Bristol Pound: what it is and how customers and businesses can use it

This article has been updated for 2017.

Whether you’re a Bristol business keen to start accepting the local currency or you’re a customer who’d like to pay for products and services in Bristol Pounds, we’ve got the info you need to get started.

Bristol launched its local currency back in 2012, following similar schemes in Brixton and Totnes.

The aim of the Bristol Pound (£B) is to encourage consumers to stick with independent retailers, while helping to keep money in the local economy.

In 2015 there was an estimated £700,000 in circulation, and in 2017 the local currency is still going strong.

How does the Bristol Pound work?

The Bristol Pound is a complementary currency run by the Bristol Pound Community Interest Company and the Bristol Credit Union. You can buy Bristol Pounds with sterling, and spend them at participating local businesses. You can even use them to pay some local taxes.

Each Bristol Pound is backed by a sterling pound, and the exchange rate is 1:1 (so £1 equals £B1).

Some Bristol traders offer discounts and special offers to customers who use the Bristol Pound. You can find out more on the Bristol Pound website.

Why was the Bristol Pound launched?

Local currencies are broadly considered to be good news for independent firms, and for local communities. Their primary aim is to encourage consumers to spend their money with independent retailers. At a time when small retailers are suffering from consumers’ tightened purse strings, this is a welcome intervention.

Local currencies seem indicative of an encouraging trend towards independence on the high street. Out of town shopping centres might be able to offer lower prices, but consumers seem to be increasingly keen to spend their money in outlets with a sense of character.

Signing up for the Bristol Pound (as a consumer)

If you live in the area, you can sign up for a Bristol Pound account online. You can also sign up in person by completing an application form and bringing it to the Bristol Credit Union or Bristol Pound office, along with supporting documents.

Once your Bristol Pound account is open, you can pay by text and contactless card, make online payments, and pay bills using the local currency.

Signing up for the Bristol Pound (as a business)

You can fill in your details online to sign your business up to use the Bristol Pound. You’ll then be sent an email with the application forms that you need to complete.

Opening a Bristol Pound account means becoming a member of Bristol Credit Union. Bristol Credit Union is a non-profit company that provides an alternative to traditional banks.

Using and accepting Bristol Pounds

Customers can use Bristol Pound paper notes, or can use a ‘text payment’ mobile system. They can also spend the currency online using their Bristol Pound accounts.

If you’re a Bristol Pound business, you’ll have an online account that means you can accept online and TXT2PAY payments. You can also accept paper Bristol Pounds in the same way as you’d accept sterling.

What’s your opinion on local currencies? Tell us in the comments!

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