What is the unit of account?

Each community defines its own unit of account, giving it both a name and a value. The name is often a local reference or pun. The reference is usually to time e.g 10 minutes, but could be to the national currency. Time banks have an egalitarian convention that their currency is in hours and everyone's hour is worth one hour.

Isn't this barter?

Barter has different meanings according to context. It can mean price negotiation, or simply swapping one thing for another of equivalent value. However when conducted between multiple parties, barter is greatly assisted by a unit of account and a record of transactions.

What's the difference between your unit of account and national money

There are some very important differences. National money is treated as a commodity, which means it bears interest when lent, and you must have some before you can spend it. In mutual credit systems the unit of account represents a short term interest-free credit which (usually) anyone can access. There is neither stigma nor penalty for having a balance below zero - in fact it is necessary that all the positive credit is 'balanced' by negative credit. As long as members commit to closing their accounts with the same amount they started with, 0, everything works! Local money can only be spent within the participating community, in contrast to national money, which we are forced to accept by the law of the land!

I don't want to be in debt!

This debt isn't like debt in national money because there is no time-value of the 'money' (interest), and there has to be an equal and opposite negative balance for every positive balance. If you finish a race neck and neck, it doesn't matter who was ahead and who was behind during the race. What matters is that you close your account on zero, and that others believe you intend to do so!

What if someone dies or leaves not on zero

The system can absorb some losses (or gains) without anyone noticing. Usually the losses and gains approximately cancel each other out. If they don't then some kind of tax (or giveaway) might be needed to prevent inflation, or deflation.

Why not give things away for free?

We agree! However many people are confident that if they give, they will receive. Keeping accounts gives many people the confidence to ask for what they need. Some people stop recording their transactions after a while. This means that the system is working! However it is helpful for everyone to see the value being created in the community. For this reason some communities allow transactions to be recorded with a value of 0!

What guarantee is there on the quality of goods or services offered?

None. But many people are motivated to please because of their reputation in the community.

Free software? No ads? No spying?

Yes! In Community Forge we believe that the best things in life are free, and we've invested many thousands of hours to bring you this free community portal, and free hosting. You can help to keep it free by making a donation to pay our monetary expenses (not wages). Please see http://communityforge.net/en/donate