Iceland has announced it is offering interest-free personal loans worth up to £75 for customers who are struggling to pay their food bills. It has partnered with Fair for You - a charity-owned ethical lender - and will be offering its loans through the newly-launched Iceland Food Club.
The short-term microloans of between £25 to £75 are designed to provide an “ethical” and “affordable” alternative to mainstream lenders and to help individuals and families overcome food poverty. The loans are interest-free however missed repayments can leave a mark on your credit file, so it is important to fully understand the terms of an Iceland Food Club loan before committing to one.
In this article, we explain everything you need to know about the Iceland Food Club, if you are eligible, and how you can get a loan - if it is right for you.
What is the Iceland Food Club?
The Iceland Food Club, operated by not-for-profit lender Fair for You, is part of Iceland’s “Doing It Right” initiative to help tackle food poverty. The programme offers short-term loans of between £25 and £75 which are uploaded onto a dedicated Food Club card. Customers can use their card at Iceland or The Food Warehouse checkouts - in person or online - to pay for their groceries. Initially trialled in 2020 in Yorkshire and North Wales, it has so far processed more than £1 million in Food Club loans.
How does an Iceland Food Club loan work?
An Iceland Food Club loan is repaid at a rate of £10 per week (the final week may be less depending on the loan amount). Customers can choose which day of the week their repayments are made and can take out further credit - between £25 to £75 up to 6 times per year - for additional shopping trips at Iceland or The Food Warehouse stores.
There is a limit of £100 outstanding credit at any one time. Interest is not charged on the loan and must be repaid in £10 increments over a series of weeks. Therefore a £75 loan will consist of 8 payments but the loan can be repaid early at any time via the customer dashboard with no additional fees.
Are you eligible for an Iceland Food Club loan?
Iceland states that the following criteria must be met in order to be eligible for an Iceland Food Club loan:
- You must have a “stable” and “regular” source of income
- You must have a bank account
Applicants that are currently unemployed or on benefits may still be eligible as long as they meet the above criteria.
How do you use an Iceland Food Club card?
Your Iceland Food Club card will be sent to your address within 5-7 business days of completing your online application. All you need to do is tap it at the checkout or provide the relevant information online at the point of payment. The purchased amount will then be removed from the balance. Bear in mind, however, that there is no way to withdraw the balance from your card and can only be used in-store or online at Iceland or The Food Warehouse. The Food Club card can be topped up multiple times throughout the year and you will be notified of the next top up date when it becomes available. Top ups are usually in line with school holidays.
Does an Iceland Food Club loan affect your credit rating?
Yes, an Iceland Food Club loan can affect your credit rating. Applications for a loan involve a credit check which may appear on your credit file, but Fair for You maintains that the decision to lend is not “solely based” on your credit report. It does however reserve the right to conduct “relevant assessments” to determine if an Iceland Food Club loan is affordable for you, including viewing your bank statements and proof of income. If you cannot be contacted about missed repayments, or there is no intention to repay, after 28 days Fair for You will report to credit reference agencies that you are in arrears and this will leave a mark on your credit file. Fair for You does reiterate that it will endeavour to come to an agreed repayment plan with you and it does not charge late fees or instruct bailiffs.
What happens if you fail to repay an Iceland Food Club loan?
There is no penalty charge for missed repayments. If you have consistently missed repayments, you may not be eligible for further loans, and defaulting on your loan may result in Fair for You recovering funds from other benefit payments that you receive. This means that an Iceland Food Club loan may not be suitable for those already struggling with debt. If you are finding it difficult to cope with debt, read our advice on how to get help.
How to get an Iceland Food Club loan
In order to apply for an Iceland Food Club loan, you have to fill out the online application form. You must select which day of the week you would like to make your repayments and answer some basic questions including your employment status, if you are receiving any benefits and your average monthly income. The form also asks for your National Insurance number and personal details in order to conduct the affordability assessment.
Alternative ways to get help towards your food bill
If an Iceland Food Club loan is not for you, there are other ways that you can access financial help towards the cost of your food bill. There are also numerous restaurants and cafes that are offering discounted or free meals for children throughout the school holidays, you can find out more in our article, 'How to save money eating out with children this summer'.
Household Support Fund
The UK government is offering cash grants to families and individuals struggling to meet costs through the new Household Support Fund. Available up until 30th September 2022, the fund will be distributed by local councils directly to people in need, but the amount you may receive differs depending on your location and circumstances. To be eligible, households must be claiming at least one of the qualifying benefits such as Universal Credit or Pension Credit, though individual councils have different eligibility criteria so it is advised that you check your local council’s website for full details. Find out how to contact your local council here.
Free school meals
If you are already the recipient of some benefits and struggling to feed your children - particularly over the holiday periods - you may be eligible to receive free school meals. This can greatly reduce your shopping bill and help you to meet other expenses throughout the month. In addition, children in a government-funded school and in either reception, year 1 or year 2 are automatically entitled to free school meals regardless of their household income, so make sure to follow this up with your school if you are in need. Otherwise, eligibility for free school meals differs depending on your local council, so make sure to contact them directly.
Food banks can help to supply you with food if you can’t otherwise afford what you need. Most food banks require a referral before you can use them, which you can get from a Citizens Advice bureau, your local council, or sometimes a GP. If you are eligible for a food bank, you will be given the location of the nearest one to you where you will be given a parcel of staple food items, such as bread and tinned vegetables. If the food bank you have been referred to is run by the Trussell Trust, you can find your local one using this map. If your local food bank is run by a church or other religious group, they will still help you even if you are not religious or from a different religion.