Freakonomics Radio is produced by WNYC Studios and Dubner Productions. Today’s episode was produced by Christopher Werth. The rest of our staff includes Arwa Gunja, Jay Cowit, Merritt Jacob, Greg Rosalsky, Kasia Mychajlowycz, Alison Hockenberry and Caroline English. Thanks also to Bill Healy for his help with this episode from Chicago. If you want more Freakonomics Radio, you can also find us on Twitter and Facebook and don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or wherever else you get your free, weekly podcasts.
WERTH: I was, and what he told me was that even though Hilary Miller was making substantial changes to the paper, CCRF did not exercise editorial control. That is, he says, he still had complete academic freedom to accept or reject Miller’s changes. Here’s Fusaro:
DUBNER: Now, Bob, the blog post is sort of a pop version of a meta-study, which rolls up other research on different pieces of the issue. Persuade me that the studies that you cite in the post aren’t merely the biased rantings of some ultra-right-wing pro-market-at-all-costs lunatics. And I realize that at least one of the primary studies was authored by yourself, so I guess I’m asking you to prove that you are not an ultra-right-wing pro-market-at-all-costs lunatic.
“Alongside our other new rules for payday firms – affordability tests and limits on rollovers and continuous payment authorities – the cap will help drive up standards in a sector that badly needs to improve how it treats its customers.”
Alternative Financial Services: Innovating to Meet Customer Needs in an Evolving Regulatory Framework, by John Hecht, Research Analyst, Stephens Inc. (now at Jefferies & Company Inc.) (February, 2014).
CFPB found that 80 percent of payday borrowers tracked over ten months rolled over or reborrowed loans within 30 days. Borrowers default on one in five payday loans. Online borrowers fare worse. CFPB found that more than half of all online payday instalment loan sequences default.
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Check ‘n Go (“we,” “our,” or “us”) provides deferred deposit transactions. Deferred deposit transactions are subject to a finance charge based on the amount you borrow, the “amount financed.” The larger your amount financed is, the larger the finance charge will be. We offer deferred deposit transactions in $5 amount-financed increments ranging from $50 to $255. The amount you owe equals the sum of the amount financed and the finance charge. For example, if you obtain a $255 deferred deposit transaction, then the finance charge is $45 and the amount you owe would be $300 (i.e., $255 + $45).
The propensity for very low default rates seems to be an incentive for investors interested in payday lenders. In the Advance America 10-k SEC filing from December 2011 they note that their agreement with investors, “limits the average of actual charge-offs incurred during each fiscal month to a maximum of 4.50% of the average amount of adjusted transaction receivables outstanding at the end of each fiscal month during the prior twelve consecutive months”. They go on to note that for 2011 their average monthly receivables were $287.1 million and their average charge-off was $9.3 million, or 3.2%. In comparison with traditional lenders, payday firms also save on costs by not engaging in traditional forms of underwriting, relying on their easy rollover terms and the small size of each individual loan as method of diversification eliminating the need for verifying each borrowers ability to repay. It is perhaps due to this that payday lenders rarely exhibit any real effort to verify that the borrower will be able to pay the principal on their payday in addition to their other debt obligations.
We understand that it is really tough to face an unexpected financial emergency. So, with CashOne, you will often be able to get a cash loan up to $1,000 in one business day that will be directly credited to your bank account.
*Online applications processed before 10:30 AM ET (Monday-Friday) may be eligible for same-day funding to your bank account. Online applications processed between 10:30 AM ET and 8:00 PM ET are typically funded the next banking day, but exceptions may apply. If we are unable to verify your application electronically, we may ask you to provide certain documents before final approval.
It may not even surprise you to learn that the Center for Responsible Lending — the non-profit that’s fighting predatory lending — that it was founded by a credit union, the Self-Help Credit Union, which would likely stand to benefit from the elimination of payday loans. And that among the Center’s many funders are banks and other mainstream financial institutions.
Fast and easy access to money. We understand that unexpected expenses may come up and that our customer’s need money fast. That’s why Advance America ensures our online customers get their payday or installment loan money as soon as the same day* of initially applying.
But there is one statistical tidbit that flies in the face of this conventional wisdom: A clear majority of same-sex couples who are living together are now married. Same-sex marriage was illegal in every state until Massachusetts legalized it in 2004, and it did not become legal nationwide until the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. Two years after that decision, 61 percent of same-sex couples who were sharing a household were married, according to a set of surveys by Gallup. That’s a high take-up rate: Just because same-sex couples are able to marry doesn’t mean that they have to; and yet large numbers have seized the opportunity. (That’s compared with 89 percent of different-sex couples.)
DEYOUNG: Studies that have looked at this have found that once you control for the demographics and income levels in these areas and these communities, the racial characteristics no longer drive the location decisions. As you might expect, business people don’t care what color their customers are, as long as their money’s green.
A second benefit of working with LendUp is that we strive to make all the details of our loans clear and understandable. You won’t ever pay hidden fees when you borrow from us. We’re licensed in every state we operate, and we work hard to protect you and your information. We won’t sell or provide your information to private third parties unless you specifically authorize us to do so.
The bigger problem for payday lenders is the overhead. Alex Horowitz, a research manager at the Pew Charitable Trusts, says that on average, two-thirds of the fees payday lenders collect are spent just keeping the lights on. The average storefront serves only 500 customers a year, and employee turnover is ridiculously high. For instance, QC Holdings, a publicly traded nationwide lender, reported that it had to replace approximately 65 percent of its branch-level employees in 2014. “The profits are not extraordinary,” Horowitz says. “What is extraordinary is the inefficiency.”
There is a long and often twisted history of industries co-opting scientists and other academic researchers to produce findings that make their industries look safer or more reliable or otherwise better than they really are. Whenever we talk about academic research on this show — which is pretty much every week — we do try to show the provenance of that research and establish how legitimate it is. The best first step in figuring that out is to ask what kind of incentives are at play. But even that is only one step.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (left) talks with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray after he testified about Wall Street reform at a 2014 Senate Banking Committee hearing. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
Online cash advance loans are slightly different from their traditional brethren, though. Online loans are handled via internet applications and approvals, which often means you know if you are approved right away and you can receive your funds quickly via a bank transfer.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Are Payday Loans Really as Evil as People Say?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)
** Customers in good standing may qualify for a reduction in annual percentage rate (“APR”). Installment Loan Customers: In order to be eligible, you must continue to meet RISE’s credit criteria, and we will evaluate the stability of your personal information and identity for each new loan. If eligibility requirements are met and you make 24 successful, on-time monthly payments (48 bi-weekly payments), the APR for your next loan will be 50% off your original loan’s APR (excluding customers with starting rates of less than 75%). Additionally, if you continue to meet eligibility requirements and you make 36 successful, on-time monthly payments (72 bi-weekly payments), you will qualify for a 36% APR for your next loan. Note that it may take two or more loans to reach 36% APR. (In Mississippi, if you make 24 monthly payments (48 bi-weekly payments), the monthly handling charge for your next loan will be 50% off (excluding customers with starting rates of less than 75%). And, if you make 36 monthly payments (72 bi-weekly payments), you qualify for a monthly handling charge of 3% for your next loan with RISE. Note that it may take two or more loans to reach a 3% monthly handling charge.) This does not apply to Line of Credit customers.
In the more recent innovation of online payday loans, consumers complete the loan application online (or in some instances via fax, especially where documentation is required). The funds are then transferred by direct deposit to the borrower’s account, and the loan repayment and/or the finance charge is electronically withdrawn on the borrower’s next payday.
CHRISTOPHER WERTH: Right. Well, it’s a non-profit watchdog, relatively new organization. Its mission is to expose corporate and political misconduct, primarily by using open-records requests, like the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA requests, to produce evidence.
For the banks, it can be a lucrative partnership. At first blush, processing automatic withdrawals hardly seems like a source of profit. But many customers are already on shaky financial footing. The withdrawals often set off a cascade of fees from problems like overdrafts. Roughly 27 percent of payday loan borrowers say that the loans caused them to overdraw their accounts, according to a report released this month by the Pew Charitable Trusts. That fee income is coveted, given that financial regulations limiting fees on debit and credit cards have cost banks billions of dollars.