Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci unveiled Calgary Digital Dollars Friday afternoon as Calgary becomes the first city in the country to have its own digital currency.
Ceci made the first transaction, buying a round of coffee and showcasing how the app can be used for everyday purchases.
Calgary Dollars is part of a new effort meant to help promote and build better relationships with small business and non-profits within the city.
“I don’t mind seeing things happen locally and people making money,” Ceci said. “It’s a lot of fun to meet people and barter and exchange.”
Calgary Dollars runs through a smartphone app and lists shops and restaurants that participate in the program.
Businesses can set how much they want to accept in Calgary Dollars, anywhere between 10 and 100 percent of the cost.
Solita Work, owner of Reworks, said there are many benefits for small businesses to use Calgary Dollars, even though it means less money in the till at the end of the day.
“It’s like money in the bank but a Calgary Dollars bank,” Work said. “One really great benefit is that we can use the Calgary dollars to pay up to half of our business license with the city of Calgary.”
Work has also been educating customers about the program, hoping that shoppers buy into the currency.
“Every dollar spent locally goes a lot farther in our community than spending it at businesses, sending it outside,” said Work
The app can also be used as an alternative to classified sites. Users can sell items for Calgary Dollars then use the proceeds to buy from local businesses.
Gerald Wheatley with Calgary Dollars, said limited-time promotions make it beneficial for sellers.
“You get five Calgary dollars for the first five ads,” Wheatley said. “It’s a lot better than other classified systems, you actually get paid to post on it.”
Calgary Dollars are also accepted as donations for the non-profit groups including the Calgary Housing Company, the Sharp Foundation, Norfolk Housing, Inn from the Cold and CUPS. They can also buy Calgary Transit tickets.
The Victoria Park Business Improvement Area is also using the dollars as reward program for customers, offering a 10 percent bonus when shoppers pay with Calgary Dollars.
— With files from Doug Vaessen