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.
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.
And yet the fringe has gotten awfully large. The typical payday-lending customer, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts, is a white woman age 25 to 44. Payday lenders serve more than 19 million American households—nearly one in six—according to the Community Financial Services Association of America, the industry’s trade group. And even that’s only a fraction of those who could become customers any day now. The group’s CEO, Dennis Shaul, told Congress in February that as many as 76 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, without the resources to cover unexpected expenses. Or, as an online lender called Elevate Credit, which offers small loans that often have triple-digit annualized interest rates, put it in a recent financial filing, “Decades-long macroeconomic trends and the recent financial crisis have resulted in a growing ‘New Middle Class’ with little to no savings, urgent credit needs and limited options.”
At the time, McKamey was making $8.45 an hour, working at a supermarket. A $150 ticket was a big problem. He also had an outstanding $45 phone bill. So he ignored the smoking ticket, hoping it’d go away. That didn’t work out so well. He got some letters from the city, demanding he pay the fine. So he went to a payday-loan store and borrowed some money.
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Bob DeYoung makes one particularly counterintuitive argument about the use of payday loans. Rather than “trapping borrowers in a cycle of debt,” as President Obama and other critics put it, DeYoung argues that payday loans may help people avoid a cycle of debt — like the late fees your phone company charges for an unpaid bill; like the overdraft fees or bounced-check fees your bank might charge you.
At an industry conference last year, payday lenders discussed the benefits of heading offshore. Jer Ayler, president of the payday loan consultant Trihouse Inc., pinpointed Cancún, the Bahamas and Costa Rica as particularly fertile locales.
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.
Once approved, we’ll set you up with a repayment schedule for your MoneyMe advance loan, aligned with your pay cycle. If you develop a good credit history with us, you may be able to borrow larger amounts in future, depending on your financial situation. If you have any trouble repaying your loan, get in touch with us via phone, email, live chat, Facebook or Twitter and we may be able to help.
We take pride on quickly finding you a lender . You only need to fill out a short form and then wait while we will make everything to find you the cheapest payday loan online.. After your loan is approved, you will be contacted with a lender to review the terms of the loan, and if accepted, the funds will be deposited directly into your bank account!
Except to the extent the federal Truth-In-Lending Act considers your written ACH authorization “security” for the deferred deposit transaction, we take no collateral to secure the transaction. For example, we do not take a security interest in any real estate or personal property item.
The CFPB doesn’t have the authority to limit interest rates. Congress does. So what the CFPB is asking for is that payday lenders either more thoroughly evaluate a borrower’s financial profile or limit the number of rollovers on a loan, and offer easier repayment terms. Payday lenders say even these regulations might just about put them out of business — and they may be right. The CFPB estimates that the new regulations could reduce the total volume of short-term loans, including payday loans but other types as well, by roughly 60 percent.
Emergency Payday Cash Loans

To help government fight identity theft, the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, and to help attempt to verify a customer’s identity, Lenders may obtain, verify, and record information that identifies the customer.
So, given this fact, how should one think about the industry? Is it treacherous enough that it should be eliminated? Or, is it a useful, if relatively expensive, financial product that the majority of customers benefit from?
According to a study by The Pew Charitable Trusts, “Most payday loan borrowers [in the United States] are white, female, and are 25 to 44 years old. However, after controlling for other characteristics, there are five groups that have higher odds of having used a payday loan: those without a four-year college degree; home renters; African Americans; those earning below $40,000 annually; and those who are separated or divorced.” Most borrowers use payday loans to cover ordinary living expenses over the course of months, not unexpected emergencies over the course of weeks. The average borrower is indebted about five months of the year.[14]
You are not culpable under criminal laws relating to returned payment items if you default on this transaction. Consequently, we may not use or threaten to use criminal process (e.g., criminal returned item laws) to collect a defaulted transaction.
This is an expensive form of credit. RISE is designed to help you meet your borrowing needs. Appropriate emergencies might be a car repair, medical care for you or your family, or travel expenses in connection with your job. This service is not intended to provide a solution for all credit or other financial needs. Alternative forms of credit, such as a credit card cash advance, personal loan, home equity line of credit, existing savings or borrowing from a friend or relative, may be less expensive and more suitable for your financial needs. Refinancing may be available and is not automatic. Refinancing will result in additional charges.  We will never charge you any “hidden fees” that are not fully disclosed in your Agreement or the Rates & Terms. If you don’t make a payment on time we will attempt to contact you via one or more authorized methods. Because we report your payment history to one or more credit bureaus, late or non-payment of your debt may negatively impact your credit rating. If you fail to repay in accordance with your terms, we may place or sell your debt with a third-party collection agency or other company that acquires and/or collects delinquent consumer debt. Be sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of your credit before signing your agreement.
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.
So we are left with at least two questions, I guess. Number one: how legitimate is any of the payday-loan research we’ve been telling you about today, pro or con? And number two: how skeptical should we be of any academic research?
In many cases, borrowers write a post-dated check (check with a future date) to the lender; if the borrowers don’t have enough money in their account by the check’s date, their check will bounce. In Texas, payday lenders are prohibited from suing a borrower for theft if the check is post-dated. One payday lender in the state instead gets their customers to write checks dated for the day the loan is given. Customers borrow money because they don’t have any, so the lender accepts the check knowing that it would bounce on the check’s date. If the borrower fails to pay on the due date, the lender sues the borrower for writing a hot check.[32]
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.
So we can approve your loan fast, we use super secure Proviso technology to access your last 90 days of bank statements in seconds. So don’t worry about sending us loads of documents and payslips! Proviso only gives us read-only access, so be assured that your online banking security won’t be compromised and no one can touch your account.
While the banks, which include giants like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, do not make the loans, they are a critical link for the lenders, enabling the lenders to withdraw payments automatically from borrowers’ bank accounts, even in states where the loans are banned entirely. In some cases, the banks allow lenders to tap checking accounts even after the customers have begged them to stop the withdrawals.
WERTH: He was communicating with CCRF’s chairman, a lawyer named Hilary Miller. He’s the president of the Payday Loan Bar Association. And he’s testified before Congress on behalf of payday lenders. And as you can see in the e-mails between him and Fusaro, again the professor here, Miller was not only reading drafts of the paper but he was making all kinds of suggestions about the paper’s structure, its tone, its content. And eventually what you see is Miller writing whole paragraphs that go pretty much verbatim straight into the finished paper.
While there are no exact measures of how many lenders have migrated online, roughly three million Americans obtained an Internet payday loan in 2010, according to a July report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. By 2016, Internet loans will make up roughly 60 percent of the total payday loans, up from about 35 percent in 2011, according to John Hecht, an analyst with the investment bank Stephens Inc. As of 2011, he said, the volume of online payday loans was $13 billion, up more than 120 percent from $5.8 billion in 2006.
Critics — including President Obama — say short-term, high-interest loans are predatory, trapping borrowers in a cycle of debt. But some economists see them as a useful financial instrument for people who need them. As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau promotes new regulation, we ask: who’s right?
Notice to Texas and Ohio Customers: In Texas and Ohio, RISE is a Credit Services Organization/Credit Access Business operating in accordance with each state’s applicable Credit Services Organization Act. In Ohio, RISE Credit Service of Ohio, LLC d/b/a RISE is licensed by the Department of Commerce, Division of Financial Institutions Certificate No. CS.900086.000. In Texas, RISE Credit Service of Texas, LLC d/b/a RISE is licensed by the Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner, License No. 16507-62536. RISE is not the lender or a fiduciary of the lender.
You don’t have to worry about any embarrassing phone calls to your employer; LendUp does not call them. Take the five minutes to put in an application online or using a mobile device and you could have money in as few as within one business day. LendUp can’t guarantee receipt of your funds within a certain timeframe, though, because although we initiate a transfer of money to you, your bank controls when you’ll have access to it.
The payday lending industry argues that conventional interest rates for lower dollar amounts and shorter terms would not be profitable. For example, a $100 one-week loan, at a 20% APR (compounded weekly) would generate only 38 cents of interest, which would fail to match loan processing costs. Research shows that on average, payday loan prices moved upward, and that such moves were “consistent with implicit collusion facilitated by price focal points”.[34]
A more nefarious theory is that banks currently make a lot of money on a payday-lending alternative that already exists—namely, overdraft protection. One study done by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that most debit-card overdraft fees are incurred on transactions of $24 or less, and yield a median fee of $34. Why would banks want to undercut such a rich source of profits?
While the loans are simple to obtain — some online lenders promise approval in minutes with no credit check — they are tough to get rid of. Customers who want to repay their loan in full typically must contact the online lender at least three days before the next withdrawal. Otherwise, the lender automatically renews the loans at least monthly and withdraws only the interest owed. Under federal law, customers are allowed to stop authorized withdrawals from their account. Still, some borrowers say their banks do not heed requests to stop the loans.
Ivy Brodsky, 37, thought she had figured out a way to stop six payday lenders from taking money from her account when she visited her Chase branch in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn in March to close it. But Chase kept the account open and between April and May, the six Internet lenders tried to withdraw money from Ms. Brodsky’s account 55 times, according to bank records reviewed by The New York Times. Chase charged her $1,523 in fees — a combination of 44 insufficient fund fees, extended overdraft fees and service fees.
When you add up the benefits of online payday loans and weigh the alternatives, it’s clear that payday loans can be a good solution for short-term cash problems. Still, only you can decide if a payday loan is right for you. Before making a decision, be sure to consider whether you can afford to repay a payday loan and its fees on time.
2. Loan funding requires verification of application information. Depending on ability to verify this information, loan funding may be extended up to two days. All loans subject to approval pursuant to standard underwriting criteria. In-store cash pickup is subject to approval pursuant to standard underwriting criteria. In-store cash pickup not available in all states.
Consumer advocates and other experts[who?] argue, however, that payday loans appear to exist in a classic market failure. In a perfect market of competing sellers and buyers seeking to trade in a rational manner, pricing fluctuates based on the capacity of the market. Payday lenders have no incentive to price their loans competitively since loans are not capable of being patented. Thus, if a lender chooses to innovate and reduce cost to borrowers in order to secure a larger share of the market the competing lenders will instantly do the same, negating the effect. For this reason, among others, all lenders in the payday marketplace charge at or very near the maximum fees and rates allowed by local law.[24]
WERTH: It’s hard to say. Actually, we just don’t know. But whatever their incentive might be, their FOIA requests have produced what look like some pretty damning e-mails between CCRF — which, again, receives funding from payday lenders — and academic researchers who have written about payday lending.
There’s no single reason payday lending in its more mainstream, visible form took off in the 1990s, but an essential enabler was deregulation. States began to roll back usury caps, and changes in federal laws helped lenders structure their loans so as to avoid the caps. By 2008, writes Jonathan Zinman, an economist at Dartmouth, payday-loan stores nationwide outnumbered McDonald’s restaurants and Starbucks coffee shops combined.
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.)
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After studying millions of payday loans, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that 67 percent went to borrowers with seven or more transactions a year, and the majority of borrowers paid more in fees than the amount of their initial loan. This is why Diane Standaert, the director of state policy at the Center for Responsible Lending, which argues for a 36 percent interest-rate cap, says, “The typical borrower experience involves long-term indebtedness—that’s core to the business model.”