Doorstep loans are often for small sums - between £50 and £500 - over short periods, with repayments collected weekly or fortnightly at your home.
They have a much higher interest rate than a bank loan or a credit card.
If you borrowed £200 for a year from a doorstep lender you'd pay much more than if you borrowed on a credit card charging a higher than average rate of 38%.
||Total amount repaid
|Home credit charging
|| £30.30 (or £7 a week)
|Credit card charging
Make sure the lender is authorised
All home credit lenders have to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA); if not, they're acting illegally.
If someone calls at your door and offers to lend you money you should ask to see proof that they are authorised by the FCA.
If they can't provide this, it's likely that they are a loan shark and you should end the conversation and report them. See Dealing with loan sharks. Check the FCA register to see if a lender is licensed.
Rules for home credit lenders
By law, home credit lenders shouldn’t call on you uninvited, to offer loans.
They need written permission to visit. The same applies if you already have a loan, and the agent offers a further loan whilst visiting to collect repayments.
They need to arrange a separate visit to discuss the details and sign you up - so you’ve got time to change your mind about the visit, without feelings under pressure.
Also, if they do visit on a separate occasion, to offer a loan, you can change your mind at any time and ask them to leave, it’s your decision.
Why home credit can cause problems
It may be tempting to turn to a doorstep lender if you have bills you can't pay, but borrowing at such a high interest rate could add to your problems. If you are struggling to pay day-to-day bills, you should get help from a free to use debt advice charity - see Where to get help if you are in debt.
Alternatives to home credit
If you really need some money now and can afford to pay it back there may be cheaper alternatives.
Consider using a credit union. They act in the interests of their members. There's also a cap on the amount of interest they can charge by law on their loans of 3% a month or 42.6% a year APR, but you might need to save for a period before you can borrow - see Credit union borrowing.
You may be able to get an authorised overdraft from your bank. If you keep within the limit and don’t incur default charges this will be cheaper than a home credit loan. You should only borrow as much as you need to, and repay it back as soon as you can. Be careful not to go into unauthorised overdraft as this can be very expensive - see Overdrafts.
A credit card will also be cheaper than a doorstep loan provided you make the minimum payment and don't incur late payment charges or go over your credit limit. Try to pay off as much as you can each month, to keep the debt under control - see Credit cards.
Check you're getting all the allowances you're entitled to – see Expenses and allowances.
If you desperately need to borrow money, you may be able to apply for an interest-free Budgeting Loan from the Social Fund.
Alternatively, other help may be available from your local authority in England, or the Scottish and Welsh governments. Another option may be a short-term Advance of pay - see Advances of pay.
In the future
See if you can cut back on your spending to improve your finances. Set a weekly or monthly budget using our Budget planner - see Budgeting to make the most of your money for more tips.
Paying back your loan
The money you borrow under a home credit loan is usually repaid on a weekly (or fortnightly) basis to an agent who calls at your home. If you prefer, you might be able to arrange to make a payment from your bank account instead.
As with any other type of borrowing, you should:
- Always take time to read and understand the contract, don't be afraid to ask questions or get a second opinion
- Be clear about the amount you are borrowing and for how long, and how much you will have to repay each week (or other period) and in total
- Make sure you understand what could happen if you can't keep up the repayments
As with personal loans, the interest charges are included in your repayments so you repay a fixed amount each week. There are usually no penalties for missing a repayment, but make sure you mention you are having problems as soon as possible as the lender may be able to agree a new repayment schedule.
If they offer you a top-up loan or to extend the length of the loan, think very carefully and ask how much extra this will cost you. Can you afford it?
If you want to pay your loan back early
You can repay your loan early at any time, in full or part, and you'll be entitled to a rebate of future interest charges. The amount you can be charged is capped by law.
Details of your right to repay early, or to withdraw from the loan (within 14 days), should be in your credit agreement. Read this carefully before you sign up.
If you do decide to take out home credit
Make sure you shop around before you sign up to an agreement. You can do so by using the Lenders Compared website - an independent price comparison website set up by regulation to help you compare the costs of home credit loans.
If you are struggling with debt or everyday bills
You can get free, confidential advice which will help you get your finances back on track and is usually a better alternative to borrowing more money. See Where to get help if you are in debt.