Payday Loans 101: Are They Really That Bad?

Payday loans– life preservers in a stormy sea or bait in shark-infested waters? It depends on who you ask.  Offering a way for those with limited means to access cash for emergency expenses sounds noble on the surface, but Payday loans are not that simple.  Some argue that they are predatory, taking advantage of people in desperate need of cash with short repayment windows and hefty fees. Others either rely on them to make ends meet, or argue that claiming Payday loans have high APRs is as rational as claiming that rental cars have high APRs. Payday loans have been an institution since the 1980’s in the United States, but do they help or hurt those who need them?  The answer appears to be more of the latter; with twelve states banning them altogether, payday loans may soon be a thing of the past. For those who find themselves in need of quick cash, there are several alternatives to payday loans that are less risky, and when combined with healthy financial planning and credit improvement activities, can significantly increase a borrower’s chances of getting the money they need– without running up their debt.

Are Payday Loans Really that Bad?

Despite their often negative perception, there is considerable support for the practice of payday lending, and when considered mathematically there is logic to claims of their legitimacy.  When calculated on an annual basis, the fees charged on payday loans come out to staggering numbers like 400%, but that’s not entirely accurate if you consider that these loans are only meant to be held for a week or two. If a borrower took out a traditional loan at an APR of 10%, the final cost of the loan would be $330, while with a payday loan fee of $45 the final cost of the loan would be $345, not too much higher. The APR on that loan however, would be a whopping 391%.  To further justify the fees charged by payday lenders, consider that the average loan taken out is around $375, so the fees have to be high to even stay in business with such low overhead.  Not to mention that with so many payday lenders in business today, competition for the market can be fierce, often driving fees down.  

Proponents of payday loans also cite car rentals as an example.  If you calculate the fees charged to rent a car for a few days you would end up with similarly high annual interest rates, but there is no controversy with the car rental industry.  Consider taking out a payday loan as you would renting a car- you’re just renting the money for a couple weeks.  That can be tricky when you get cash in your hand however. You could also argue that not paying back these loans is a personal problem, and that you shouldn’t take on any more debt than you can afford to pay off.  It’s not always that simple.  Having the financial know how to prevent yourself from entering into a cycle of debt is as simple as not taking out loans for amounts you know you don’t have, but for many underprivileged Americans on minimum wage, that’s not an option.  

Alternatives to PayDay Loans Online

Payday Loans- A cycle of entrapment

Payday loans are typically due after 14 days, and as such are designed to be a life raft for those in need of quick cash, to pay doctors bills, pet bills, etc.  Rather than charging interest, however, payday lenders charge a fee for every $100 borrowed; usually around $10-20 depending on the city or state.  Some states put a limit on the amount of fees that can be charged for a Payday loan, but some have no restrictions at all.  Now, a 15% interest rate for a longer term loan wouldn’t be ludicrous, but the catch is that payday loans have to be paid back in a week or two.  Payday lenders often know their clientele won’t be able to pay it back in the very short time frame for repayment and will need to take out another loan just to pay the first one, and another one to pay off that one, and so on and so forth- thereby creating a vicious cycle of entrapment that can last for months or even years.  Compounding the issue, most payday loans charge higher fees each time a payment is not made, so rates get higher and higher as time goes on, making the original loan that much more difficult to pay off.  In fact, according to a 2013 study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, some 75% of the payday lending industry’s fees come from borrowers who have taken out more than ten payday loans in a year.  That’s not to say the industry is funded by a small number of borrowers in large debt, in fact, the average payday loan borrower ends up spending two-thirds of the year, or around 200 days in debt. According to the same 2014 study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve, 56% of these borrowers made between $10,000 and $30,000 a year.  Regardless of the math, there’s something nefarious about a $40 billion industry funded by the economically disadvantaged, and increasingly it seems as though legislative bodies agree.

The Future of Payday loans

The current payday loan environment is oddly split in sentiment.  On the one hand, several large, federally chartered banks are beginning to expand into the “deposit advance” business- yet another euphemism for short term, high-interest loans.  Additionally, the number of websites offering payday loans online grow by the day, making them easier and easier to access.  On the other hand, many state governments are banning payday loans altogether.  12 state governments, including Georgia and New York, have banned payday lending outright.  22 states no longer allow debt rollover, and only three states have no laws on payday lending whatsoever.  For the most part, federal law has been silent on the matter of payday loans, but a 2007 bill in the defense department was passed to protect military families from predatory payday lending.  President Obama spoke often about the necessity of regulating the payday loan industry, if not ending it altogether.  Others say the payday loan industry is but a symptom of the larger issue of growing wealth inequality, and that it’s merely the easiest target in a system of institutionalized discrimination and the widening of the income gap in America.  Regardless of your stance on the issue, there is a good reason to be wary of payday loans.  Relying on them should be a last resort, after exhausting other avenues of funding.  When reducing spending and taking steps to improve one’s credit score might be better options, payday loans are enticing as a quick fix, but often that “fix” ends up just creating more debt.  Knowing your options when it comes to funding and reducing the need for it in the first place is key to avoid the cycle of entrapment that so often accompanies a payday loan.

No Credit Loans- Know Your Options

Most of the time, rather than taking out a payday loan, improving budgeting habits and improving your credit score is the best option for getting out of financial trouble.  There isn’t always that much time, however, and urgent, unexpected expenses do sometimes force the need for cash, quick.  One popular alternative to Payday loans is unsecured personal loans.  Unsecured personal loans are available to individuals of all credit and income levels and don’t require collateral to take out.  Unsecured personal loans have longer terms than payday loans, so you have more time to pay them back without having to worry about getting trapped in the repayment cycles often caused by payday loans. Going through the process of the personal loan discovery program allows you to see available options for interest rates, loan amounts, and lenders- without running a credit check and further jeopardizing your ability to get funds.  

Low Credit Score Credit Card- Freedom Gold Card
With the Freedom Gold Card you can start to build your credit score responsibly

Need a way to get cash right away? With the Freedom Gold Card everyone is approved for a $500 credit limit.  Spending money on a credit card and immediately paying it back is an important step in building up a credit score.  With the Freedom Gold Card it doesn’t matter if you have bad or no credit, the road to financial freedom has to start somewhere.  As with any argument, there are multiple sides to the payday loan debate.  Payday loans are often perceived as damaging to those that need them most and are being regulated out at the state level. On the other hand, when treated responsibly they really can do what they promise- get you out of a desperate financial situation quickly.  Online payday loans and nationwide cash advance options from major banks are stepping in to fill the place of brick and mortars, so it looks like cash advances are here to stay for the time being.  The best option, however, is to budget and take steps to improve your credit score. Options like the Freedom Gold Card and Unsecured Personal Loans can help to improve your credit score so you don’t have to rely on payday loans at all.