Payday lender 'bonus' could be a disaster

Sarah Coles

If you can get a friend into debt, you could earn £20. Payday lender Speedy Cash has launched the 'bonus' to people who already have a payday loan with the firm. In the run-up to Christmas if they can persuade a mate to borrow from the firm, they'll get £20. The results could be disastrous.

The deal is promoted in stores, and offers £20 for every friend you bring along to Speedy Cash. The attractive posters make it clear that by dragging your nearest and dearest into debt this Christmas, you could get cash to spend on the festive season - and the more friends you persuade to borrow money, the more cash you'll get.
The risk

It has clearly been designed to appeal to customers who are in store because they have run out of cash in the run-up to Christmas. An estimated 1.4 million people are expected to find themselves in this position this Christmas - and will end up turning to payday loans in order to close the gap. Any one of them is bound to be tempted by an offer of free money.

The Money Advice Service has highlighted that young people can be particularly vulnerable. Their research revealed that when they first get access to borrowing at the age of 18, it's easy to make mistakes, and one in ten of them turn to payday loans.

Kirsty Bowman-Vaughan, Young People Policy Manager at the Money Advice Service explains: "Most of us make mistakes soon after we turn eighteen and develop a 'spend today, worry about it tomorrow' attitude which isn't sustainable." She adds: "It can seem like you have hit the jackpot. But of course the reality is you don't actually have any more cash at all – simply lots of ways to get into debt."

Their research also showed that in five young people who suffer financial problems turn to their friends for support and advice - so it can be disastrous if those friends are incentivised to push them in the direction of a payday loans company.

The consequences

When those friends sign up, they will be hit with an astonishing APR of 2115.69% on a 30-day loan. In many cases a payday loan will be the worst and most expensive way for them to meet their financial shortfall this month, and if they cannot afford to repay the loan in time, they will be stung with major interest charges to add to the debt itself.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, points out: "Often, high-interest loans end up spiralling out of control and many people in debt end up feeling they have nowhere else to turn other than a vicious circle of more borrowing."

So while it may be tempting to earn this bonus by pushing your friends into borrowing, it's worth understanding the potential costs: both the financial ones and the friendships you could lose along the way.

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