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DeYoung also argues that most payday borrowers know exactly what they’re getting into when they sign up; that they’re not unwitting and desperate people who are being preyed upon. He points to a key piece of research by Ronald Mann; that’s another co-author on the New York Fed blog post.
Allison Martin is a copywriter and financial mentor. She specializes in educating individuals about personal finance through insightful and candid articles. Allison earned her Bachelor of Science and Master of Accountancy degrees from the University of South Florida. She also covers personal finance topics at Love to Know and Lifehack. www.allisonemartin.com
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.
FULMER: It would take the $15 and it would make that fee $1.38 per $100 borrowed. That’s less than 7.5 cents per day. The New York Times can’t sell a newspaper for 7.5 cents a day. And somehow we’re expected to be offering unsecured, relatively, $100 loans for a two-week period for 7.5 cents a day. It just doesn’t make economical sense.
There’s one more thing I want to add to today’s discussion. The payday-loan industry is, in a lot of ways, an easy target. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like a symptom of a much larger problem, which is this: remember, in order to get a payday loan, you need to have a job and a bank account. So what does it say about an economy in which millions of working people make so little money that they can’t pay their phone bills, that they can’t absorb one hit like a ticket for smoking in public?
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.
Brian Melzer of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that payday loan users did suffer a reduction in their household financial situation, as the high costs of repeated rollover loans impacted their ability to pay recurring bills such as utilities and rent. This assumes a payday user will rollover their loan rather than repay it, which has been shown both by the FDIC and the Consumer Finance Protection bureau in large sample studies of payday consumers 
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To complete a payday loan application a borrower must provide paystubs from their employer showing their current levels of income. Payday lenders often base their loan principal on a percentage of the borrower’s predicted short-term income. Many also use a borrower’s wages as collateral. Other factors influencing the loan terms also include a borrower’s credit score and credit history which is obtained from a hard credit pull at the time of application.
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Many countries offer basic banking services through their postal systems. The United States Post Office Department offered such as service in the past. Called the United States Postal Savings System it was discontinued in 1967. In January 2014 the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Postal Service issued a white paper suggesting that the USPS could offer banking services, to include small dollar loans for under 30% APR. Support and criticism quickly followed; opponents of postal banking argued that as payday lenders would be forced out of business due to competition, the plan is nothing more than a scheme to support postal employees.
The rule would also target longer-term loans with a 36 percent yearly interest rate or higher, restricting lenders from directly extracting money from the consumer’s account, without the borrower’s explicit consent, if they failed to repay twice in a row. Any direct withdrawal from a consumer’s account would also require standard prior notification. The commonsense rule was projected to reduce the industry’s yearly revenue by two-thirds.
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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 …
Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post. And you’ll find credits for the music in the episode noted within the transcript.
SpotloanSM is a brand owned by BlueChip Financial, a tribally-owned entity organized under and governed by the laws of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota, a federally recognized Indian Tribe. BlueChip is located on and operates within the Tribe’s reservation.
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.
Cash advances are another short-term loan option that can help bridge the gap until payday arrives. You can apply in minutes and, upon approval, the funds from your cash advance are deposited in your account as soon as the next business day.
The rules should be formally proposed this spring, but the pushback—from the industry and from more-surprising sources—has already been fierce. Dennis Shaul, who, before he became the head of the industry’s trade association, was a senior adviser to then-Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, accused the rule-makers of a harmful paternalism, rooted in a belief that payday-lending customers “are not able to make their own choices about credit.” All 10 of Florida’s congressional Democrats wrote in a letter to Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director, that the proposals do an “immeasurable disservice to our constituents, many of whom rely on the availability of short-term and small-dollar loans.” Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, recently co-sponsored a bill that would delay the regulations for at least two years.
The explanation for this is not simple, and a variety of economic jargon floats around the issue. But it all begins with this: The typical payday-loan consumer is too desperate, too unsophisticated, or too exhausted from being treated with disrespect by traditional lenders to engage in price shopping. So demand is what economists call price inelastic. As Clarence Hodson, who published a book in 1919 about the business of small loans, put it, “Necessity cannot bargain to advantage with cupidity.” In its last annual financial report, Advance America, one of the country’s biggest payday lenders, wrote, “We believe that the principal competitive factors are customer service, location, convenience, speed, and confidentiality.” You’ll notice it didn’t mention price.
So, the payday business model is not like a pawn shop, where you surrender your valuable possessions to raise cash. To get a payday loan, you need to have a job and a bank account. According to Pew survey data, some 12 million Americans — roughly 1 in 20 adults — take out a payday loan in a given year. They tend to be relatively young and earn less than $40,000; they tend to not have a four-year college degree; and while the most common borrower is a white female, the rate of borrowing is highest among minorities.
Payday lenders charge borrowers extremely high levels of interest which can range up to 500% in annual percentage yield (APR). Most states have usury laws that limit interest charges to less than approximately 35% however payday lenders fall under exemptions that allow for their high interest. Since these loans qualify for many state lending loopholes, borrowers should beware. Regulations on these loans are governed by the individual states with some states even outlawing payday loans of any kind.
ZINMAN: And so we have a setup for a nice natural experiment there. You have two neighboring states, similar in a lot of ways. One passed a law, another considered passing a law, but didn’t quite pass it.
As you find when you dig into just about any modern economic scenario, most people have at least one horse in every race, which makes it hard to separate advocacy and reality. So let’s go where Freakonomics Radio often goes when we want to find someone who does not have a horse in the race: to academia. Let’s ask some academic researchers if the payday-loan industry is really as nasty as it seems.
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