The university-driven currency, Aggie Cash, is stored on student IDs that function like debit cards in town. The card is swiped for the purchase of goods and services at participating businesses, coming with 10 percent discounts on some items.
While Aggie Cash is mostly about convenience for students, Davis Dollars is a currency with a more pronounced mission. It aims to keep money in town and allow Davisites to "get to know" one another.
Davis Dollars went into circulation in May of 2010. The currency recently picked up some momentum when the started accepting it. Several Sacramento-area news outlets covered the story, as did the Huffington Post.
A single Davis Dollar – coming in the form of a paper bill – holds the same value as an actual dollar when used at participating merchants. The dollars are redeemable for $0.95.
One can earn Davis Dollars by listing their services or goods on the Davis Dollars website or exchanging one United States dollar per Davis Dollar. They can be purchased at the Davis Farmers Market or on the Davis Dollars website. The Davis Food Co-op also accepts and sells the currency.
UC Davis alumni Nick Barry founded Davis Dollars and said it differs from Aggie Cash since it focuses on strengthening the economy within Davis.
“Our focus is on individuals, not just businesses,” he said. “Another key difference between us and Aggie Cash is that Aggie Cash doesn’t get respent by the business.”
Melanie Madden, marketing coordinator for the Davis Food Co-op, said the Co-op started accepting Aggie Cash last summer and began taking Davis Dollars this month.
Madden said the Co-op began taking Aggie Cash to make it more convenient for UCD students to shop there and to increase student awareness of their store. She said this is a way to provide education that leads to informed choices about health, food systems, the environment and cooperatives.
“We also know that a strong local economy will help our community to build a more sustainable food system, which is also one of our ends,” she said in an e-mail.
The Co-op only accepts Aggie Cash at two registers because it requires a special card reader. Customers can’t buy alcohol, Co-op Cooking Classes, postage stamps, gift cards or Co-op Membership Shares with Aggie Cash.
’s store manager Jesse Romero said Aggie Cash has definitely been an advantage for the store and students.
“Few businesses around Davis offer Aggie Cash, so we get a lot of surprised faces when people find out that we do,” Romero said.
The formerly took Aggie Cash, but now only accepts Davis Dollars. Co-owner Cheryl Franks isn’t a fan of either since she said in this day and age ATM cards are 60 percent of their business.
“It’s too difficult to exchange Davis Dollars in because you have to go to Davis Dollars to get the cash from them and they don’t always have the cash on them," she said. "For us, it’s another step."
’s owner and manager Roy Singh got on board with Davis Dollars earlier this week, but hasn’t had any customers bring it in yet.
“I was hesitant at first, but the amount of money you get back from using them is better than the ATM and credit card rates,” Singh said. “You get 95 cents per $1 back, whereas you have to pay a 37 cent per swipe fee.”
For some, the verdict is still out on how these newer currencies are affecting businesses.
“It's too early to say whether the Davis Dollars have brought any more business our way, but we're definitely seeing more UC Davis students since we started taking Aggie Cash,” Madden said.
, , Aggie Stadium and others also accept Aggie Cash, while , , and additional services take Davis Dollars.
Have you used any of these alternative currencies? What do you think of them? Are you noticing increased usage?