What Are Time Banks and Could They Become the New Currency?

In 2010, still trying to recover from the recession of 2008, Christina Ellis was tired of being at the mercy of financial forces that were out of her control. Her house had plummeted in value, her husband had lost his job, and there wasn’t any money for anything but necessities. Ellis found relief in an unconventional source — a time bank. The Long Beach Time Exchange provided her with a way to exchange hours she worked for many of the services she previously couldn’t afford. Time banking is a kind of currency. For every hour of service you give, you receive one credit. One person volunteers to work for an hour for another person; then, they receive one credit that they can redeem for an hour of service from another volunteer. There are four types of time banking: 

  • 1:1 – One person gives another person a ride to the doctor. 
  • 1:Many – A yoga teacher earns credits teaching a yoga class to four other members. 
  • Many:1 – Four members earn credits doing a garden clean-up for a senior citizen. 
  • Many-Many — A whole lot of people earn credits for organizing and participating in a community event. 

Currently, the majority of time banks use the neighbors-helping-neighbors model, where members are free to choose what services they would like to offer – either to other members or to the community at large — and also what services they will request. Given that our economy is tanking once again, time banks could step in to fill the same void that Christina Ellis found in 2010. There are currently 500 registered time banks in the United States.