FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

For FAQs about the Bristol Pound app, visit this page

General questions about the Bristol Pound

1How do I join the Bristol Pound?
To join, you need to open a Bristol Pound account. These accounts are held with Bristol Credit Union. The best way to join is to download the Bristol Pound app and follow the on screen instructions. Alternatively, you can find a link to online forms at the bottom of the JOIN page. Once you have your account open, we will then send you all the necessary information to get you started.
2Why have I never seen a Bristol Pound?
Most Bristol Pounds are digital. Members sign up and open up an account and then spend them electronically online or using their phone. A member can also withdraw paper notes at a ‘Cash Point’. Non-members can exchange Sterling notes for Bristol Pound notes at a ‘Cash Point’. It is unlikely you will see Bristol Pounds unless you go and get some. You can also order them from our online shop.
3How much does it cost to join?
There is currently no joining fee or ongoing membership fee to be a member of the Bristol Pound at the moment. There are transaction charges of 2% on text and app payments, and 1% on online transfers payable by the receiver.
4Why does Bristol have a local currency?
There are many reasons for a local currency. The primary purposes are to: Strengthen the local economy by 'locking' money into the city so it does not leak out unnecessarily through extended supply chains. Incentivise people to use independent local businesses. Bolster the strong sense of identity and civic pride in Bristol. Known as the multiplier effect, Bristol Pounds will be spent repeatedly only within the local economy. With Sterling, much of the wealth spent in the city leaks out. Bristol Pound can help deepen and diversify the connections between local business people and all the citizens of the region – an important part of building a sustainable regional economy and providing high quality employment.
5Does the company running the currency make a profit?
The Bristol Pound is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) run for the benefit of its members and for Bristol. The current board proposes that any surplus revenue be distributed to the members in line with their usage of the currency, as well as giving a proportion to community organisations in Bristol. Decisions around this distribution will be made by the board if this occurs.
6Why in Bristol?
Bristol is the cultural and economic hub of the South-West. There is a diversity of businesses across many sectors and yet a strong sense of identity and civic pride in the city. Many aspects of the region’s economy are a product of the people who live here and we think that wealth and well-being created by the people of the region can be better put to use if it re-circulates within the city where it is generated, rather than benefiting distant shareholders of global corporations.
7What are the risks?
Bristol Pound payments and accounts are the responsibility of Bristol Credit Union Ltd, authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority, and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority; firm reference number 213583. Having and using digital Bristol Pounds is akin to having normal Sterling deposits in any authorised and regulated financial institution. Each digital Bristol Pound can be exchanged for a Pound Sterling with Bristol Credit Union. In the event that the Bristol Pound CIC is wound up and the scheme not continuing, each Bristol Pound in your account will be exchanged for a Pound Sterling at no charge. Therefore, the main financial risk is regarding the viability of Bristol Credit Union. It operates a low risk investment policy and plays no part in the speculative secondary markets which led banks into financial difficulties. Deposits held with Bristol Credit Union are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. This protects up to £85,000 in deposits per eligible depositor. Individuals and most small businesses are eligible depositors – see www.fscs.org.uk for more information. The paper Bristol Pounds are the sole responsibility of Bristol Pound CIC. Paper Bristol Pounds are not exchangeable for Sterling. They are to be spent with Bristol Pound member businesses which can then pay them into their Bristol Pound accounts. Each paper Bristol Pound in circulation is backed by a Pound Sterling held in a trust account at Bristol Credit Union (except for those sold as souvenirs) and so in the event of the currency closing, paper Bristol Pounds will be exchanged for Sterling at face value by Bristol Pound CIC.
8Is this being done anywhere else?
There is a long history of places having their own currencies and it was very common in this country until the centralisation of the banking industry in the 19th century. More recently, many places around the world, including the UK, have launched local currencies using a variety of models. Examples include Brixton, Totnes and Lewes. It is the first scheme at a city-wide scale. But the Bristol Pound is innovative in using an easy and fast electronic payment system and in the partnership arrangement with Bristol Credit Union that offers the security of an authorised deposit-taking institution. Alternative currencies in the UK have come together to form the Independent Money Alliance. The IMA is a space for sharing best practice and promoting ethical alternative models of currency.
9What do you do with all the Sterling people pay to get their Bristol Pounds? Will it be safe?
All Sterling which we receive in exchange for Bristol Pounds will be held by the Bristol Credit Union in a trust account as backing for the currency and to provide certainty of value to Bristol Pounds. It will not be used to fund the activities of Bristol Pound CIC. Credit Unions are authorised and regulated at a national level by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. This arrangement will strengthen Bristol Credit Union which has a clear social purpose to be a community anchor for the city, providing fair financial services for all the people of Bristol, and offering competitive, viable alternative financial provision for member benefit and not for private profit.
10What do you do to prevent fraud?
All of the denominated official Bristol Pounds incorporate a raft of the latest security features that make printing fraudulent notes very difficult and expensive. A full list of the latest security features is available in the Resources section. Attempts at fraudulent electronic transactions can be easily traced as these transactions are only possible between members through accounts managed by Bristol Credit Union. If a member’s mobile phone is lost or stolen, their Bristol Pound account can be frozen very quickly.
11Can Bristol Pounds be spent outside the city?
While the scheme is clearly designed for use in Bristol there is nothing to stop people from further afield using and accepting the paper currency. To become a member and use the electronic system you need to live, work, volunteer or go to school/university in any of the four local authority areas which make up the former Avon county (Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire).
12How do I leave the scheme if I no longer want to be involved?
Individual members can stop their membership by simply telling the Bristol Credit Union in writing to close their account. Any remaining Bristol Pounds in your account can be issued to you in local currency notes at the Bristol Credit Union or can be exchanged into your Sterling Bristol Credit Union share account at no cost.

Questions about local currency

1What is local currency?
Local currency can take many forms, but essentially it is money that is used across a particular locality or region. Spending in the target area boosts local economic activity by retaining money in the area. This encourages and strengthens economic ties between the people of the area and local traders. The Bristol Pound (£B) is a complimentary currency that can be used alone or alongside the national currency. Whilst there are some rules for taking part in the scheme, local currency is not legal tender like Sterling and so accepting Bristol Pounds is voluntary.
2Is this being done anywhere else?
There is a long history of places having their own currencies and it was very common in this country until the centralisation of the banking industry in the 19th century. More recently, many places around the world, including the UK, have launched local currencies using a variety of models. Examples include Brixton, Totnes and Lewes. It is the first scheme at a city-wide scale. But the Bristol Pound is innovative in using an easy and fast electronic payment system and in the partnership arrangement with Bristol Credit Union that offers the security of an authorised deposit-taking institution. Alternative currencies in the UK have come together to form the Independent Money Alliance. The IMA is a space for sharing best practice and promoting ethical alternative models of currency.
3Is it like a LETS scheme?
LETS (Local Exchange Trading Scheme) is a different type of local exchange model which is not exchangeable for Sterling.