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The only thing certain about financial difficulties, by and large, is that they'll hit you when you least expect them. Plus, in all likeliness, this will happen at a time when you can scarcely afford to patch the problem up, i.e. your payday is weeks away and you've already taken the scissors to your credit card. It's in situations such as these it's worth considering a payday loan, provided you have a regular income with which to pay it back, asap.

Money - FreeFoto.com

Money – FreeFoto.com

The benefits of such loans are their turnaround period: the money you need could be in your account within a very short amount of time. This is what they have over bank loans, which have processing periods that are less than ideal for those needing a cash injection in a hurry. But before you set about taking out a payday loan, you need to be sure who you are dealing with; you need to be sure they are legitimate. Read on for some tips on how to go about this.

What are their terms?

Payday loans by their nature tend to have high interest rates – far higher than credit cards, which come in at 12-19 per cent annually. You're not borrowing long-term, like on a credit card, so with a payday loan you can expect, if you borrow £100, to pay back £120-£140. If you borrow £200, you can expect to have added interest of between £50 and £78 on top of that when you finally dip into those much-needed wages to pay it back.

Also, make sure you go through the small print with a fine-tooth comb, as they may offer such options as having your application approval fast-tracked but then go right ahead and charge you for the alleged privilege. (Such an offer should be a red flag of sorts anyway, as the whole point of payday loans is that they're approved and paid as swiftly as is possible.)

How easy are they to contact?

First of all – make sure they actually have a published telephone number on their website or literature. Even if they do, it's not always good news – they may only operate during office hours or even more reduced hours than that, in some cases (few offer 24-7 customer support). The best way to ensure you're going to be dealing with an ethical, responsible company is to read other users' comments about their own experiences, which are quite easy to find online by Googling the name of the company you're considering and 'customer reviews'.

Do they really exist?

Sadly, there are a great many 'payday loan companies' out there which are merely fronts for criminal activity, looking for the swiftest shortcut to defrauding as many unfortunate, desperate people as they possibly can by collecting bank details. When it comes to choosing a company, check first how long they have been active then look for their licence – it should be easy to fins on their website. If there isn't one, it's a dead cert that they're a fraudulent company merely posing a payday loan provider – avoid them like the proverbial plague.

Payday loans may not be ideal, but they are helpful when there are no other avenues open to you at a time of great financial need. If that time has arrived for you, remember first that it will pass and that there is help out there, so if you need fast cash, click here. And don't forget to pay the loan back the second your wages land in your account.

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