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.
Payday loans are often used by people who are in a financial bind and looking for temporary relief until their next paycheck, like many government workers who were furloughed due to the government shutdown this week. In most instances, this option is exercised if no other immediate resources, such as credit cards or funds from a savings account, are available.
In May 2008, the debt charity Credit Action made a complaint to the United Kingdom Office of Fair Trading (OFT) that payday lenders were placing advertising which violated advertising regulations on the social network website Facebook. The main complaint was that the APR was either not displayed at all or not displayed prominently enough, which is clearly required by UK advertising standards.
It’s a coincidence that Penny, the heroine of Mary H.K. Choi’s young-adult novel Emergency Contact, happens to be passing by as Sam, her local barista, is having his first panic attack. She gives him a ride, and her number, and tells him to text her when he gets home. He jokes that she’s his “emergency contact.”
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Traub emphasizes that stronger state-level regulations will remain in place, as a repeal of the federal rule would not automatically preempt existing state and local regulations. Then again, many advocates are worried that the industry will now double down on their ongoing battle to weaken state-level protections.
Other options are available to most payday loan customers. These include pawnbrokers, credit union loans with lower interest and more stringent terms which take longer to gain approval, employee access to earned but unpaid wages, credit payment plans, paycheck cash advances from employers (“advance on salary”), auto pawn loans, bank overdraft protection, cash advances from credit cards, emergency community assistance plans, small consumer loans, installment loans and direct loans from family or friends. The Pew Charitable Trusts found in 2013 their study on the ways in which users pay off payday loans that borrowers often took a payday loan to avoid one of these alternatives, only to turn to one of them to pay off the payday loan.
DeYOUNG: The payday lender doesn’t collect any other information. The payday borrower then writes a check — and this is the key part of the technology — the payday borrower then writes a check for the amount of the loan and postdates it by two weeks. And this becomes the collateral for the loan. So should the payday borrower not pay the loan off in two weeks, the payday lender then deposits the check.
Contact your state’s regulator or attorney general office for more information. You may also contact a legal aid attorney or private attorney for assistance. You can submit a complaint about payday loans with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-2372.
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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.
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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.
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Fulmer says that payday-loan interest rates aren’t nearly as predatory as they seem, for two reasons. First: when you hear “400 percent on an annualized basis,” you might think that people are borrowing the money for a year. But these loans are designed to be held for just a few weeks, unless, of course, they get rolled over a bunch of times. And, reason number two: because payday loans are so small — the average loan is about $375— the fees need to be relatively high to make it worthwhile for the lender. For every $100 borrowed, Fulmer says, the lender gets about $15 in fees. So, capping the rate at an annualized 36 percent just wouldn’t work.
Jonathan Zinman is a professor of economics at Dartmouth College. Zinman says that a number of studies have tried to answer the benchmark question of whether payday lending is essentially a benefit to society. Some studies say yes …
DeYOUNG: We need to do more research and try to figure out the best ways to regulate rather than regulations that are being pursued now that would eventually shut down the industry. I don’t want to come off as being an advocate of payday lenders. That’s not my position. My position is I want to make sure the users of payday loans who are using them responsibly and for who are made better off by them don’t lose access to this product.
DeYOUNG: Borrowing money is like renting money. You get to use it two weeks and then you pay it back. You could rent a car for two weeks, right? You get to use that car. Well, if you calculate the annual percentage rate on that car rental — meaning that if you divide the amount you pay on that car by the value of that automobile — you get similarly high rates. So this isn’t about interest. This is about short-term use of a product that’s been lent to you. This is just arithmetic.
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.
You can obtain your credit reports and credit scores for free, so use those options whenever you can. You’re entitled to your free credit reports once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com, and there are free services and tools out there that allow you to monitor your credit scores (Credit.com’s Credit Report Card is one of them).
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.”
DeYOUNG: OK, in a short sentence that’s highly scientific I would begin by saying, “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The question comes down to how do we identify the bath water and how do we identify the baby here. One way is to collect a lot of information, as the CFPB suggests, about the creditworthiness of the borrower. But that raises the production cost of payday loans and will probably put the industry out of business. But I think we can all agree that once someone pays fees in an aggregate amount equal to the amount that was originally borrowed, that’s pretty clear that there’s a problem there.
Since the very beginning of our interactions with Mrs. Shank’s practice, the entire staff has made an otherwise intimidating and uncomfortable experience, go as smoothly as possible for us. From our initial consultation with Dallas …MoreSince the very beginning of our interactions with Mrs…. Read More
“If this legislative session is like last session, payday lenders will likely be pushing more of their dangerous bills in more states,” said CRL’s State Policy Director Diane Standaert in a statement. “States, just as they all did last year, must reject these efforts by the payday lenders to increase the types of the predatory products they’re peddling” by enacting and maintaining existing rate caps.
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Spotloan is a better way to borrow extra cash. It’s not a payday loan. It’s an installment loan, which means you pay down the principal with each on-time payment. Borrow $300 to $800 and pay us back a little at a time.
The “checks cashed” storefronts that line the main drags of poor communities across the country are largely linked to large banking monopolies, sucking assets from poor communities to pad multinational capital flows. According to the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), average interest rates for payday loans are nearly 400 percent APR. The CFPB’s rule was long overdue, after five years of deliberations in rulemaking, during which the financial-industry lobbyists complained that it would ruin a system that was the only pathway to credit for 30 million consumers. But activists say that, instead of being “served” with deceptive financial predation, underbanked communities really need sustainable financial infrastructures that provide transparent, ethical loans that are structured for repayment, not usury. Many community groups have been promoting nonprofit credit unions and other community-based banking institutions, such as government-run public banks and postal banking, that allow poor households to build assets on equitable terms, and are trying to set new industry standards based on fair-lending principles.
MARC FUSARO: The Consumer Credit Research Foundation and I had an interest in the paper being as clear as possible. And if someone, including Hilary Miller, would take a paragraph that I had written and re-write it in a way that made what I was trying to say more clear, I’m happy for that kind of advice. I have taken papers to the university writing center before and they’ve helped me make my writing more clear. And there’s nothing scandalous about that, at all. I mean the results of the paper have never been called into question. Nobody had suggested I changed any other results or anything like that based on any comments from anybody. Frankly, I think this is much ado about nothing.
In California for example a payday lender can charge a 14-day APR of 459% for a $100 loan. Finance charges on these loans are also a significant factor for borrowers as the fees can range up to approximately $18 per $100 of loan.
DIANE STANDAERT: From the data that we’ve seen, payday loans disproportionately are concentrated in African-American and Latino communities, and that African-American and Latino borrowers are disproportionately represented among the borrowing population.
WERTH: The best example concerns an economist named Marc Fusaro at Arkansas Tech University. So, in 2011, he released a paper called “Do Payday Loans Trap Consumers in a Cycle of Debt?” And his answer was, basically, no, they don’t.
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Last year the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) crafted a long-awaited rule on payday lending—the industry offering short-term loans that exploit poor consumers—to clamp down on fraud by forcing lenders to “reasonably determine that the consumer has the ability to repay the loan” (rather than defaulting or submitting to even more exploitative terms). The rule, spearheaded by the Obama administration and widely supported by consumer and public-interest groups, allowed exemptions for smaller-scale loans by requiring lenders to follow certain consumer-protection provisions rather than go through the “ability-to-pay” determination.
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