By Daniel Hunter

According to new research released by Barclays Pingit, the mobile phone app that allows people to send and receive money with just a mobile phone number, Brits are racking up unpaid ‘mate debt’ to the tune of £2.3 billion.

The research reveals that, when it comes to our mates, we’re very generous, with nearly three quarters (71%) of people having lent money to a friend — with the average Brit willing to loan their mates £59. This generosity doesn’t extend to paying back borrowed money, with 11% of respondents admitting they’ve pretended to ‘forget’ to pay a mate back.

Over a quarter of Britons who have lent money to friends (26%) have run up their mate debts during a night out or a cab ride (25%). However, it also seems the tough economic times have us calling on friends for a favour, with a quarter (23%) of Britons surveyed loaning money not for a cheeky pint in the pub, but to help their friends pay their household bills.

A third of Britons (33%) are simply too embarrassed to ask their friends to pay back money that they’ve loaned — with women most likely to blush at the thought of asking for their money back (39% versus 28% men). Our reluctance to talk about money with our mates can even end in tears, with 15% of those who’ve lent money to friends claiming they’ve fallen out with friends over unpaid debts.

Zawe Ashton commented: “To be honest, the findings from Barclays research come as no surprise to me. There have been many occasions where I’ve been out with my friends, and for whatever reason, haven’t been able to pay for a round of drinks or a meal but I will always make that conscious effort to repay them as soon as I can. With Christmas just around the corner, and purse strings being pulled tighter and tighter, it’s so important not to take our friends for granted and settle up as soon as you can. And let’s face it, it’s so easy to pay people back straight away these days that there’s really no excuse. Whether that’s using mobile apps like Barclays Pingit or transferring money online. No need to trek down to the cash machine like the old days!”

The research also suggests that our generosity and goodwill can and will be taken for granted, especially during the festive season. More than one in ten (11%) of respondents admits they have pretended to ‘forget’ to pay a mate back. And it seems they’re getting away with it, with half (47%) of those who’ve lent money to a friend not bothering to ask for it back, and a quarter (23%) of these claiming too much time had passed for them to ask for their money back. Men are more likely to ‘forget’ to pay mates back — 12% versus 9% of women.

Derek White, Chief Customer Experience Officer commented: “Christmas is a special time, but in tough economic times we’re all that bit more concerned about keeping control of our finances. It can be tough to keep track of spending and money loaned to friends, whilst some mates may intentionally ‘forget’, most are simply too busy to notice or remember. To help friends pay each other back, our Pingit app has proven hugely popular, most people use it between 6 and 7pm on a Friday — just about the time that they are clocking out and heading to the pub. They are using it for all sorts of reasons — from paying for petrol, to pooling money for their mum’s gift’

The study also revealed:

- One in ten young people (9%) aged 18-24 years old have forgotten to pay their mates back, versus only 4% of the over 55s
- Half (50%) of respondents who’ve lent money to a friend and not bothered to ask them to pay the money back claim they haven’t asked to be paid back because it was too small an amount, with £27 being the magic number for the maximum amount we wouldn't bother to ask back.
- When it comes to lending, the Welsh are most likely to get the grump over unpaid debts with a quarter of those surveyed admitting to falling out with mates over money
- If you're feeling thirsty, seek out the Northern Irish, who are most likely to offer rounds in the pub (72%)
- Household bills most popular lending item in Wales (29%), the North West (32%) and East Midlands (26%), whereas a night out is most likely to top the list in the North East (30%), and a meal out in London (36%).

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