Regional Currencies

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'A regional currency is a particular form of complementary currency: it is an agreement within the community of a region to accept something other than legal tender as a means of payment. It connects unused resources with unmet needs at the regional level. Some regional currencies start out as smaller local systems and grow to serve a larger area in response to demand over time, like the Chiemgauer in Germany (p.XX) or the Dane County Time Bank in the USA (p.XX). Others begin to serve a whole region from the beginning, like the Talente Tauschkreis in Austria (p.XX) or the WIR Bank in Switzerland (p.XX). None of the systems featured in this book have yet grown to any significant economic scale but they all play an important role as demonstration projects for what is possible in creating wealth locally and maintaining community." (source: The Promise of Regional Currencies)

2. Anthony Migchels:

"Most Regional Currencies in Germany (e.g. the Chiemgauer), England (e.g. the Brixton Pound) or the US (e.g. the Berkshare) are simple euro/pound/dollar backed units. Usually 1 Regional Unit = 1 euro.

But when buying them, one usually gets one for maybe 95 cents (providing an incentive to pay with them) and when converting them back to euro, one gets only 95 cents (providing an incentive to spend them, instead of converting back and taking them out of circulation).

Regional currencies on this basis are always provided by private market players. Participants simply agree to use them, based on the value they add. No coercion necessary." (


Key elements of a regional currency

Following are three commonly useful ‘building-blocks’ for a sustainable regional currency, based on many years of experience in various countries around the world.

1. A voucher system or circulating currency is used in the same way as conventional cash or current accounts for payment of small, everyday amounts of money. There are various designs: it can be valued at par with national currency (most systems that issue printed currency except Time Banks); it can be backed by the promise to supply goods and services (Ithaca HOURS p.XX); it can be redeemable for national currency (Chiemgauer p.XX, BerkShares p.XX, Brixton Pound p.XX), often for an exchange fee; it can be redeemable for rewards (Blaengarw Time Centre p.XX); it can be issued from an account in an exchange ring (Talente Tauschkreis Vorarlberg p.XX).

2. An exchange ring allows for the cash-free settlement of bills and the setting up of mutual credit lines between individuals and firms. It works best for small to medium enterprises, individuals and voluntary associations. It provides them with improved access to liquid funds or credit. See Talente Tauschkreis Vorarlberg (p.XX), WIR Bank (p.XX), The Business Exchange (p.XX), RES (p.XX) and Dane County Time Bank (p.XX).

3. A micro-credit bank offers low interest or interest free loans in both local and national currency for production or consumption. See Banco Palmas (p.XX), WIR Bank (p.XX), BerkShares (p.XX) and Chiemgauer (p.XX)." (source: The Promise of Regional Currencies)


This map shows all types of local currency around the world:

Source of the summary below: The Promise of Regional Currencies


"For thousands of years native Africans have supported themselves through gift economies and reciprocal exchanges. Europeans introduced national currencies in the 19th century in order to increase their control of local economies (p.XX) and the effect was to destroy local self-reliance. Now in the early 21st century Africans are beginning to experiment with local currencies to counter the dependency on national currencies: see interviews with Will Ruddick (p.X) in Kenya and Tim Jenkin in South Africa (p.X).

America (Central & South)

Central and South America have a strong tradition of ‘solidarity economy’ - mutual self-help rather than charitable assistance or paternal control - also based on old native traditions. Many local and regional currencies have emerged from this movement: see interviews with Carlos Louge in Argentina (p.X), Carlos de Freitas from Banco Palmas in Brazil (p.X) and Koen de Beer in X (p.X).

America (North)

Native Americans created interdependence through trade and used currencies like wampum beads and tobacco for hundreds of years. Colonial scrip currency helped the early European settlers reduce their dependency on Britain before the American Revolution but was regulated after US Independence and the creation of a Central Bank. Local ‘emergency’ currencies were issued in 1932/33 but were all outlawed by President Roosevelt (p.XX). Business exchange networks – Community Connect Trade (p.XX) – have developed since the 1960s and Time Banks – Dane County Time Bank (p.XX) and RHD (p.XX ) since the 1980s. Other models include Ithaca HOURS (p.XX) and BerkShares (p.X).

Canada is home to the original Local Exchange Trading System (LETS) and Community Way (p.XX); Calgary and Toronto Dollars; and Salt Spring Island Dollars, a currency for tourists.


Asia is a term introduced by Europeans to describe everywhere east of Istanbul!

With 60% of the world’s population, this continent includes the completely diverse cultures of Japan, India, China, Malaysia, Korea, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

Japan experienced a boom of experiments with local currencies between 1999 and 2003 but there are now very few working systems.

China’s centralised political system has made such local experiments impossible, although the old communist system of ‘work points’ that flourished from the 1950s to the 1970s was effectively a local currency system for rewarding local labour:

The system of work points gave enormous flexibility for making use of labour power in a whole range of productive activities over and above that required seasonally for agriculture. People got their work points, and therefore their share of their co-operative’s output and income at the end of the year, whatever activity they were engaged in. Such activities included building new infrastructure, schools, health centres, and the establishment of various village industries, such as equipment manufacture and repair, fertiliser production, and other value added and diversification activities. The system enabled some really gigantic projects, such as the construction of the Red Flag Canal in Linxian (now Linzhou township).

India has had a handful of local currencies, including a new experiment linking pedal power to Sun Money (p.XX).

South Korea experimented with local currencies in the wake of its 1998 financial crisis, including the high profile Hanbat LETS.

Cambodian Buddhist monks started some small scale LETS.


Like other native cultures, the Aboriginals of Australia and the Maori of New Zealand have long established traditions of mutual help that form a background to modern experiments with local currencies.

In Australia the most popular form of currency is the Local Exchange Trading System (LETS), introduced in the late 1980s. The school based Maia Maia Project (p.XX) helps people to reduce CO2 emissions.

New Zealand has LETS, Time Banks and new initiatives backed by national currency: Wairarapa LETS, Lyttleton Time Bank, LOAVES Project.


Europeans in urban areas may be even less aware of their native cultures than inhabitants of other continents but most rural communities still preserve kinship and favours networks that are an unconscious model for modern local currencies.

Austria: Talente Tauschkreis, Vorarlberg (p.XX) and a national network of exchange rings

Belgium: RES (p.XX), Torekes and many LETS

England: LETS, Time Banks, Transition Town currencies: Totnes, Lewes, Brixton, Kidderminster, Bristol

France: 400 SEL (exchange rings), nine regional SOL currencies eg SOL Violette (p.XX)

Germany: National network of exchange rings; Regiogeld (regional currencies) - Bremen, Chiemgauer, Sterntaler etc.

Greece: local exchange rings emerging since the Euro crisis

Scotland: Business Exchange (p.XX)

Wales: Blaengarw Time Centre (p.XX)"

Source: The Promise of Regional Currencies


  1. Banco Palmas