Japanese yen, euros, pounds sterling and all sorts of interesting coins. And right at the bottom...Canadian Tire money! Yay! Of course I had to take a picture of that historic moment. If you look down at the bottom left of the picture (click to enlarge) you can see what we saw.

And now a bit of trivia:

- Although the coupons are quite a bit smaller than Bank of Canada notes, Canadian Tire money is printed on paper similar to real Canadian currency and has occasionally been passed on as such to unsuspecting American and Mexican tourists. For shame!

- There is apparently a bar in Newfoundland that allows its patrons to pay for their drinks in Canadian Tire money.

- In 2004 at a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce bank machine in Moncton, New Brunswick, several customers were dispensed a total of 11 Canadian Tire bills instead of real bank notes. Read about it here.

- Canadian Tire does not always enjoy the best reputation and is often lovingly referred to as Crappy Tire (or the less politically correct Cambodian Tire). Canadian Tire's fight to secure the website '' can be viewed here.

- Contrary to popular belief, then man on the front of the coupons is NOT John A. Macdonald, Canada's first Prime Minister; he is, in fact, Sandy McTire, a fictional character.

-The nameless husband and wife used in Canadian Tire ads in 2005 through 2006 were voted "Canada's most annoying couple" by the Royal Canadian Air Farce, a popular comedy show. This is a hilarious parody article featuring the couple.

As you can see, Canadian Tire money has pretty much attained cult status as the most successful loyalty program in Canadian retail history. But nobody really knows why.

Oh, and before I forget, eh? One more link for the crafty among us: Canadian Tire Money Origami


At April 13, 2006 5:27 p.m., Blogger Haddock said...

I have never heard of the Canadian Tire money, but its pretty interesting stuff. I'm always amazed at what I learn here! :)

At April 13, 2006 6:17 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had something similar to Canadian Tire here in the US, but they were stamps you collected and filled books with, then you could go "shopping" at their store for various household products. It was called S&H green stamps and I remember many a rainy afternoon pasting stamps in little books and begging my mom to take us to the S&H store. 20 years later I'm sure my mom still has drawers full of stamps.

Anonymous Wabbit

At April 13, 2006 7:35 p.m., Blogger matt said...

I remember the S&H stamps too! I can still taste that nasty glue ugh! My mom would wait till a rainy day and then set me down with months worth of those damn stamps and have me stick them in the books. But I'm still laughing over the "Canadian Tire money" man i'm glad my Dad never found out about that stuff he would have horded it like gold he was weird that way and we lived close enough to Canada to go get it. lol

At April 13, 2006 8:28 p.m., Blogger The SeaWitch said...

Too funny! I completely forgot about CT money for the last 8 years until you mentioned it here. I always felt rich when I was little and my Dad gave me his CT coupons. I'd buy inflatable beach paraphernalia with it. When I got older, I'd buy all the little odds and ends you need for your home...light switches, door knobs, tools etc.
It figures Newfies would buy drinks with it though. LOL Thanks for the jaunt down memory lane.

At April 13, 2006 8:34 p.m., Blogger Angie said...

Sometime I'll have to make it up to that great northern neighbor of ours (beyond Windsor, that is)... it sounds like a fun place! :)

By the way, re. your previous post (I'm way behind)... It IS possible to gain 5 lbs. over one weekend. I plan to do it this weekend by a steady diet of Cadbury Creme Eggs! (yum!)

(And sometime I'll post a pic of my brown couch, lol... thanks for the comment!)

At April 13, 2006 9:53 p.m., Blogger Ms Mac said...

I feel quite smug as I already now about Canadian Tire money! My friend in Toronto used to work for Candian Tire!!

At April 13, 2006 10:08 p.m., Blogger traveller one said...

Oh Christina... you're so funny! I LOVE Canadian Tire, but our family always fights about the 'correct; way to spend the money. Should you save it up til you have enough to buy something wonderful, or should you keep it in your wallet and use it everytime you shop at CT? What do you say?

At April 13, 2006 10:20 p.m., Blogger lettuce said...

Oh, we had Green Shield Stamps here in the UK. My Mum bought her first food mixer with them, a Kenwood mixer -which was very racey then in the 60's! Huge clunky old thing, but she's still using it.

When you'd filled your book and had enough for the item you wanted to buy, you had to go to the Redemption Centre - scary or what?

At April 13, 2006 11:28 p.m., Blogger christina said...

haddock - This blog is a trivia goldmine. :-)

Wabby and Matt - I always heard about the green stamps but never got to see any in real life

SeaWitch - We always get a ton of it when we're on vacation because my husband loves Canadian Tire and my dad and brothers also hang out there all the time.

Angie - I bet there's even a Canadian Tire or two waiting for you in Windsor.

And the 5 lbs? I'm sure they'll look waaaaay better on you than they do on me. Enjoy the eggs!

Mrs. Mac - See? It pays to know people in high places! :-)

traveller one - Well, I don't know, I've never really had that much of the stuff to worry about, but the kids love to spend what they get when we're on vacation. My brother spends so much at Canadian Tire that I think he really did pay for that trailer with CTM.

lettuce - The Redemption Centre, eh? Very scary indeed!

At April 13, 2006 11:40 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

I just LOVE your trivia, Christina! Yup, we had the S&H green stamps, too, and some yellow stamps but can't remember what they were called. Cashed them in at the redemption center for whatever. Too funny to remember it now after all these years. With 8 kids, you can imagine how many stamps we'd get at the grocery store!

I especially love the last link on CT origami. THAT'S what it's all about :)

At April 14, 2006 12:04 a.m., Blogger jen said...

You are preparing us for our finest hour in a Canadian game show here :).

- sparky

At April 14, 2006 2:22 a.m., Blogger lily b said...

We get the Canadian Tire commercials here and I've always thought the name was a little misleading. I didn't know about the money though.

How odd that they would embrace the name "Crappy Tire."

At April 14, 2006 5:25 a.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

haha - that was such a great post and so many links! You know that I have never shopped at Canadian tire yet!! I'm glad we don't have any money laying around though! I was laughing so much the entire time though especially since I totally know how annoying the 2005 Canadian tire ads were!

At April 14, 2006 10:20 a.m., Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

LOL! I loved this post! I have two uncles that almost live at CT (both do lots of rennovations). They go there every week, so I'm sure they could open a bank account with the CTM :-)

At April 14, 2006 3:55 p.m., Anonymous Jan said...

Isn't the comedy troupe called "Royal Canadian Air F_a_rce"? At least that's what I remember from the Doctor Demento Show that used to be aired on AFN Berlin during the days of the Cold War.

Best regards,

At April 14, 2006 4:32 p.m., Blogger CaliGirl said...

the first time i came to canada my then soon to be hubby and his friends gave me one of each denomination (sp?) to take back home to california. i thought it was the greatest thing. i still have them in a photo album of mine from my trip.

as i type this i can say i see several different bills here on my computer desk. we use them when ever we get a chance. always nice to save some money on something nice.

At April 14, 2006 6:35 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Ginnie - trivia makes the world go round! :-) You guys must have had books full of stamps!

Sparky - If you win, do I get half?? :-)

lily b - I know - they seem to have everything BUT tires, don't they? I guess they just wanted the site so nobody else could use it to make fun of them.

Expat Traveler There's one right near you - you have to go some time and check it out. I've heard they won't let you get PR until you buy $50 worth of stuff at Canadian Tire. ;-) I wish I could have seem the 2005 ads.

canadianswiss - Looks like CT would be a really great place to to meet men!

Jan (JCS, right? Finally, a face to go with the name) - Ja wohl! Thanks, you're absolutely right - unintentional typo on my part. I've corrected it now.

caligirl - Thanks for stopping by. Wow, Canadian Tire money made it down to California and back again! I visited P.E.I. about 3 years ago - beautful place.

At April 14, 2006 6:52 p.m., Anonymous bonnie said...

I could never tire of this post, Christine!

At April 14, 2006 8:06 p.m., Blogger jen said...

Nope :)

- Sparky

At April 15, 2006 1:41 a.m., Blogger Cathy said...

As I read this, there is Canadian Tire monye sitting on my desk; really, it's true. I almost took a photo and posted it as proof.

Happy Easter weekend, Christina.

At April 15, 2006 6:56 a.m., Blogger Just another American Expat said...

Great post. Always neat to get a deeper perspective into Canadian culture.;-)

At April 15, 2006 7:46 a.m., Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

We a similar thing here, although not as big as this Tire money you speak of. There is food store chain that gives you points (on a plastic card) every time you spend money, one point per one euro. At the end of the year you can buy a gift or cash it in. Since we shop there anyways, we collect our points. Last we year we got a nice steam cooker. This year we cashed in the points for money and got 50 bucks. Hey 50 bucks is 50 bucks! (can I call euros, bucks?) hehehe.


At April 15, 2006 1:31 p.m., Anonymous Nori said...

I didn’t know the Canadian Tire money.
Because your post had been very interesting, I read it while saying “Hmm...Hmm...Oh!”

I LOVE foreign currency, too. Because whenever I exchange a foreign currency before travel, I feel HIGH; “Well, I go on an overseas trip!!”
So, I thought “I want to see the Canadian Tire money”. Hehe.

When I had traveled in Spain, a gentleman who struck up a conversation with me on the train was surprised that Japanese coins have “holes”.
And, Canadian Tire money Origami.
I was surprised to see “Origami” of Japanese, and “website”. Haha..


At April 15, 2006 7:24 p.m., Blogger Claire said...

I have actually heard of this. A good friend of mine is from Ottawa and I spent 5 days there in 2004. He warned me about the Tire Money. "Becareful when you get change," he said. Ottawa, btw, was really nice. I thought was a little to clean to be a capital city.

At April 15, 2006 7:32 p.m., Blogger The Big Finn said...

I think my dad might use Canadian Tire money to buy Canadian Tire gas...but I'm not sure. In Sudbury, the Canadian Tire goes head to head with Walmart (they're pretty much across the street from each other if I remember correctly). The last time I checked, it seemed to me that Walmart was winning the battle.

At April 16, 2006 5:33 a.m., Blogger Crystal said...

Never heard of Canadian Tire money before, but wow, what an interesting (and funny) concept.

At April 16, 2006 11:04 a.m., Blogger DUSIE said...

please erase the swisslovebaby link and if you want to help go to it and click flag...thanks. i stopped mama-blogging because I was being harassed by a sexual predator and now he (i'm assuming) has gone and adopted my old domain name! this is all so sick...please help me and flag /report this account!

thanks mausi and anyone else. this has been very horrible. happy easter none the less-


At April 16, 2006 1:21 p.m., Blogger Lisa said...

Happy Easter Mr. and Mrs. Mausi and boys! :)

At April 16, 2006 8:32 p.m., Blogger Mike B said...

Well, it does look like the "Everyman" of Canada, so one can forgive the confusion with PM MacDonald.

Nice posting ... this is another example of why you are perhaps the widest-read of the expat bloggers here in Germany.


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