FAQ

Questions, Frequently Asked

note - for current system status please click here

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. You can start this process by going to our join page www.bristolpound.org/join, filling in your information and then you will be forwarded to the Bristol Credit Union form. Once you have your account open, we will then send you all the necessary information to get you started. You will then be a member of the bristol Pound
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 through chain stores. 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 is lost to big international business, related management structures, remote shareholders and the boom-bust of the financial banking system. The 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. We ask business members to give two months notice in order to provide us with the opportunity to update online and print marketing material.

Business specific questions

1Why would my customers use Bristol Pounds rather than Sterling?
In developing this currency we have seen real enthusiasm for it. People want this positive, active way of showing their support for Bristol and its independent traders. It is a great way of being part of the community, and discovering Bristol. It offers a real alternative to sterling, enabling people to support the local economy and get closer to local businesses and suppliers, being much more than just a consumer. We actively promote all the business members of the Bristol Pound through online and print media. The printed Bristol Pounds have a strong marketing effect for the independent sector. The mobile phone system represents an exciting and fresh way to pay for goods and services, especially appealing to those who love something new
2How will it benefit my business?
i) Advertising your business to the public and other businesses Recent local currency schemes have successfully raised the profile of member businesses through generating very significant media coverage. After the launch of the Bristol Pound in September 2012, the BBC website received around 250,000 hits and worldwide publicity was generated.

ii) Ease of use for your customers Paper money is understood by all, and with exciting and innovative art work representing Bristol’s current and historic culture, the paper Bristol Pounds are building awareness and loyalty, driving people to your business. The mobile phone based payment system developed in conjunction with this scheme is revolutionising fast cheap electronic payments and allows access to the scheme for anyone with a mobile phone.

iii) Better communities mean better business A local currency has the potential to significantly increase the amount of spending power of people in the target area and ensures that the extra spending power goes to local independent businesses. The scheme is helping build stronger relationships with customers and better inter-business trading.
3Are there any charges for using the Bristol Pound?
1% fee for online payments capped at 95p
2% fee for app and Pay by Text payments, 10p minimum.

As well as grant funding which has been sourced to develop the scheme, the running costs of the Bristol Pound Community Interest Company will be covered by a small percentage fee on each electronic Bristol Pound transaction, payable by the recipient. As a not-for-profit company we aim to keep this fee as low as possible. It is currently 2% for receiving text and app payments and 1% for receiving online payments. We will regularly review the fees to make sure we’re covering the costs of the CIC and that it’s viable in the long term.
4Will my suppliers accept Bristol Pounds?
Lots of Bristol favourites are already members, so they'll happily take Bristol Pounds. If your suppliers are not members then we can help sign them up, or work with you to switch to Bristol Pound suppliers. Of course, we do not expect businesses to trade wholly in Bristol Pounds, most often at this early stage in the currency's development trade in the local currency is secondary to Sterling.
5What else can I do with Bristol Pounds, other than pay suppliers?
Business members can do many things with Bristol Pounds: Pay business rates, BID payments or market rent to Bristol City Council; Pay energy bills; Pay a proportion of wages in Bristol Pounds to willing employees (this is of course entirely voluntary); Give the paper notes out as change; Do some building and refurbishment work; Book some Motivational, facilitation and teamwork services; Pay transportation costs... ...there are so many more ways of spending on, you'll likely need to change Sterling to Bristol Pounds.
6Can I exchange Bristol Pounds into Sterling?
Bristol Pounds can be exchanged for Sterling, by clicking the Exchange to Sterling button in your online account. The amount will be deposited into your nominated Sterling account. However we do ask member businesses to make reasonable efforts to spend the money with other members. Keeping Bristol Pounds circulating is the best way to maximise the scheme's benefits. Remember that changing back to Sterling increases the amount of money that will leak out of the Bristol area. Paper Bristol Pounds cannot be exchanged directly for Sterling but business members can deposit paper Bristol Pounds into their accounts at Bristol Credit Union or any 'Cash Point Plus'.
7How does taking Bristol Pounds affect my tax liability?
For tax purposes all Bristol Pound transactions are treated as if they were made in Sterling. So this will not affect how you declare your revenues, expenses and any taxable profits to HMRC. Likewise VAT should be charged based on the price of goods as normal. On completing VAT returns, payments to HMRC must be made in Sterling. For internal accounting purposes, your online Bristol Pound account will have various transaction reports available which can easily be exported or printed.
8Does my business have to accept full payment in the currency?
In becoming a member, a business is making a firm commitment to accept Bristol Pounds in payment for goods and services. We will work with business members to find effective ways of spending any Bristol Pounds received. In reality we would never try and force a member to accept full payment in Bristol Pounds against their wishes. Bristol Pounds are not legal tender, but we do ask that businesses honour the spirit of the commitment they have made in working with us to make the Bristol Pound scheme a success.
9Will the paper Bristol Pounds be accepted at a bank?
No. Business members can pay paper Bristol Pounds into their Bristol Pound account at Bristol Credit Union which has a branch open 5 days a week located in central Bristol, 112/114 Cheltenham Road, Bristol, BS6 5RW, or a Bristol Pound Cash Point Plus. Paper Bristol Pounds cannot be deposited with other banks.

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.