Book up

Being smart with book up

bookup accounts owing

Your local store might offer 'book up'. Book up is a type of informal credit offered by stores and other traders. This can help you get the things you need now and pay for them later.

Be careful if you use book up and try not to book up too much - you could end up owing more money than you can afford. Here is some information on how book up works and what to do if you need help.

Video: Book up

Animated video about book up

Aunty B shows you how to manage your book up (store account or tab) so you stay in control of your money.

This video is part of a series of animations created for the Take a minute with your money campaign.

What is book up?

You might know book up by another name, such as 'book down', 'on the tick', 'on the slate', 'running a tab', or 'tiki'. Regardless of what you call it, it usually refers to a practice where a store lets you get goods or services now and pay the store later.

Some stores charge a fee, or charge more for things that are booked up than they would charge if the customer paid for them in cash. Find out what fees the store charges so you can work out how much you will owe.

Problems with book up

book up here signHere are a few things to help you avoid problems when using book up

When you use book up the store owner might ask you to leave your ATM card as security for the debt. It is important to remember that you are in charge of your ATM card, so you decide if you want to leave it at the shop. If you do, think about how you will be able to pay for things at other stores, and how you will get access to money if you urgently need it.

You should never tell anyone - including the store owner - your PIN (personal identification number) because it means other people can access your money. If you do give away your PIN you will lose control of your money, including the right to get it back if someone takes it. If you think someone has taken money from your account without you knowing, contact your bank straight away to cancel your card.

Some other things to watch out for if you are booking up are:

  • Extra fees or charges for using book up instead of cash
  • You might be offered too much book up and find it hard to pay the money back
  • A store might let other people book up on your account without you knowing
  • You might find it hard to track how much you have spent unless you ask for itemised receipts

How to book up safely

book up shopkeeper and woman and child

Some other things to remember when using book up are:

  • Terms and conditions - Understand how much you have to pay and when you have to pay the money back. Ask the store owner to write this down for you so you have a record.
  • Set a limit - Decide how much you want to spend on your book up and set a limit - otherwise you might never pay it off.
  • Access to your book up - Give the store owner a list of the people who are allowed to use your book up account.
  • Keeping track - Always write down what you buy and how much you have to pay back, and keep your receipts

Getting help with book up

If you get into a lot of debt using book up you can talk to a financial counsellor. You can also find your local financial capability worker using the Department of Social Services' Grants Service Directory. When you use the Directory, choose 'Commonwealth Financial Counselling and Financial Capability' for the service type.

If you think a store owner or someone else has stolen money from your account contact your bank and the police straight away. If you need additional assistance, you can also contact your local Legal Service, or ASIC's Indigenous Help Line on 1300 365 957.

For more information go to get help with money.

Information for community workers about book up

For more information about book up, download ASIC's short summary:

Dealing with book up: Key facts

Or, download detailed chapters:

Chapter 1 - About book up

Chapter 2 - Action tips

Chapter 3 - Better book up

Chapter 4 - Other ways

Chapter 5 - Money skills

Chapter 6 - The law

Chapter 7 - Getting help

To find out how book up is affected by the national credit laws see ASIC's National credit laws and book up: What you need to know.

For information about alternatives to book up, listen to our audio segments on bank accounts, loans and credit cards.

Be careful if you use book up. Make sure store owners or other people are not taking money from you without you knowing. Keep track of your bank and store accounts and remember, you decide what gets booked up.

Related links

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain images and voices of deceased people.

Last updated: 29 Mar 2018