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jul 20

Four Towns That Have Their Own Currency

The currency in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia is decorated with maritime scenes (Courtesy CKGolfSolutions/Flickr)

Credit and debit cards may win over travelers for their universal use, but there’s something to be said about the complete opposite—currency so unique that it’s only used in one town. These four towns each have their own monetary units, accepted at local shops and restaurants, and reflective of each location. They’re so unique, in fact, that you might be tempted to save them as a souvenir. But it’s better to spend them. Unlike U.S. dollars, which circulate far and wide, local currency keeps money close to home and spurs the town’s economy.

Ithaca, New York

This was the first town in the U.S. to create its own local currency, called Ithaca Hours, back in 1991. Valued at $10, each Hour represented the average hourly wage in the area. Today there are $100,000 worth of Hours in circulation and they are accepted at more than 900 locations.

Berkshires region, Massachusetts

Introduced in fall 2006, BerkShares were designed by area artists and feature notable locals including Norman Rockwell, Herman Melville, and W. E. B. DuBois. More than 400 businesses, including restaurants, bookshops, and clothing stores, accept the 2.7 million notes. The program has been so successful there's even talk of BerkShare ATMs and checking accounts.

Traverse City, Michigan

The Bay Bucks currency launched in 2005 with aims at stimulating the local economy. The notes that make up the $99,000 worth of Bay Bucks are decorated with cherry blossoms and morel mushrooms.

Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

North of the border, the currency on this Canadian island is accepted at nearly every business. Salt Spring Dollars are colorfully designed by local artists with pastoral and maritime scenes like misty mountains and breaching orcas.

—Alison Brick

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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