Best Buy Back, Pawnbroker and Store Loans Compared

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Last Update: December 6th, 2016

Compare Loan Alternatives…
(Secured: Buy Backs and Pawnbroker Loans. Unsecured: Store Loans)


Our first alternative comparison was directed at Subprime Credit Cards. Today, we’ll be investigating 3 varied retail products. The secured options include Buy Backs and pawn loans. The final choice is standard unsecured loans (payday, instalment or personal). There are some companies featured today that offer all of the 3 lending options, as well as various other financial services. There is an endless potential range of firms that we could compare here. The approach taken has been to start with the major high street brands and then on to those that have a notable profile. Before getting to the listings, we’ll begin with some basic information on each of the 3 lending retail choices.

1) Buy Back Loans (or BuyBacks):

This type of scheme has become increasingly popular in recent years. It was the major used goods stores (Converters and Generator) that kick-started the trend. This was a good way for them to attract sellers away from Cex who pay higher prices, but once you sell to them you can’t recoup. Buy Back is entirely optional. Those opting in have the freedom to regain their item that’ll be locked away for a period of between 28 and 31 days. If you for instance sold a laptop for £100, then this could be purchased back within the contracted duration at £100 plus the service charge. Alternatively, you could extend by paying a rollover charge.

This type of lending is not regulated in the same manner as pawnbroking is. The big drawback is expensive pricing. There is no such capping and so even for early settlements you still need to foot the complete fee that usually floats between 20% and 35% of the purchase price. The pawnbroker route sees lower costs and the term is stretched out over 6 or 7 months that can be repaid early for savings. However, many pawnbrokers don’t accept games, laptops, mobile phones etc. Most Buy Back schemes do and it is easy enough to find a local shop to obtain instant cash. No credit checks are required. You just need ID showing your address and a photo.

2) Pawn Loans (or Asset Loans):

The art of pawnbroking started over 3000 years ago. This is a booming market here in the UK where there are more than 2000 pawn stores. Some companies have however struggled in recent years through falling gold prices and we have seen networks shrinking through payday loan capping and tighter regulations. As a result, many firms have removed unsecured lending from their product line. As with Buy Backs, there are no credit checks. Pricing is much more competitive here and the terms are stretched out, enabling the customer more time to repay. In most cases, there will be a fixed contract of 6 months (sometimes 5 or 7). Early settlements importantly earn interest rebates here.

Monthly interest charges typically float between 6% and 12%. More reasonable rates are however applied to high-end goods where you may see interest just above 1%. The general pricing across the industry is a big improvement on bank overdrafts and instalment loan rates, but the requirement is there to use specialist collateral, be that antiques, expensive watches, jewellery and even cars. Some companies may extend to electronics, although this is usually allocated to Buy Backs. Just remember that lending is not made at full market value, but rather a percentage usually at around 60%. This is less of an issue for those that are certain that they’ll be redeeming the item (around 88% of customers do just this).

3) Unsecured Store Loans:

Often compliments the main 2 products discussed above, although we have seen many firms dropping this option since the FCA rolled out capping and got extra picky with licensing. The only difference between web services is that the decisions are made in person and you’ll also need to take in bank statements and payslips. It is not clear why this is so common since they are already credit checking. When you do pop in to a high street branch, you will be welcomed with various other financial products. This includes such things as cheque cashing, cash for gold (sold outright), foreign exchange etc. We have identified in this comparison all of the active options for each featured company.


H&T is the largest dedicated pawnbroker with around 190 stores. They were formed in 1897. Albemarle & Bond controls Herbert Brown that dates back further to 1840. They collectively have 114 stores that is a little less than Ramsdens’ tally of 120. For high street loans, the largest chain is The Money Shop. They now have 300 outlets that has been downsized from 550. Cheque Centre has also took on a major retail hit. Their network sits at 53, but it was 433. They are in the same family as Cash Generator who has the same high street presence as H&T (190) whilst Converters has just over 200 and 700 worldwide. This makes them the retail market leader for used goods.


For Buy Backs and pawning, no credit checks are required and so it would not matter whether the seller has CCJs, defaults or even bankruptcy on their record. Identification showing your current address and a photo from your driving licence or passport needs to be shown. Premises will also be recording transactions under CCTV surveillance. The screening itself is important to cover those rare instances where stolen goods are being pawned. You’ll also need collateral (fully working and in good condition). For general high street lending when unsecured, the same level of checks will be taken as seen online, with the difference being that they’ll also check over your documents.

Market Size:

There are around 2000 pawn shops scattered across the UK. There is no data surrounding general buy and sell or payday-type operations. Either way, there are many companies for us to compare here. The approach taken has been to begin with the major players and those who are relatively popular online. The current listed count is 18, but we’ll hope to soon reach 30.

We Have Compared:
HS (High Street): How many branches in the UK. The worldwide tally if applicable is marked as (W).
OP (Open): Store opening days and times. In many cases, there will be variations across locations. We have added the details most commonly seen across a network (alongside {Varies}). Some firms appear to have fixed times, but we can’t be sure on this.
SER (Services Available): The first area marks loans as marked by BB (Buy Back), OL (online), PL (pawn), UL (unsecured in-store) | The next area follows with CC (cheque cashing), CFG (cash for gold), FE (foreign exchange), MT (money transfer) and STC (spread the cost on used goods). We have ignored anything always outsourced (such as pre-paid cards). You can for reference choose to just sell outright.
{UL} 1) Pricing examples will then follow for any general lending products available. {UL} in this case would be specific to the unsecured loan available in-store. We’ll note the available sum range, the terms and the pricing if they are disclosed. We have added full price examples for unsecured and the monthly quoted rates for pawning.

– Listings are sorted alphabetically.
– For reference, if you click through a company listing, these are not posted in the usual profile form, but as general informational postings.

Best Buy Back, Pawnbroker and Unsecured Store Loans Compared:

Albemarle & Bond (1983)
Albemarle & Bond Store Loans
HS: 95
OP: Mon (9am/5pm), Tue (9.45am/5pm), Wed to Sat (9am/5pm)
{PL}: £50 to £1000 | 6 months | £179.82 /£300 (6)
* Site is also used for Herbert Brown

Borro (2008)
Borro Store Loans
HS: 1 | 3 (W)
OP: Mon/Fri (9am/6pm), Sat: By request
{PL}: Up to £3 million | 6 months | 3.49% (+ 3% fee)
* In-store and postal service

Cash & Cheque Express (2000)
Cash & Cheque Express Store Loans
HS: 11
OP: Mon/Sat (9.30am/5.30pm) {Varies}
{BB}: 28 days
{PL}: 6 months | 8%
* Refers to Auto Advance (same owner) (secured logbook)

Cash Converters (1992) (1984: Roots)
Cash Converters Store Loans
HS: 203 | 700 (W)
OP: Mon/Sat (9.30am/5.30pm) {Varies}
{BB}: 28 days
{OL}: See H&T
{PL}: Up to £10,000 | 6 months
{UL}: £30 to £800 | 1 to 2 months
* Refers to H&T (as broker)

Cash Exchange (2004)
Cash Exchange Store Loans
HS: 2
OP: Mon/Thu (9.30am/6pm), Fri/Sat (9.30am/5.30pm) {Varies}
{BB}: 28 days
{PL}: Up to £50,000 | 7 months
* Morden’s hours are Mon/Sat (9.30am/6pm)

Cash Generator (1994)
Cash Generator Store Loans
HS: 190
OP: Mon/Sat (9am/5.30pm) {Varies}
{BB}: 28 days
* No notes

Cash Shop (2004)
Cash Shop Store Loans
HS: 11
OP: Mon/Sat (9am/5.30pm) {Varies}
{BB}: 28 days
{PL}: 6 months | 8.9%
* No notes

Cheque Centre (1996)
Cheque Centre Store Loans
HS: 53
OP: Mon/Fri (9am/5.30pm), Sat (9am/5pm) {Varies}
{OL}: See Square Today
{PL}: £5 onwards | 7 months
{UL1}: £200 to £850 | 5 to 9 months | £279.52 /£300 (6)
{UL2}: £1000 to £5000 | 1 to 3 years | £418.27 /£1000 (12)
* Refers to Square Today (same owner)

H&T Pawnbrokers (1897)
H&T Pawnbrokers Store Loans
HS: 190
OP: Mon (9am/5pm), Tue (9.30am/5pm), Wed/Sat (9am/5pm)
{BB}: 31 days | 25%
{OL}: Same as UL
{PL}: £250 to £50,000 | 6 months | 4.50% to 9.99%
{UL}: £50 to £1000 | 3 to 24 months (continued below)…
£134.40 /£300 (3) & £178.32 /£300 (6) & £843.20 /£1000 (12)
* In-store and postal service. H&T’s Bond Street branch funds £1 million (charges: 2.99% to 6.99%)

Herbert Brown (1840)
Herbert Brown Store Loans
HS: 19
OP: Mon (9am/5pm), Tue (9.45am/5pm), Wed to Sat (9am/5pm)
{PL}: £50 to £1000 | 6 months | £179.82 /£300 (6)
* Uses Albermarle’s site

Maxcroft (1976)
Maxcroft Store Loans
HS: 1
OP: Mon/Thu (9am/6pm), Fri (9am/7pm), Sat (9am/4pm)
{PL}: £5 to £20,000 | 6 months | 1.99% to 6%
{UL}: £500 to £5000 | 8 to 36 months | £420 /£1000 (12)
* Offers secured logbook option

Oakam (2007)
Oakam Store Loans
HS: 22
OP: Mon/Tue (9.30am/6pm), Wed (10am/6pm), Thu/Sat (9.30am/6pm)
{OL} Same as UL1 and UL2
{UL1}: £200 to £1750 | 3 to 12 months (continued below)…
£129.78 /£300 (3) & £263.16 /£300 (6) & £935.44 /£1000 (12)
{UL2}: £2000 to £5000 | 1 to 3 years | 57% to 99% APR
* No notes

Prestige Pawnbrokers (2009)
Prestige Pawnbrokers Store Loans
HS: 4
OP: Mon/Fri (9.30am/5pm), Sat: (10am/5pm) {Varies}
{PL}: 7 months | 1.49% to 9%
* Rates taken from media. Hatton Garden location is closed on Saturdays

Ramsdens for Cash (1987)
Ramsdens for Cash Store Loans
HS: 120
OP: Mon/Sat (9am/5pm) {Varies}
{BB}: 31 days | 20%
{PL}: £10 to £100,000 | 5 months | 9.9%
* Refers to Loans 2 Go (as broker) (secured logbook)

Speedy Cash (2010) (1997: Roots)
Speedy Cash Store Loans
HS: 13 | 207 (W)
OP: Mon/Sat (9am/5.30pm)
{OL} See WageDayAdvance
{UL1}: £50 to £750 | 21 to 57 days | £24 /£100 (30)
{UL2}: £100 to £1000 | 4 to 6 months | £254.09 /£300 (6)
* Refers to WageDayAdvance (same owner)

The Fast Cash Company (2014)
The Fast Cash Company Store Loans
HS: 3
OP: Mon/Sat (9.30am/5.30pm)
{BB}: No details
{UL}: 1 to 52 weeks | £24 /£100 (30)
* Pricing only shown for monthly term

The Money Shop (1996)
The Money Shop Store Loans
HS: 300
OP: Mon/Sat (9am/5.30pm) {Varies}
{OL}: £100 to £2000 | 3 to 12 months (continued below)…
£110.97 /£300 (3) & £143.04 /£300 (6) & £807.56 /£1000 (12)
{PL}: 7 months | 148% APR
{UL1}: £50 to £2000 | 3 to 12 months (continued below)…
£110.97 /£300 (3) & £143.04 /£300 (6) & £807.56 /£1000 (12)
{UL2}: £2010 to £5000 | 1 to 3 years | 84.9% APR
* UL2 only available in around 50 stores

Unbolted (2014)
Unbolted Store Loans
HS: 1
OP: Not disclosed
{PL}: £500 to no cap | 6 months | 1.10% to 4% (+ 3% fee)
* In-store and postal service

Comparison Insights:

Cheapest Buy Back, Pawnbroker and Unsecured Store Loan Offers:

Buy Back Loans (31 Days)…

1) Ramsdens: 20% (31)
2) H&T: 25% (31)

Notes: No other company featured shares their rates. General pricing should sit between 30% and 35%.

Pawn Loans (Monthly Rates)…

1) Prestige: 1.49% to 9% (L)
2) Maxcroft: 1.99% to 6%
3) H&T Bond Street: 2.99% to 6.99% (L)
4) Unbolted: 1.10% to 4% (3% fee = 4.10% min) (L)
5) H&T: 4.50% to 9.99%
6) Borro: 3.49% (3% fee = 6.49% min) (L)
7) Cash & Cheque Express: 8%
8) Cash Shop: 8.9%
9) Ramsdens: 9.9%
10) Albemarle: 9.99%

Notes: The top 10 rates are shown since 4 of the options are specific to luxury items (marked as L). The lowest offered rates are always specific to high value items. This should qualify Maxcroft as the cheapest mainstream pawnbroker at 6%.

Unsecured Store Loans (Prices)…

/£100 (1m)…

All lenders meet the 0.8% daily cap.

/£300 (3m)…

1) The Money Shop: £110.97
2) Oakam: £129.78
3) H&T: £134.40

/£300 (6m)…

1) The Money Shop: £143.04
2) H&T: £178.32
3) Speedy Cash: £254.09

/£1000 (12m)…

1) Cheque Centre: £418.27
2) Maxcroft: £420
3) The Money Shop: 807.56

Notes: TMS has a personal loan product that is packaged at 84.9% APR. This is all that they state and so it is not clear whether this rate is fixed. If it was then it would be the cheapest 12 month option, although the minimum sum is £2010 and this choice is only available in select shops. Their instalment charges are the best anyway.

Experience: Herbert Brown

There are many old school pawnbrokers still trading on our high streets today. Herbert Brown dates back the furthest to 1840. Their owner (Albemarle) is a modern operation having only launched in 1983. Both companies continue to trade through their existing brands, although both use the single Albemarle website. The market leader (H&T) has been active since 1897. As far as general high street lenders goes, The Money Shop started out in 1996. Maxcroft came earlier in 1976, but they have just the single office.

High Street Presence in the UK: The Money Shop

1) The Money Shop: 300
2) Cash Converters: 203
3) Cash Generator: 190
4) H&T: 190
5) Ramsdens: 120

Brand with Largest Worldwide Presence…

Cash Converters: 700

Group Owner with Largest Worldwide Presence…

CNG Financial Corp: 1750

Notes: Sometimes we can pinpoint exact tallies, whilst other times we have to post estimates. CNG for reference owns Cash Generator and Cheque Centre locally, whilst their stateside operation is Check ‘n Go.

Lending Stores Open on Sundays: Select Stores Only

Non of the retail brands studied exclusively operate 7/7 that is surprising considering that this would be a key service USP to take forward. Most companies open on Saturdays. Some buy & sell and pawn shops open on Sundays, but only in specific locations generally across London. Cash Converters and The Money Shop would be the notable examples based on their large networks.

Most Lending Options: H&T

H&T’s product line is the most extensive, with unsecured loans available in-store as well as on the web. Secured lending includes Buy Backs and pawn loans. The latter extends to the web, with insured postage up to £30,000 (to and from). Other financial options include cheque cashing, cash for gold, foreign exchange and money transfer. The Money Shop also performs well for product variety, but they don’t extend to short term loan Buy Backs.

Sums: Highest Borrowing Amounts…

Ramsdens: £100,000 (general pawn)
Borro: £3 million per asset (high-end pawn)
Maxcroft, Oakam, TMS: £5000 (unsecured in-store)

Sums: Smallest Borrowing Amounts…

Cheque Centre and Maxcroft: £5 (pawn)
Cash Converters: £30 (unsecured in-store)

Terms: Longest Repayment Period…

Maxcroft, Oakam, TMS: 3 years (unsecured)

Notes: Pawn contracts are fixed at 5, 6 or 7 months. Most firms will enable extensions, but for longer terms it would be advised to just go the unsecured route that reaches 3 years.

Trade Associations: Triple Memberships Held: H&T, Maxcroft

H&T’s (CCTA, CSA, NPA) and Maxcroft’s (BCCA, CCTA, NPA).


Unsecured retail lending has become increasingly scarce, whilst the market choice for pawning is extensive. Due to the ease of access through basic identification checks, this means that most of us can pick and choose based on the leading rates offered. Shopping around is essential in this case, since companies value better than others whilst some take bigger percentage cuts. We would always recommend using a pawnbroker who is a member of the NPA that is the central trade association established in 1892. The main drawback of pawning is the requirement of valuable collateral such as jewellery. Buy Back is the solution to this, but the costs are very expensive and many companies aren’t transparent surrounding their charges.

Since there is no capping involved, you’ll end up paying the entire service charge even if you decided to settle up after just a few days. Today we identified Ramsdens as the cheapest solution at 20%. The problem with Ramsdens is that their branches are generally situated up north. They also only accept mobile phones and select tablets of Apple or Samsung. For a wider range of electricals and other goods, the next best option is H&T who drop to 25%. Both of these companies contract at 31 days (the norm is 28). Converters and Generator are expensive choices, yet they’ll take most things since buying and selling used goods is their primary area of business.