Should You Borro?

Category: Finance

Do you have a Rembrandt just sitting on your wall, taking up valuable dart board space? Any diamond rings or Rolex watches collecting dust in a drawer? If you wish you had the equivalent worth in cash instead, then I've got a deal for you! Read on…

An Online Pawn Shop?

Got stuff and need cash? Just go to and answer a few easy questions about your Rembrandt, or Rolex, or any other high-value personal asset you may have including iPads, iPhones, etc. You’ll get an instant estimate of the maximum amount that Borro can lend to you using that asset as collateral. You can submit multiple assets in one batch to increase your credit line.

Then Borro needs to “appraise” your goods to determine precisely how much to lend you. That means getting the asset(s) to Borro’s New York office, and there are two ways to do that. Most of Borro’s customers choose the company’s “secure courier service.”

Borro sends you a steel, locking shipping container about the size of a safe deposit box. Into it go your items and the box is picked up by a bonded private courier. The other option is to bring your valuables to Borro’s New York office, if you happen to be in that neighborhood.
Borro - Online Pawn SHop

One a final credit line is determined, Borro deposits the cash into your bank account electronically. It usually takes 1 or 2 business days to clear and then you have cash.

You get your stuff back when you have repaid the loan. Each month, you make an interest payment. And of course, if you don't pay back the loan, you forfeit the goods you've used as collateral.

Yes, it’s a pawn shop… an international pawn shop. Borro originated in the UK and now does business in all 50 of the United States as well. The company lent $50 million in 2013 and just completed a $110 million funding round, most of which will be lent this year. Borro earned $17 million on that $50 million in loans last year.

What Does it Cost?

A $10,000 loan for four months will cost you $500 plus $399 per month, for a total of $2,096. (I did the math, and that works out to about a 21 percent interest rate.) You can get an estimate of costs for other loan amounts from Borro’s free interest calculator.

How anyone dumb enough to pay that kind of interest acquired assets worth $10,000 is one of life’s little mysteries. Some would call it an injustice. But Borro’s growth rate suggests that there are quite a few such people in the U. S. and U. K.

The company serves this market in ways that traditional pawnbrokers do not. Convenience and discretion are the primary benefits that Borro offers. You don’t have to go to the skeevy part of town to hock that Rolex, or be seen by your neighbors entering a suburban pawnshop such as EZ Pawn. (Of course, they may assume you’re buying, not borrowing, but we always tend to assume that people are thinking the worst of us.)

According to Borro, 60% of their loans are taken out by entrepreneurs and small business owners, who need cash but are having trouble getting bank loans. Perhaps these people have maxed out their credit cards, and their relatives are tired of funding their latest sure-fire scheme for making it big. Or maybe they're just not good at math.

Borro may be more generous than low-end pawnshops, too, because it can afford to be. I got a phone call from “Anthony” with Borro while playing around with a request for a loan estimate on a ficititious 5-carat emerald-cut diamond. Anthony said Borro will lend larger amounts on an asset than traditional pawnshops because its clients tend to be lower risks. Also, he said, Borro is “more flexible on monthly payments” than regular pawnshops. I don’t intend to investigate those claims first hand.

Borro is advertising heavily on radio and TV, but they do have some competition. UltraPawn seems to offer better rates (from 2-16%, depending on the value of your item) and also has a business loan program.

Have you ever used an online pawn shop, or would you consider a service like Borro? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Should You Borro?"

Posted by:

17 Apr 2014

Since interest rates are usually quoted as yearly, the interest rate here would be over 60 percent per year. Ouch!

Posted by:

18 Apr 2014

NO!!!! I would not use them. The interest rate is way to high.

Posted by:

Joe in Houston
18 Apr 2014

Sounds like a Mob "Juice" Loan - except the collateral isn't your arms and legs

Posted by:

18 Apr 2014

These places are just like the check cashing "services" that charge huge fees. I don't understand how they consistently get past the usury law that are on the books, Federally and in every State. A fool and his money are soon parted.

Posted by:

18 Apr 2014

Might be interested in seeing what they have for sale. I avoid borrowing whenever possible.

Posted by:

Bob in San Francisco
18 Apr 2014

Harold is basically right, although I calculate the effective interest on the loan quoted in the article to be about 53%/year ($500 + (12 X $399) = $5,288). And this doesn't even account for the prepayment of almost a quarter of the total cost of the 4-month loan, plus the fact that this is a secured loan, which should justify a lower interest rate because of the lowered risk of nonpayment.

Posted by:

John Fischer
18 Apr 2014

Bob... why the rant about "interest rate"? Do you not understand how this works? I'm going to get technical here... every business has both fixed and variable costs. If you go in to borrow one dollar, I still have a fixed cost just to keep the doors open so you can walk in and borrow a dollar. If that cost is $500. to pay for electric and rent and employees, etc etc then the interest rate would be crazy high... way over 21%. So the total fees are NOT interest but a "keep the doors open fee" that guarantees they can keep the lights on plus an interest rate for the money they have to borrow to give to you. Is that really that complicated?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I didn't mean it as a rant, and I have no problem with capitalism. The point I was trying to make is that it's not such a good deal for the borrower, compared to other alternatives. (And as one reader has pointed out, the effective annual interest rate is more like 53%)

Posted by:

18 Apr 2014

Hi Mr. Bob Rankin,
I hope you won't cancel my subscription if I take a raincheck on this 'pheeeesheeee' offer!
But them sending a "steel, locking shipping container" has me drooling, since it sounds like that is a FREEbie. hmmmmmmm!

Posted by:

J. R.
18 Apr 2014

I think the short answer to the question in the title is NO!
This is usury, and not a good deal for anyone.
If you need money, and have assets which you can sell, it would be better to find a reputable dealer or auctioneer and sell it outright for as much as you can get. That is, assuming that you can part from whatever it is.

Posted by:

19 Apr 2014

Wow, and you can use that loaned money to lease some nice oceanfront property I have available in Colorado! (PS I have one credit card that has an APR close to 30% per year so... Of course I pay that one off every month. Nyahh nyahh) Learn to manage money, people!

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