These arguments are countered in two ways. First, the history of borrowers turning to illegal or dangerous sources of credit seems to have little basis in fact according to Robert Mayer’s 2012 “Loan Sharks, Interest-Rate Caps, and Deregulation”.[40] Outside of specific contexts, interest rates caps had the effect of allowing small loans in most areas without an increase of “loan sharking”. Next, since 80% of payday borrowers will roll their loan over at least one time [11] because their income prevents them from paying the principal within the repayment period, they often report turning to friends or family members to help repay the loan [41] according to a 2012 report from the Center for Financial Services Innovation. In addition, there appears to be no evidence of unmet demand for small dollar credit in states which prohibit or strictly limit payday lending.
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The Twisted economics of payday lending can’t be separated from its predatory nature. The industry has always insisted that its products are intended only for short-term emergency use and that it doesn’t encourage repeat borrowing—the debt trap. “This is like the tobacco industry saying that smoking doesn’t cause cancer,” says Sheila Bair, the former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Study after study has found that repeat borrowing accounts for a large share of the industry’s revenues. Flannery and Samolyk found that “high per-customer loan volume” helps payday lenders cover their overhead and offset defaults. At a financial-services event in 2007, Daniel Feehan, then the CEO of the payday lender Cash America, said, according to multiple reports (here and here), “The theory in the business is you’ve got to get that customer in, work to turn him into a repetitive customer, long-term customer, because that’s really where the profitability is.”
On the critic side right now are the Center for Responsible Lending, who advocates a 36 percent cap on payday lending, which we know puts the industry out of business. The CFPB’s proposed policy is to require payday lenders to collect more information at the point of contact and that’s one of the expenses that if avoided allows payday lenders to actually be profitable, deliver the product. Now that’s, that’s not the only plank in the CFPB’s platform. They advocate limiting rollovers and cooling-off periods and the research does point out that in states where rollovers are limited, payday lenders have gotten around them by paying the loan off by refinancing. Just starting a separate loan with a separate loan number, evading the regulation. Of course that’s a regulation that was poorly written, if the payday lenders can evade it that easily.
With so many lenders online, it’s hard to determine which one offers a better kind of cash loan. Those seeking a cash loan should be aware of lenders advertising online loans for bad credit or loans with no credit check. These kinds of cash loans may have higher interest rates and unusual terms and penalties.
In a vicious cycle, the higher the permitted fees, the more stores, so the fewer customers each store serves, so the higher the fees need to be. Competition, in other words, does reduce profits to lenders, as expected—but it seems to carry no benefit to consumers, at least as measured by the rates they’re charged. (The old loan sharks may have been able to charge lower rates because of lower overhead, although it’s impossible to know. Robert Mayer thinks the explanation may have more to do with differences in the customer base: Because credit alternatives were sparse back then, these lenders served a more diverse and overall more creditworthy set of borrowers, so default rates were probably lower.)
ERVIN BANKS: I don’t see nothing wrong with them. I had some back bills I had to pay off. So it didn’t take me too long to pay it back — about three months, something like that. They’re beautiful people.
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It may seem inconceivable that a company couldn’t make money collecting interest at a 36 percent annual clip. One reason it’s true is that default rates are high. A study in 2007 by two economists, Mark Flannery and Katherine Samolyk, found that defaults account for more than 20 percent of operating expenses at payday-loan stores. By comparison, loan losses in 2007 at small U.S. commercial banks accounted for only 3 percent of expenses, according to the Kansas City Fed. This isn’t surprising, given that payday lenders don’t look carefully at a borrower’s income, expenses, or credit history to ensure that she can repay the loan: That underwriting process, the bedrock of conventional lending, would be ruinously expensive when applied to a $300, two-week loan. Instead, lenders count on access to the borrower’s checking account—but if that’s empty due to other withdrawals or overdrafts, it’s empty.
State prosecutors have been battling to keep online lenders from illegally making loans to residents where the loans are restricted. In December, Lori Swanson, Minnesota’s attorney general, settled with Sure Advance L.L.C. over claims that the online lender was operating without a license to make loans with interest rates of up to 1,564 percent. In Illinois, Attorney General Lisa Madigan is investigating a number of online lenders.
Before you accept a loan offer, the lender will offer you loan renewal options. Make sure you carefully examine their renewal policy prior to signing any loan documents. Please be aware that, to a great extent, state regulations govern renewal policies.
DEYOUNG: Had I written that paper, and had I known 100 percent of the facts about where the data came from and who paid for it — yes, I would have disclosed that. I don’t think it matters one way or the other in terms of what the research found and what the paper says.
Later on, the payday lenders gave Mann the data that showed how long it actually took those exact customers to pay off their loans. About 60 percent of them paid off the loan within 14 days of the date they’d predicted.
There are many different ways to calculate annual percentage rate of a loan. Depending on which method is used, the rate calculated may differ dramatically; e.g., for a $15 charge on a $100 14-day payday loan, it could be (from the borrower’s perspective) anywhere from 391% to 3,733%.[6]
Diane Standaert is the director of state policy at the Center for Responsible Lending, which has offices in North Carolina, California, and Washington, D.C. The CRL calls itself a “nonprofit, non-partisan organization” with a focus on “fighting predatory lending practices.” You’ve probably already figured out that the CRL is anti-payday loan. Standaert argues that payday loans are often not used how the industry markets them, as a quick solution to a short-term emergency.
Income tax refund anticipation loans are not technically payday loans (because they are repayable upon receipt of the borrower’s income tax refund, not at his next payday), but they have similar credit and cost characteristics. A car title loan is secured by the borrower’s car, but are available only to borrowers who hold clear title (i.e., no other loans) to a vehicle. The maximum amount of the loan is some fraction of the resale value of the car. A similar credit facility seen in the UK is a logbook loan secured against a car’s logbook, which the lender retains.[93] These loans may be available on slightly better terms than an unsecured payday loan, since they are less risky to the lender. If the borrower defaults, then the lender can attempt to recover costs by repossessing and reselling the car.
First, Mann wanted to gauge borrowers’ expectations — how long they thought it would take them to pay back a payday loan. So he designed a survey that was given out to borrowers in a few dozen payday loan shops across five states.
The stakes are very high, not just for the lenders, but for the whole “new middle class.” It seems obvious that there must be a far less expensive way of providing credit to the less creditworthy. But once you delve into the question of why rates are so high, you begin to realize that the solution isn’t obvious at all.
Fast Payday And Auto Loans

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks personal savings rates for American households. According to numbers dating back to the 1950s, personal savings rates reach an all-time high of approximately 17 percent. Today, that number hovers around 5 percent. It’s not that Americans today don’t want to save for a rainy day, but rather that for many individuals and families, the rainy days never seem to go away. Rising costs keep many people living check to check, which can make it difficult to deal with emergencies. While savings are great, where do you turn if you need a quick financial boost and don’t have any cash stowed away? The answer could be an online cash advance loan.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are examining banks’ roles in the online loans, according to several people with direct knowledge of the matter. Benjamin M. Lawsky, who heads New York State’s Department of Financial Services, is investigating how banks enable the online lenders to skirt New York law and make loans to residents of the state, where interest rates are capped at 25 percent.
Jump up ^ Choplin, Jessica; Stark, Debra; Ahmad, Jasmine (2011). “A Psychological Investigation of Consumer Vulnerability to Fraud: Legal and Policy Implication”. Hein Online. pp. 61–108. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
Payday loans are legal in 27 states, and 9 others allows some form of short term storefront lending with restrictions. The remaining 14 and the District of Columbia forbid the practice.[64] The annual percentage rate (APR) is also limited in some jurisdictions to prevent usury.[65][66] And in some states, there are laws limiting the number of loans a borrower can take at a single time.
But state and federal officials are taking aim at the banks’ role at a time when authorities are increasing their efforts to clamp down on payday lending and its practice of providing quick money to borrowers who need cash.
“Without the assistance of the banks in processing and sending electronic funds, these lenders simply couldn’t operate,” said Josh Zinner, co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, which works with community groups in New York.
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.
Payday lenders have made effective use of the sovereign status of Native American reservations, often forming partnerships with members of a tribe to offer loans over the Internet which evade state law.[73] However, the Federal Trade Commission has begun the aggressively monitor these lenders as well.[74] While some tribal lenders are operated by Native Americans,[75] there is also evidence many are simply a creation of so-called “rent-a-tribe” schemes, where a non-Native company sets up operations on tribal land.[76][77]
This reinforces the findings of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) study from 2011 which found black and Hispanic families, recent immigrants, and single parents were more likely to use payday loans. In addition, their reasons for using these products were not as suggested by the payday industry for one time expenses, but to meet normal recurring obligations.[15]
That does sound reasonable, doesn’t it? A typical credit-card rate is around 15 percent, maybe 20 or higher if you have bad credit. But to the payday-loan industry, a proposed cap of 36 percent is not reasonable at all.