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FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

What are Timebank Hours?
Why are there two different Time Trade Circle websites?
I don't live in Cambridge. Can I still join?
Are Timebank Hours taxable?
How do Time Trade Circle members get to know each other?
What can I do to help the TTC organization?
I created an account at timebanks.org, why can't I browse the site?
Is there a way to rate members or give feedback?
How do I enter the hours after I've traded?
How do you keep people from giving themselves extra hours?
Do you perform background checks on members?
Can I trade products, or goods, in addition to services?
If I post a service, am I committed to doing it?
Can someone's account balance be negative?
What if I feel uncomfortable about someone I'm trading with?
Who can see my contact info on my TTC profile?
What's the best method to contact other members?
Can I hold a small group class?
Should I include someone's travel time?
What about hard costs like gas, ingredients, or materials?
To do a trade, does that service have to be posted on the site?
Can I post goods and services for which I want to get paid in dollars and not in Timebanks Hours?

If you have a question that is not answered here or anywhere else on the site, let us know so we can add it.



What are Timebank Hours?
Timebank Hours represent that amount of time one Timebank member has spent in the exchange of a service with another member. When you spend an hour helping another member, one Timebank Hour gets added to your account and subtracted from the account of the member who received the service.

Why are there two different Time Trade Circle websites?
We do have two websites. This one (timetradecircle.org) is a public site - it provides information about the group before you become a member as well as some resources for current members. The internal site at(hourworld.org) is a database of members profiles that only active members can access.

I don't live in Cambridge. Can I still join?
Yes, you can join if you live anywhere in the greater Boston area. If you live far from other members, your exchanges might start slowly, but you can encourage your neighbors to join and then you'll have Time Trade Circle members who live near you!

Are Timebank Hours taxable?
The IRS has determined that 1) because an hour is always an hour, regardless of what is offered, 2) because they are backed only by a moral obligation and 3) because they are intended for a charitable purpose, Timebank Hours are not taxable.

How do Time Trade Circle members get to know each other?
Time Trade Circle meetings, pot-luck dinners and other gatherings are a great way to get to know one another. Of course when you arrange time trades with other members you also meet new people then.

What can I do to help the TTC organization?
We are always looking for volunteers to help with various aspects of the Time Trade Circle, such as outreach, marketing, membership, event planning, newsletters, etc. There's bound to be something you'll be good at and enjoy, plus you'll meet great people and earn Timebank Hours while you do it. Contact Katherine if you're interested in helping out.

I created an account, why can't I browse the site?
We're glad you created an account but before we activate it, we'd like you to come to an orientation meeting. Since time banking is all about community, it's important for us to meet new members and explain how it all works before they start browsing other members' offers and requests. We can't let everyone look at profiles right away because they contain members' personal contact information.

Is there a way to rate members or give feedback?
Although it could be a great idea, our current website does not have rating or feedback functionality. However, we do encourage members to tell us how things are going, whether they've had a wonderful trade, or even a disappointing one.

How do I enter the hours after I've traded?
The person who received the service (got help) should go online and enter the transaction. It's as if they are "paying" the other person, and the hours will be subtracted from their account and added to the account of the person who performed the service.

How do you keep people from giving themselves extra hours?
In any time trade, it's usually the member who received the service that should enter the hours. Essentially members are on the honor system to accurately enter the hours so that everyone's account is kept up to date. This may seem like there's potential to give yourself extra hours, but when any transaction is recorded, the system notifies both members involved as well as the coordinator. So if the other member thinks something is not accurate, they can always contact us and work it out.

Do you perform background checks on members?
We don't do background checks on members, but we have met each member at an orientation meeting before they are given access to the internal website. The TTC connects people who can help each other but we can't guarantee anything about the person or their services. Members must use any precautions they would normally use, such as asking for references, etc.

Can I trade products, or goods, in addition to services?
Yes, some members trade things like muffins, artwork, etc. In most cases the hours exchanged should be the amount of time it took to make the product. In cases where this is not applicable, members can work out an arrangement they both agree on.

If I post a service, am I committed to doing it?
No, posting a service offer doesn't commit you to performing this service. We understand that people get busy and their situations change. We hope members will try their best to perform the service at a time that does work, and keep their service offers up to date. But it's also fine to tell someone interested in your service that you can't do it at that time.

Can someone's account balance be negative?
Our system will technically allow an account balance to be negative. But we encourage members to always be earning enough hours for what they want to spend them on. In special cases if someone has a need, such as a sickness or emergency, they may contact the coordinator about it. If we believe the member will earn back the hours later, we will give permission to go negative. This essentially means the timebank is loaning them the hours.

What if I feel uncomfortable about someone I'm trading with?
We strongly believe in safety first. We like to think of the TTC as a community of trust, and problems rarely arise, but of course many trades are with people you've never met. If anything goes wrong or feels strange during a trade, report it to the coordinator so we can be aware of it. If you feel uncomfortable during a trade, or when you first meet the person, trust your instincts and tell them you'd rather not do the trade after all. If they complain about having made plans, tell them they will still earn the hours agreed upon. Then report the incident to the coordinator. Don't hesitate to back out if you are feeling apprehensive about any part of the interaction - better safe than sorry and we will understand.

Who can see my contact info on my TTC profile?
Once you create a profile on community.timebanks.org, our internal web site, come to an orientation, and have your account activated, all other members of the group can see your contact info. You are not required to fill out every field in your profile, so think carefully about what information you are comfortable with sharing. Different people choose to list different things - address, or just street; phone number, or just email. It's up to you, as long as other members have a way to contact you about trading.

What's the best method to contact other members?
There are many ways to contact other members - phone, email, message through the site, etc. Some people prefer certain methods over others. We encourage members to make every effort to find a mode of communication that works for both traders. We also feel that it is very important that our members respect each others' wishes so if someone asks not to be contacted a certain way, no matter which way that is, please respect that.

Can I hold a small group class?
Yes, you can. This is a great way to share skills in the Time Trade Circle. The teacher should receive as many Timebank Hours as the time spent on the class and preparing it. Each student should give the amount of time they spent in the class. Clearly with more than one student, there are extra Timebank Hours in this situation, and they would be donated back to the Time Trade Circle. The TTC can then use those hours to donate to a member in need or to use for administrative needs.

Should I include someone's travel time?
Yes, we encourage members to include travel time for someone giving them a service because that is time they wouldn't be spending if it weren't to help you. So if a person helps you in your home for an hour and it takes 15 minutes to get there and get back, you would give them 1.5 Timebank Hours. If they live very close by or were out anyway and agree that it's not necessary, that's fine, but please offer.

What about hard costs like gas, ingredients, or materials?
Things that cost real money like gas for rides, ingredients for cooking, etc., should be paid for by the person receiving the service. Whether you buy the materials up front or pay the service provider back is up to the two of you. If you both agree, it's also possible to add an extra Timebank Hour in exchange for the materials, but the default is to pay cash.

To do a trade, does that service have to be posted on the site?
Nope! Sometimes people already know each other or connect offline, like at potlucks or other TTC events. If you make an arrangement with someone outside of the TTC site, you can still enter the hours on the site. Instead of choosing from a list of posted offers/requests, you can just type in what the service was. So it's fine to trade things that you didn't "officially" offer or request as an ad through the site.

Can I post goods and services for which I want to get paid in dollars and not in Timebanks Hours?
No. This is not in keeping with the mission of Time Trade Circle and the philosophy of time banking. You should neither post these as ‘offers’ or solicit TTC members directly to advertise goods or services you wish to sell. As noted earlier, this does not preclude you from charging for any actual expenses incurred for materials used in a trade.