Not everyone is qualified to join a barter exchange club, though the criteria vary. Ubarter.com requires members to own an operating business, but Bastarache says anyone with a marketable service is eligible to join Barter Network.
"Our goal is to achieve a balance of supply and demand," explains Bastarache. "We evaluate each potential member to make sure there's a client-driven need for what they're offering." In general, the hottest categories for bartering are travel, entertainment, computers, electronics and building contractors.
If you qualify to join a barter exchange club, you need to make an initial cash outlay. Barter networks typically charge membership fees of $300 to $600, plus cash commissions of 10 percent to 15 percent per transaction. "If you have excess inventory or a service to provide, the money you spend to have a barter exchange act as your marketing arm is a wise investment," says White. "Exchange members often make referrals to nonmembers as well."
Many barter exchanges will even provide low-interest loans for barter dollars beyond what's in your account to be used for services offered by other club members. For example, White recently approved a $30,000 credit line of barter exchange services, with a trade interest rate of 1 percent per month, for a Ubarter.com client to remodel his office supply store in Seattle. "We didn't require any financial background because we knew the improvements would increase sales considerably, and we've had this client for five years, so we know and trust him," says White. "Try that at a bank."
Most barter clubs publish an annual directory of members and services, with weekly or monthly updates. For even faster access to goods and services, a growing number of barter clubs, such as Ubarter.com, are setting up Web sites (generally restricted to members).