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Business Math: How to Count Change Back to a Customer

When a clerk grabs the change due from the cash register and plops it in your hand, you would have to do some pretty quick math to be sure you got the right change. But when a clerk counts up from the total and stops at the amount tendered, it is a relief for you and a guarantee for her that the amount is correct. Not everyone is a natural with numbers so I’ll outline the steps to make it easy.



Why Employees Need to Know How to Count Change Back

  • Employees look more professional when they are not confused by simple arithmetic – this reflects on your business!
  • When the power goes out, they’re on their own. You don’t want to have to close down the shop just because counting change back manually is too hard for your team!
  • It’s more accurate. If a customer gives the clerk a 20, then the clerk counts back up to 20.
  • It’s a good tool to have. If the purchase was $2.36 and the customer gave the clerk a fifty but the clerk entered $5 into the cash register by accident, she won’t know how to get the correct change.

How to Count Change

I used to tutor math and I don’t know how many times I had to demystify this problem for young people and older folk alike. Counting change back to a customer is easy… when you understand what you’re doing.

There are a couple of ways you can count change. First, you can read the number that the cash register says and count that amount out to the customer. Second you can count up from the sale total. One is dependent upon a machine and the other is total freedom.

As the cash register says:

If you count the change that the cash register says to count, all you’re really doing is ensuring that you got that amount from the register, but what if you entered the amount incorrectly to begin with? Then your cash register’s displayed amount will be wrong and so the amount you hand the customer will also be wrong.

Counting up:

There is basically no way you can go wrong with this method. Let’s say the total is $7.38. The customer hands the clerk a twenty. She doesn’t have to know what the change is going to be – she doesn’t have to do any subtraction. All she needs to do is count up from $7.38.

The process looks like this: She counts to herself 7.39, 7.40, as she takes two pennies. 7.50, as she takes a dime. 8.00, as she takes two quarters. 9.00, 10.00, as she takes two ones. 20.00 as she takes a ten. Then she should count it back to the customer in the same way. Rather than offering the customer $12.62, she should count it back from the total.

See, it’s easy! The only trick is grabbing the right coins in order to give the least amount of coins back to the customer. Nobody wants to walk away with a bunch of dimes and nickles, say, and no quarters. Let’s try a harder one:

The sale price is $5.61 and the customer gives the clerk $10.01. In this case, the customer wants to avoid getting pennies back, so the clerk should put the penny in the drawer and consider the sale amount is now $5.60. Now the clerk will count to herself, 5.70, as she takes a dime. 5.75, as she takes a nickle. 6.00, as she takes a quarter. 7.00, 8.00, 9.00, 10.00, as she takes 4 ones.


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  1. Point of sale Auckland
    Point of sale Auckland March 6, 2017

    It is nice to see them all in one place as a reminder Business Math: How to Count Change Back to a Customer & rabbing the right coins in order.

  2. K
    K June 6, 2017

    I found this post extremely helpful. I agree that this is a necessary skill to have and practice with. Thank you for sharing!

    • Peggy Emch
      Peggy Emch June 6, 2017

      You’re welcome!

  3. Jack
    Jack July 22, 2017

    What about if u dont have a cash register with you and for example ur a delivery driver

    • Peggy Emch
      Peggy Emch August 1, 2017

      That is exactly what this post is intended to help you with.

  4. Peace n love
    Peace n love September 15, 2017

    Thank you so much..this helped a lot!

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