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I saw the statement, “there are so many restrictions on (insurance) coverage that you won’t see a dime,” in the following sentence in the article of Time magazine (August 18), titled “Things you should stop buying now.”

“Credit-Card Payment Insurance: This “protection” can cost a few hundred bucks a year, and there are often so many restrictions and caveats on coverage that you won’t see a dime. Even if your claim is accepted, the insurance only pays the monthly minimum for a period of months.”

I assume “you won’t see a dime” means “you won’t be covered (compensated / remunerated) at all”, but I’m not sure.

There is no entry of “(don’t / can’t / won’t) see a dime” in any of Oxford, Cambridge, Merriam-Webster dictionary. Is such expression as “coverage (deal, agreement, transaction) you won’t see a dime” frequently used in conversation and writing?

Why can it be "won't 'get' a dime" or "won't 'recover' a dime," instead of "won't 'see' a dime"? Why is it 'see'?

Are there any other usages of “you won’t see a dime” than reference in financial context?

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  • This is not particular to insurance, 'dime' is metaphorical for 'any amount of money'. 'see' is metaphorical for 'get'. (when I say 'metaphorical' I mean 'should not be ever used as a synonym but simply conveys the idea'.)
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 20:36
  • For what it's worth, and since you give it as an example, won't get a dime works equally well and is as equally applicable in this situation.
    – HaL
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 22:30

2 Answers 2

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You'll rarely, if ever, see "you won't see a dime" used in connection with anything but some sort of remuneration:

  • "Because of your father's multiple wives, you won't see a dime of your inheritance."
  • "Due to exorbitant 'management fees,' you won't see a dime of any return on your investment."
  • "The IRS garnished my income, so I didn't see a dime of my bonus."

It turns out "won't see a penny" is a much more commonly used expression, and has been for much longer, with "won't see a dime" not making an appearance in print until the late 1880s:

Ngram, "see a dime" vs "see a penny"

(Interesting aside: According to Wikipedia, "the Coinage Act of 1792 established the dime (spelled "disme" in the legislation), cent, and mill as subdivisions of the dollar." Pennies plainly have been around for much longer.)

Edit: Responding to your edit, "you won't get a dime" is also used in the same sense as "you won't see a dime;" the usage doesn't seem any different to me, except that the possibility seems somewhat more remote when someone says, "You won't see a dime of your protection."

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  • I disagree about the phrase being used only (or almost only) with regard to renumeration. COCA lists only a few uses of it in that context, with the majority of references to inheritances, investments, and politics.
    – Charles
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 8:13
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    I saw the same list (or the one for see a dime, at least). In what sense are you thinking of (or limiting the definition of) remuneration?
    – Gnawme
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 8:33
  • The Online Etymological Dictionary attests to penniless from early 14C, so penny must be earlier. Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 13:50
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It seems you've got one thing wrong. The word coverage isn't a part of the phrase. It is "You won't see a dime/penny" and is commonly used to mean that you will not get any money or financial benefits, despite being promised otherwise. (So your general assumption was correct.)

In this particular case, you are told by the article that the insurance may promise you coverage (compensation) in case something bad happens, but there are so many restrictions that you'll never really get anything out of it. You won't see a dime of your money.

Edit: And as for the other forms, with "can't" or "don't" - they wouldn't really make much sense. (What's the point of stating that you currently don't see any dime?)

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  • re the edit, and why not? Could I not say, say, "It's about time they paid me back, but I don't (can't) see a dime (coming my way)"?
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 9:02
  • @Kris.Re my question, "Why can it be "won't 'get' a dime" or "won't 'recover' a dime," instead of "won't 'see' a dime" ?Why is it 'see'?, if it’s spelled out as you put it, I can understand why it is “see.” Otherwise, I wouldn’t get it to the last with my dull brain. Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 11:32
  • @Yoichi Oishi: We particularly use "see" (and another similar idiom, "get a sniff of") in the negative, for things we don't get. We get our snouts in the trough for stuff we do get, because it's ingested - or otherwise "taken in", as in trousered, or pocketted. They're our basic corporeal/visceral metaphors for getting stuff/money. Commented Dec 3, 2011 at 0:02
  • ... get is too "weak" because you can get lost, get a joke, get anything. And the writer can't say recover even though he'd probably like to. It would be ridiculous - insurance isn't like savings policies. Ideally you want nothing to happen, but you're buying peace of mind. Commented Dec 3, 2011 at 0:09

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