Local Exchange Trading Systems are arrangements that allow people to barter their talents or services for the talents or services they need without exchange of governmental currency. The currency goes by many names 'service credits,' 'care shares,' 'time dollars,' 'hours' and so on, depending on how and where the system is organized.

An example is the HOURS system in Ithaca, New York. The HOUR is equivalent to a $10 bill, the average wage/salary in the county. It is made in denominations of 1/8, 1/2, 1 and 2 HOURS and can be used to purchase local goods and services. Anyone on the Ithaca Money list can provide and use services of others on the list. The value of the money is backed by real people, real time, real skills and tools. (Whole Earth Review, Fall 1995, pg. 24-25) The system keeps local money in the local economy and people are able to get many services they couldn't otherwise afford. They pay with HOURS they've earned helping others.

Maritime Hours in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has developed a currency-based LETS using the Ithaca model. They issue paper currency in $2 and $10 denominations. Every business or person who signs up gets $50 worth. A directory of services is published every ten weeks. The idea is to get people to do business locally and clearly identify the importance of keeping money in the local economy where it circulates many times. (Chronical Herald, Dec. 24, 1994, A-12)

An Urban EcoLETS flyer from Australia explains how a non-currency system works:

Members offer services ranging from childminding to tutoring in statistics to picture framing to weekends in the country. As a member of LETS your offers and requests are included in a periodically updated resource guide that lists the services and goods offered by all other members. You use this guide to locate the services you need and call that member to come to an arrangement. A transaction form is filled out with the details of both parties and the agreed amount (just like writing a check) and logged with the LETS coordinator of the group. Your account goes down by the amount and the servicer account goes up. That person then has accredited units to spend anywhere in the LETS community. You in turn have made a commitment to provide future services. Units are spent and accrued at convenience, making them as flexible as cash, with the added advantage of being able to spend what you 'don't have' with the commitment to pay back with your service talents. LETS use a currency called 'units' which are only a measure of commitment between the members of a community and are not considered to represent the federal currency.

The LETS concept is more than a barter currency. It encourages strangers to "start acting like neighbors, and neighbors to start acting like an extended family." (Time Dollars, UTNE Reader, September/October 1992, pg. 76) The system helps build and reinvigorate communities by providing interaction and allowing people to use their talents in creative ways to help others.

According to the Time Dollar article, LETS work because of four basic truths:

	•	1. The real wealth of the nation is not money; it is the time of people and willingness of people to use that time helping others.
	•	2. North America has two economies, the market economy and the household economy. LETS help to rebuild the locally maintained and controlled household economy that has been taken over by the market economy.
	•	3. People respond to rewards other than money. LETS offer a combination of additional purchasing power, psychological reinforcement and the self-esteem that comes from helping others.
	•	4. Money cannot completely substitute for what the family, neighborhood and community provide. (Time Dollars, pg. 76)

Web information about LETS

Local Exchange Trading System