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Should you sign up to Initiative Q? New payment network offers 'free money'. Is it real or a con?

There has been a lot of buzz on social media recently about payment network Initiative Q, and its offer of 'free money' in the form of new currency Q, but don't count on it making you rich – see Martin Lewis' assessment below.

Initiative Q is offering free Q – its planned new currency – if you sign up, plus hefty referral bonuses for encouraging friends to join.

You need to be invited by someone else, and there are lots of people posting their referral codes on Initiative Q's Facebook and Twitter pages.

There's no guarantee that this will be worth anything at all in the future, let alone the founders' target of $1 per Q, but there's likely little harm in signing up if you're interested.

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What is Initiative Q?

Initiative Q says it is building a new payment system, part of which will include new currency Q.

Founded by people including entrepreneur Saar Wilf, who sold his fraud detection business to PayPal in 2008, and economist Lawrence White, it claims to bring together lots of cutting-edge technology to "create a flexible, easy-to-use and inexpensive payment network".

Q is currently not worth anything, but Initiative Q is hoping that eventually one Q will be worth a whopping $1. It says that it's offering free Qs to early adopters to build up the network, and has recently claimed to have two million users signed up.

There have been several comparisons between Q and Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but Initiative Q says that its network uses different technology.

The only way to accumulate Qs at the moment is through referrals – you can't currently buy them.

How do referrals work?

Once you've been invited and signed up, the person who's invited you needs to approve your registration. Initiative Q says this is so it can be sure real people are signing up.

You can then receive Qs as follows:

  • For joining, at time of writing this is Q4,815, but the more people who join, the fewer initial Q you'll get.
  • Then, refer up to five people and get a set number of Q (currently Q3,852) for each person who signs up.
  • Unlock more invites once you've referred five people.
  • After all your invites are used up, you'll then get extra Q for people who sign up via your referees' invite codes – you get Q for the 41st to 120th secondary referrals.
  • Completing 'future tasks' such as installing an app – but these are not yet live.

The Initiative Q website says that signing up now and completing all of the above could give you over 48,000 Qs.

It says that Qs you've built up will be 'gradually released' to you if and when the payment network is up and running – according to its timeline, that won't be until late 2021, and remember, it may not ever get off the ground.

If you do choose to sign up, be aware that you have to give your name and email address – Initiative Q says it doesn't share your data with any third parties such as marketing companies etc, and has told us that if it doesn't reach enough people, it'll destroy all user data – though this could always change.

Martin Lewis' view on whether you should sign up

MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis said: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if Initiative Q delivered and people make a fortune just by signing up for free? Don't hold your breath though, the truth is fortunes for early adopters are very unlikely to happen, in fact, it is unlikely anyone signing up will make any money.

"The claims that it will have $20 trillion in transactions a year seem more far-fetched than me winning the next Rear of the Year contest (though neither are impossible).

"It's also worth noting that it markets urgency to get people to sign up, with the amount of Qs you can gain dropping on the website. This and other marketing tricks effectively gamify the sign-up, with the refer-a-friend system playing on people's fears of missing out – a little gimmicky for something purporting to be a potential major financial player.

"My assessment isn't based on a great, detailed understanding of the underlying economic mechanics behind the system – after all, the Initiative Q website seems to spend more time on what's wrong with other systems such as Bitcoin than what's right with it. Just the simple rational that most things set up like this don't hit the critical mass of people needed to make it financially viable, and if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

"Yet that isn't necessarily a reason for not bothering. After all, the 'should I give someone my name and email address' bar is one set very low. So if you want to take a punt, do it. Yet if you are in future asked for more details, such as address or date of birth, then the bar has risen, so don't just think 'they've already got my email, so I'll do it'. And if you are ever asked to risk money on it, then it becomes a high jump.

"In fact, why not sign up with a secondary email address, rather than your main one? That way you will first know anything has come from Initiative Q and if it did end up being a spam generator – and the people interested in this would be lucrative for marketers – it isn't sending it to your main email."