By Ron VandenBoom
It may look something like real money and you might even be able to spend it like real money. But the funny colored scrip many Havre shoppers will pass over the counter at local stores this holiday season is really called Christmas Cash.
The Havre Retail Committee of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce is offering the Christmas Cash Program to Havre shoppers for the ninth consecutive year.
The program is conducted with the cooperation of all six local financial institutions, and area residents wishing to take advantage of the program can fill out loan applications any time between now and Christmas.
The loans are made interest-free to the consumer and are paid back in equal monthly installments over the next 10 months.
The purpose of the program is to stimulate shopping at home by providing easy and interest-free cash to holiday shoppers. Nearly 80 area businesses participate in the program annually by accepting Christmas Cash just like the real thing.
Participation in the program is really not free to the banks or the merchants as they have agreed to absorb the cost of the program. Each merchant is discounted five percent of the face value of Christmas Cash when it is deposited in the merchants' account.
Participants are asked please to try to give the merchant a Christmas Cash bill as close to the amount of the purchase as possible to avoid extra cost to the merchant. According to the Chamber of Commerce, if the program is abused, it stands a chance of being discontinued.
So far, the program has meant almost $4 million to local merchants, with about $475,000 loaned to happy Christmas shoppers last year.
The cash comes in $5 and $20 denominations, but anyone wanting to purchase a large ticket item can get a certificate from his lending institution for the amount of the purchase instead of handling a lot of small bills.
Christmas Cash that is not used by Dec. 31 also can be applied to the loan.
A list of all participating merchants will be available at all participating stores.