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Brits Fail To Cash In On Free £5 Notes


• Just 28 people took free fivers in two busy crowded streets
• And further research shows that half of all Brits claim they would also turn down free cash

The full extent of Britain’s financial inertia was laid bare today when passers-by in London and Manchester were offered a free £5 note, no strings attached.

Representatives from price comparison website, wandered the streets this morning wearing sandwich boards offering a free £5 note to anyone who asked. Despite encountering over 1800 people, only 28 passers by bothered to take advantage of the offer.

Even when those few plucky souls claimed their free booty it didn’t spark a stampede. The exercise was designed to illustrate that, credit crunch or no credit crunch, Brits are unwilling to take even the simplest steps to improve their financial situation.

Additional research found that more than half of all Brits (53 per cent) admit they too would not be bothered to claim their £5 if they were in the same situation. This finding suggests that people actually overestimate their own likelihood of acting in such a situation, given the poor take up of the offer on the streets of London and Manchester.

“This exercise reveals a fundamental inertia which is stopping people from making sensible financial decisions,” said Tim Moss, head of loans and debt at  “This was a completely genuine, no strings attached offer. People simply had to approach the sandwich board wearer and ask for a fiver. If more than 98 per cent of the people who passed by couldn’t be bothered to do that, it raises some interesting questions about what needs to be done to persuade people to make an effort to improve their financial position.” 

The experiment also found a stark difference in the attitudes of men and women.  On the streets of London and Manchester, all but 7 of the people who claimed the free cash were men and the research backed this up further. In a poll of 2000 people almost two thirds of women (64 per cent) said they would not claim the free fiver, compared to 41 per cent of money-shy men.

Additionally, the experiment found that Londoners were more reserved than their Manchester counterparts. Whilst just 1.2 per cent of people took advantage of the offer in London, this figure increased to 3.1 per cent on the streets of Manchester.

The research also found that the older the person, the less likely they would be to act on the free offer. Whilst some two thirds of under-twenties say they would claim the free cash, this steadily drops the older we get, declining to only a third (35 per cent) of over 70s who claim they would ask for a free fiver.

Why do Brits believe they would fail to take up the offer?
• Six in ten people say they their cynicism would prevent them from asking for free cash as they would suspect a catch or trick.
• Twenty per cent of people would simply not believe the offer was real – a trend which increased with age. Almost a third of over 60s claimed they wouldn’t believe the sandwich board wearer.
• Just over one in ten people said they would feel too embarrassed and three per cent of people said that £5 wasn’t worth the effort.’s minimum effort money saving tips
1) Get a current account paying over 5 per cent. The majority of Brits have a current account paying 0.1 per cent or less. Each of the providers offering 5 per cent or more have specialist switching teams to make the move easy.
2) Protect your credit rating like the crown jewels. Do this by not firing off too many credit applications, making sure your details on the electoral roll are correct, and always paying something by the due date. offers a free credit report each year, which is well worth checking.
3) Get a credit card with a 0 per cent purchase offer of at least nine months. Invest the money you would have used to clear the monthly debt, and then pay off the total at the end of nine months.
4) Don’t do any spending on any of the major balance transfer credit cards. You will be stung with some nasty interest surprises.
5) Never get stuck on the SVR for your mortgage. The rate is consistently around one per cent more than other mortgages, which can really add up.
6) If you are keen on payment protection insurance or travel insurance, buy it separately, not from your provider.
7) The Association of British Insurers says the average person can save 35 per cent by comparing just five different policies for a single type of insurance. Therefore imagine how much you can save by comparing over 50 providers in a moment on a price comparison site.
8) Pay your gas and electricity by direct debit and make sure it’s an online tariff that you are on. All you need is access to a computer once to sign up, there is no need to manage the account online as you are paying by direct debit. These tariffs are consistently £200 to £300 cheaper per year than Standard tariffs.
9) Forty per cent of Brits do not have home insurance, which is not only playing with fire, but also with floods and storms. Home insurance is far better value than car insurance when you consider the size of the premium and the value of the house.
10) Don’t turn off your TV with the remote or leave your computer on standby. Always turn them off properly. This will not only cut your electricity bill but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Products not shut down produce almost as many emissions as all worldwide air travel.


For further information, please contact:

Steve Marinker / Holly Clark / Ian Morris
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
020 7638 9571

Emma Morris
Consumer PR Manager 
01244 220671 / 07775 941 689  

Notes to editors

Opinion Research carried out an online poll of 2002 British adults between the 11th and 14th April 2008. Results have all been weighted nationally.

The experiment was carried out in the Deansgate area of Manchester and the Tottenham Court Road on Wednesday 4th June 2008. Photography and film available.

About   is an online comparison service designed to save consumers time and money. The website has 28 channels including gas, electricity, mobile phones, broadband, credit cards, mortgages, current accounts, motor insurance and home insurance.
Consumers using the   site have access to an email-alert service and to more than:
• 4,000 mortgages
• 4,000 savings accounts
• 300 credit cards
• 500 personal loans
• 300 current accounts
• 100 share dealing accounts
• 40 energy tariffs
• 19,000 mobile phone deals
• 80 broadband deals
• 80 life insurance products
• 550 private medical insurance policies
• 1,200 travel insurance policies
• 100 motor breakdown policies.   Group PLC has over 600 employees