Here’s how they work: A borrower writes a personal check payable to the lender for the amount the person wants to borrow, plus the fee they must pay for borrowing. The company gives the borrower the amount of the check less the fee, and agrees to hold the check until the loan is due, usually the borrower’s next payday. Or, with the borrower’s permission, the company deposits the amount borrowed — less the fee — into the borrower’s checking account electronically. The loan amount is due to be debited the next payday. The fees on these loans can be a percentage of the face value of the check — or they can be based on increments of money borrowed: say, a fee for every $50 or $100 borrowed. The borrower is charged new fees each time the same loan is extended or “rolled over.”
Payday loans can be very costly. Loan amounts generally range from $50 to $1,000, depending on state laws. Fees also depend on state laws, but the structure might be something like $15 per $100 borrowed, and some states may cap how high the fee goes. Because the loans have such short terms, the cost of borrowing is generally high. A typical payday loan with a two-week term and a $15 per $100 fee has an annual percentage rate (APR) of nearly 400%, according to the CFPB. (Here’s a primer on how interest rates work.)
This reinforces the findings of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) study from 2011 which found black and Hispanic families, recent immigrants, and single parents were more likely to use payday loans. In addition, their reasons for using these products were not as suggested by the payday industry for one time expenses, but to meet normal recurring obligations.
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.
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.
APR Disclosure. Some states have laws limiting the APR that a lender can charge you. APRs range from widely and can be from 200% to 1386%. Loans from a state that has no limiting laws or loans from a bank not governed by state laws may have an even higher APR. The Annual Percentage Rate is the rate at which your loan accrues interest and is based upon the amount, cost and term of your loan, repayment amounts and timing of payments. Lenders are legally required to show you the APR and other terms of your loan before you execute a loan agreement.
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