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Bartering 101: On Your Own, Through Websites and Exchanges


A "barter" is an exchange of goods and services without using cash. You can barter an item or services. Thanks to the internet and barter exchanges which are listed in other sections of this article, you can even barter with people who are far away.

Time swaps, where you exchange your services for someone else's services in your local area, are covered in a separate article. See: Time Banks: One Way To Swap Services.

One On One Barter

Barter Exchanges

  • A barter exchange acts as a broker among people who have goods and services to barter. It is not necessary that the exchange be mutual. You receive credits which you can use with any other member.
  • Exchanges generally have a mechanism for mediating any disputes.
  • Barter exchanges aren't geared toward the person who has a few personal items or time to trade. Rather, they are basically for small business owners or people who are looking to trade regularly.
  • Some of the better known barter exchanges are:
  • You can find a state-by-state listing of barter exchanges at offsite link. Click on "Barter Contacts." 
  • When dealing with an exchange, Bottom Line Personalrecommends the following:
    • Before you deal with an exchange, you do your research. For example, check the Better Business Bureau for complaints ( offsite link).
    • You only deal with an exchange that has been in business for at least 3 years.
    • That you look for an exchange that belongs to a governing body which has a code of ethics, a peer review board and a certification program for traders. For example, the International Reciprocal Trade Association ( offsite link or Tel.: 585.424.2940).
  • Barter exchanges are more expensive than one-on-one services. There may also be a requirement that what you list have a minimum value before the exchange will accept your listing.

Barter Tips

When you barter:

  • Know what your product or service is worth. If you list it too high, it will not move.
  • Make sure that both you and the other person are valuing what is being bartered at the same value level. For example, don't barter your services at wholesale, but value the other person's goods or services at retail.
  • Find out if there are any out-of-pocket costs involved in getting the other person's goods or services.
  • Think creatively. 
    • The person interested in what you have to barter may have an item to barter that is of interest to the person who has the item you could use. 
    • Think about what time or expertise or items you have to barter. For example, you may be good at organizing or cleaning in addition to the skills you think of as your best barter assets.
    • Look for matches. For example, if you have a toaster and want a blender, and Sam wants a toaster, but has a juicer, and Jane wants a juicer and happens to have a blender, you can make a match: you barter the toaster to Sam who barters the Juicer to Jane who barters the blender to you.

NOTE: The fair market value of barter income is treated the same as cash income for tax purposes. It is reported on Schedule C of the IRS Form 1040. To learn more, go to the IRS web site. offsite link

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