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.
Fulmer’s firm, Advance America, runs about 2,400 payday loan shops, across 29 states. All in, there are roughly 20,000 payday shops in the U.S., with total loan volume estimated at around $40 billion a year. If you were to go back to the early 1990s, there were fewer than 500 payday-loan stores. But the industry grew as many states relaxed their usury laws — many states, but not all. Payday lending is forbidden in 14 states, including much of the northeast and in Washington, D.C. Another nine states allow payday loans but only with more borrower-friendly terms. And that leaves 27 states where payday lenders can charge in the neighborhood of 400 percent interest — states ranging from California to Texas to Wisconsin to Alabama, which is what drew President Obama there.
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.
Prior to 2009 regulation of consumer credit was primarily conducted by the states and territories. Some states such as New South Wales and Queensland legislated effective annual interest rate caps of 48%. In 2008 the Australian states and territories referred powers of consumer credit to the Commonwealth. In 2009 the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (Cth) was introduced, which initially treated payday lenders no differently from all other lenders. In 2013 Parliament tightened regulation on the payday lending further introducing the Consumer Credit and Corporations Legislation Amendment (Enhancements) Act 2012 (Cth) which imposed an effective APR cap of 48% for all consumer credit contracts (inclusive of all fees and charges). Payday lenders who provided a loan falling within the definition of a small amount credit contract (SACC), defined as a contract provided by a non authorised-deposit taking institution for less than $2,000 for a term between 16 days and 1 year, are permitted to charge a 20% establishment fee in addition to monthly (or part thereof) fee of 4% (effective 48% p.a.). Payday lenders who provide a loan falling within the definition of a medium amount credit contract (MACC), defined as a credit contract provided by a non-deposit taking institution for between $2,000–$5,000 may charge a $400 establishment fee in addition to the statutory interest rate cap of 48%. Payday lenders are still required to comply with Responsible lending obligations applying to all creditors. Unlike other jurisdictions Australian payday lenders providing SACC or MACC products are not required to display their fees as an effective annual interest rate percentage.
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The problem we’ve been looking at today is pretty straightforward: there are a lot of low-income people in the U.S. who’ve come to rely on a financial instrument, the payday loan, that is, according to its detractors, exploitative, and according to its supporters, useful. President Obama is pushing for regulatory reform; payday advocates say the reform may kill off the industry, leaving borrowers in the lurch.
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.
*CashNetUSA or third-party lender uses various credit reports, data sources and applicant information as part of its underwriting. Not all loan applications or extension requests are approved or receive the maximum amount permitted under state law. Not all instant decisions result in a loan approval.
Check ‘n Go accepts social security and disability payments as an income source for a fast payday loan. To apply online, you’ll simply need to report that this is your source of income. You may need to fax a copy of your award letter during the application process, depending on the regulations of your state of residence. You can find out if your state requires faxing by going to Check ‘n Go’s state center. To apply in-store, you’ll need to bring a copy of the award letter with you.
But as we kept researching this episode, our producer Christopher Werth learned something interesting about one study cited in that blog post — the study by Columbia law professor Ronald Mann, another co-author on the post, the study where a survey of payday borrowers found that most of them were pretty good at predicting how long it would take to pay off the loan. Here’s Ronald Mann again:
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 
So far, Facebook is standing by its VP, who said this about his intentions on Twitter: “I don’t agree with the post today and I didn’t agree with it even when I wrote it. The purpose of this post, like many others I have written internally, was to bring to the surface issues I felt deserved more discussion with the broader company.”
With annual interest rates around 400 percent, payday loans are called exploitative by critics. But the industry says those rates are necessary. And nearly 90% of borrowers are satisfied customers. (photo: stallio)
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A study by the FDIC Center for Financial Research found that “operating costs are not that out of line with the size of advance fees” collected and that, after subtracting fixed operating costs and “unusually high rate of default losses,” payday loans “may not necessarily yield extraordinary profits.”
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.
Some of the lenders in our network participate in what is known as automatic loan renewal. Simply put, if your loan is beyond a specific amount of time past due, your lender will rollover your loan. This may be offered to you in addition to options like repaying your loan in full at a later date or repaying your debt in installments over time. The minimum term for an automatic renewal is 15 days and you will likely be required to pay renewal fees and additional interest charges.
Along with reforming payday lending, Cordray is trying to jawbone banks and credit unions into offering small-dollar, payday-like loans. Theoretically, they could use their preexisting branches, mitigating the overhead costs that affect payday stores and hence enabling profitable lending at a much lower rate. This is the holy grail for consumer advocates. “What everyone really wants to see is for it to come into the mainstream of financial services if it’s going to exist at all,” Cox says.
MCKAMEY: Everybody that comes in here always comes out with a smile on their face. I don’t never see nobody come out hollering. They take care of everybody that comes in to the T. You be satisfied, I be satisfied, and I see other people be satisfied. I never seen a person walk out with a bad attitude or anything.
WERTH: So, what Fusaro did was he set up a randomized control trial where he gave one group of borrowers a traditional high-interest-rate payday loan and then he gave another group of borrowers no interest rate on their loans and then he compared the two and he found out that both groups were just as likely to roll over their loans again. And we should say, again, the research was funded by CCRF.
Even though their relationship starts with an actual emergency, as the book progresses, being emergency contacts starts to mean that they are each other’s default sounding board for the random stream-of-consciousness thoughts that cry out to be shared, even though they don’t need to be. Sam texts Penny asking for fashion advice; Penny texts Sam about how much she hates maraschino cherries. For the bulk of the book, Penny and Sam are not physically present with each other, but their relationship is built with the bricks of life’s minutiae, constructed line by line within the confines of their phones.
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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?