The Mandarin term “散钱” refers to small denominations of currency, such as cents.
The Mandarin term “散钱” also appears in Chronicle of Zhu Zi (《朱子年谱》) written in the Qing Dynasty. It refers to a Qing Dynasty coin with a square hole in the middle that can be strung together and used as change.
In the Hokkien (Minnan) dialect, the term “散钱” refers to banknotes of smaller values. However, the term is used in Singapore and Malaysia to refer to small denominations of currency, such as cents, otherwise known as “零钱” in Mandarin.
The word “散” in “散钱” is derived from the second character in the Mandarin term “零散”, unlike the term “零钱” used in Mainland China, which makes use of the first character “零” (líng).
I had coins that were probably small change left over from buying fishball noodles during recess. I would use them to secretly buy haw flakes at the mama stall downstairs at the corner of the shophouse, because I knew that I would definitely get a scolding if mother found out. (Lianhe Zaobao, 28/6/2018)
零钱 (Mainland China), 散纸 (Hong Kong)
Click here to view references for small change