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8 Jul 2021

New salary advance app lends £300 before payday: what's the catch?

Borofree users won't pay any interest or fees

A new app is offering employed workers early access to funds from their next payday, charging no interest and no fees.

Borofree, which launched a couple of months ago, is aiming to address the UK's debt problem. Users can get up to £300 in advance of their next salary.

However, you can only use it if your employer is signed up, and the funds can only be used to buy vouchers with participating retailers.

Here, Which? looks into what Borofree's salary advance feature offers, and how it compares to other services that help to bridge the gap between paydays.

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How does Borofree work?

By signing up to Borofree's app, you can get a salary advance of up to £300 a month. You won't be charged any fees or interest on what you spend. But the service does come with a few caveats.

Firstly, your employer must be signed up with Borofree (the service is free to them, too).

If your employer signs up, you then need to arrange for your salary to be paid directly to Borofree. That's because, come payday, Borofree will take back whatever advance you've had in the time since your last salary, before transferring what's left of your pay packet to your usual bank account - a process which it says takes just seconds.

The £300 advance is not available as cash. Instead, it must be used to buy vouchers from participating retailers. There are currently 50 retailers available, including Amazon, Asda, Asos, Costa, Pizza Express and Sainsbury's.

Minimum spends, options to spend in-store or online, and how long vouchers remain valid for depend on each retailer's terms and conditions.

How much money will you get?

The maximum amount users could borrow in advance of payday is £300, but not everyone will get this much. Borofree says it bases the advance on how much you earn - so it's up to £300 or 30% of the income you receive from your employer.

To get the full £300, you'll have to earn at least £1,000 per month after your employer has deducted tax, work pension contributions and any other payments.

If you're paid bi-monthly or weekly, Borofree says you can still use the scheme but your voucher allowance would be adjusted accordingly. So, if you're paid weekly you'd get a new, smaller voucher allowance each week.

Borofree says you can use the allowance at any time before your next payday. But even if you're eligible for the full £300, you don't need to use all or any of it.

Will it affect your credit score?

Unlike many credit solutions, Borofree does not check any individual's credit score. Instead, it checks employers' credit scores, to ensure they are solvent enough to pay registered staff's wages.

This could be good news for those who, for whatever reason, struggle to access other types of credit such as personal loans and credit cards.

However, having a good record of paying credit back also won't be recorded - so using Borofree won't help you boost your credit score.

Is your salary safe?

Signing up to have your salary paid into an account other than your bank account may be nerve-wracking for some people.

Borofree says it uses e-payment company Modulr to create a personal account for each user. Your employer must pay your salary into the Modulr account, and that's when the amount you've spent on vouchers gets deducted. Then, what's left is sent to your usual bank account.

While neither Borofree nor Modulr are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), neither will hold your cash at any stage, so you should never lose out on any money even if either of the firms go bust.

Borofree doesn't hold your salary advance funds either; these are held with whichever retailers you buy vouchers from.

However, the vouchers themselves could become a problem if the retailer goes bust. You'll have to make a claim in writing to the administrators with proof of the voucher purchase. Some companies or administrators will choose to honour vouchers, but you'll have no official right to a refund.

Should I sign up for Borofree?

This kind of salary advance scheme does have its benefits - particularly in comparison to the likes of payday loans, as it doesn't charge fees or interest on what you owe.

However, ultimately, it depends on your financial situation and what you're using the salary advance for.If you occasionally need a relatively small amount, for example if an unexpected expense throws your usual budget into disarray, then it could be a great option. Similarly, Borofree says some of its users are using its voucher system to help with budgeting - restricting themselves to only spending a certain amount on clothes, for instance.

But if you are finding you're relying on the payments every month, it might be time to take a look at your spending. If you have other debts, for instance, it may be better to consolidate this using a personal loan or credit card, so you can make monthly payments to reduce the outstanding amount.

Other ways to get your salary early

Borofree isn't the only company offering salary advance options. You could also check out:

  • Monzo: launched back in September 2019, Monzo has an account feature that gives users their full salary a day early. However, to be eligible, you must get your salary paid directly into your Monzo account via Bacs. This service is not linked to your employer.
  • Wagestream: you can use this app to track your wages, but it also offers salary advances of up to 50%. Each advance has a charge of £1.75, which is paid on each payday. Your employer will set the maximum number of withdrawals you can make.
  • Salary Advance: if your company is signed up, it's possible to borrow up to 50% of your salary. You're charged £1.49 per advance payment, which you'll pay back each payday. You can take up to three withdrawals per month - but your employer can choose to reduce the total borrowing and number of withdrawals you're allowed.
  • Hastee Pay: participating employers can allow you to take up to 50% of your salary, where you'll get the first £100 advance free but are charged 2.5% of what you borrow over that. Employers can set a limit on the number of withdrawals you're allowed.

Of course, in an ideal world you wouldn't need to access your next month's salary early at all. If you'd like to get out of the habit of spending money before you've earned it, we have a wealth of guides with tips on how to make an effective budget, along with ways to save money and make extra cash.

If you have a debt problem you're not sure how to solve, get in touch with one of these free debt advice contacts for help.