Easy access to Afterpay is impacting Australia’s most vulnerable, including veterans in financial crisis due to injury or illness sustained during service.

Bravery Trust is a nation-wide military charity that provides an immediate financial safety net and financial counselling for veterans facing financial hardship. It takes an average of 500 phone calls each month.

Chief Executive Officer Belinda Wilson said around 70% of those contacting Bravery Trust are reporting debts to Afterpay or similar buy now, pay later schemes.

“Shopping can be an addiction, particularly for young females looking for an instant pick-me-up.  We’re seeing young mothers buy clothing and households goods, and taking out several loans at once with Afterpay or similar buy now, pay later schemes.

“In some cases, the purchases are affordable at the time, but Covid-19 restrictions have brought about unexpected loss of income.

“In other cases, financial literacy skills are lacking  and mental illness is clouding the decisions being made.

“Afterpay can access four payments in a fortnight. If the client doesn’t have the funds they are automatically charged a $10 fee each attempt which could equal $80 per month in fees alone. 

“Because the different schemes don’t share information, buyers can access several loans from several schemes simultaneously.”

Ms Wilson said there was growing concern at the launch of a new Woolworths scheme, which offers ‘pay later’ loans in $50 increments.

“If the groceries come to $156 for example, the debt accrued would be rounded up to $200, and that a scary thought; that people who can’t afford to pay for what’s in their trolley are being lured into even greater debt,” she said.

Ms Wilson said Bravery Trust supported calls for increased regulation and more extensive credit checks to protect the most vulnerable members of our community.

Any serving or ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force facing financial hardship due to injury or illness can call Bravery Trust on 1800 272 837.  

Bravery Trust can provide emergency payments and financial counselling; and advocate on behalf of veterans with banks, debtors and landlords.

CASE STUDY

MARIE’S STORY

*real case, but name changed for confidentiality

  • Marie is a 29-year-old female
  • Served in the Navy for 9 years including numerous overseas deployments
  • Marie was medically discharged due to her mental health, she suffered both physical and mental health issues due to her service
  • Marie has spent a few weeks in a mental health facility and will remain there for a while longer due to her severe mental health
  • Marie shops with Afterpay to make herself feel better
  • Marie’s mental health is poor and she engages in shopping to reduce her low feelings. This behaviour leads to poor financial decisions and purchasing goods/services that Marie is unable to recall a week later, and severely impacting her budget.
  • Marie had a total of 5 outstanding Afterpays in arrears over $500 and was about to be evicted
  • Bravery Trust is working with Marie, her clinical psychologist, and other Ex-Service Organisations.
  • Bravery Trust has helped Marie work through her debts and has advocated on behalf with debtors. 
  • Our Financial Counselling service is teaching Marie to understand budgets, plan ahead, avoid purchases that are unaffordable, and to reduce impulse spending.

Bravery Trust is a registered business name of the Australian Defence Force Assistance Trust, a nationally registered charity.