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?
A recent law journal note summarized the justifications for regulating payday lending. The summary notes that while it is difficult to quantify the impact on specific consumers, there are external parties who are clearly affected by the decision of a borrower to get a payday loan. Most directly impacted are the holders of other low interest debt from the same borrower, which now is less likely to be paid off since the limited income is first used to pay the fee associated with the payday loan. The external costs of this product can be expanded to include the businesses that are not patronized by the cash-strapped payday customer to the children and family who are left with fewer resources than before the loan. The external costs alone, forced on people given no choice in the matter, may be enough justification for stronger regulation even assuming that the borrower him or herself understood the full implications of the decision to seek a payday loan.
Fringe financial services is the label sometimes applied to payday lending and its close cousins, like installment lending and auto-title lending—services that provide quick cash to credit-strapped borrowers. It’s a euphemism, sure, but one that seems to aptly convey the dubiousness of the activity and the location of the customer outside the mainstream of American life.
SEBASTIAN McKAMEY: It’s open. It’s outside. So I was just standing outside, waiting on the bus stop. And I lit me a cigarette and the officers pulled up on me and was like, “Hey, you know you can’t smoke here?” I was like, “No, I didn’t know. I don’t see no signs.” So they wrote me a ticket.
A small percentage of payday lenders have, in the past, threatened delinquent borrowers with criminal prosecution for check fraud. This practice is illegal in many jurisdictions and has been denounced by the Community Financial Services Association of America, the industry’s trade association.
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.
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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.
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)
“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.
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?
DEYOUNG: Yes, I like to think of myself as an objective observer of social activity, as an economist. But there’s one section of the blog where we highlight mixed evidence. That in some cases having access to payday loans looks like on balance, it helps reduce financial distress at the household level. And we also point to, I believe, an equal number of studies in that section that find the exact opposite. And then of course there’s another section in the blog where we point directly to rollovers and rollovers is where the rubber hits the road on this. If we can somehow predict which folks will not be able to handle this product and would roll it over incessantly, then we could impress upon payday lenders not to make the loans to those people. This product, in fact, is particularly badly suited to predict this because the payday lender only gets a small number of pieces of information when she makes the loan, as opposed to the information that a regulated financial institution would collect. The expense of collecting that information, of underwriting the loan in the traditional way that a bank would, would be too high for the payday lender to offer the product. If we load up additional costs on the production function of these loans, the loans won’t be profitable any longer.
Zinman and Carrell got hold of personnel data from U.S. Air Force bases across many states that looked at job performance and military readiness. Like the Oregon-Washington study, this one also took advantage of changes in different states’ payday laws, which allowed the researchers to isolate that variable and then compare outcomes.
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.
DUBNER: Hey Christopher. So, as I understand it, much of what you’ve learned about CCRF’s involvement in the payday research comes from a watchdog group called the Campaign for Accountability, or CFA? So, first off, tell us a little bit more about them, and what their incentives might be.
You’ve stopped the cycle of borrowing and retaken control. With our expert debt advice and budgeting help via Debt Remedy or on the phone you can manage your outgoings within your income, without the need to take more credit.
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.
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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DEYOUNG: That’s a very standard disclaimer. The Federal Reserve System is rather unique among regulators across the world. They see the value in having their researchers exercise scientific and academic freedom because they know that inquiry is a good thing.
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
Consider a study that Zinman published a few years back. It looked at what happened in Oregon after that state capped interest rates on short-term loans from the usual 400 percent to 150 percent, which meant a payday lender could no longer charge the industry average of roughly $15 per $100 borrowed; now they could charge only about $6. As an economist might predict, if the financial incentive to sell a product is severely curtailed, people will stop selling the product.
Some payday loan companies gather your personal information and then shop around for a lender. That means your information could go out to third parties as part of the lending process. Other companies will even sell contact information, leaving you dealing with sales calls and spam emails. LendUp protects customer information and will never sell it.
RONALD MANN: I have a general idea that people that are really tight for money know a lot more where their next dollar is coming from and going than the people that are not particularly tight for money. So, I generally think that the kinds of people that borrow from payday lenders have a much better idea of how their finances are going to go for the next two or three months because it’s really a crucial item for them that they worry about every day. So that’s what I set out to test.
At Check `n Go, we want to be there for California residents when money needs arise. Our California payday loans range from $100 to $255. Online installment loans and The Choice Loan (available at Check `n Go stores) range from $2505 to $5000.
The likelihood that a family will use a payday loan increases if they are unbanked, or lack access to a traditional deposit bank account. In an American context the families who will use a payday loan are disproportionately either of black or Hispanic descent, recent immigrants, and/or under-educated. These individuals are least able to secure normal, lower-interest-rate forms of credit. Since payday lending operations charge higher interest-rates than traditional banks, they have the effect of depleting the assets of low-income communities. The Insight Center, a consumer advocacy group, reported in 2013 that payday lending cost U.S communities $774 million a year.
You know the drill by now: A runaway trolley is careening down a track. There are five workers ahead, sure to be killed if the trolley reaches them. You can throw a lever to switch the trolley to a neighboring track, but there’s a worker on that one as well who would likewise be doomed. Do you hit the switch and kill one person, or do nothing and kill five?
In the more recent innovation of online payday loans, consumers complete the loan application online (or in some instances via fax, especially where documentation is required). The funds are then transferred by direct deposit to the borrower’s account, and the loan repayment and/or the finance charge is electronically withdrawn on the borrower’s next payday.
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.
Alternative Financial Services: Innovating to Meet Customer Needs in an Evolving Regulatory Framework, by John Hecht, Research Analyst, Stephens Inc. (now at Jefferies & Company Inc.) (February, 2014).
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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.
During a speech on Thursday, President Trump revealed a striking ignorance of one of the pillars of his country’s educational system. In the course of promoting his infrastructure plan, he, a bit perplexingly, dismissed the country’s community colleges, suggesting he doesn’t know what purpose they serve. “We do not know what a ‘community college’ means,” he told the crowd in an Ohio training facility for construction apprentices, moments after expressing nostalgia for the vocational schools that flourished when he was growing up—schools that offered hands-on training in fields such as welding and cosmetology.
MCKAMEY: I got like $200 and it was just like I needed some real quick cash. There wasn’t no hesitations, no nothing. They asked me for certain pieces of information. I provided the information, and I got my loan.
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