Your Money: Payday loans can get out of control

Your Money: Payday loans can get out of control

Story Highlights

  • Payday lending is getting increased scrutiny
  • Fees may seem small, but consumers can fall into “debt traps”
  • 19 million people use payday loans every year in the U.S.

For someone who can’t pay a cellphone bill or the rent, it might seem perfectly reasonable to dish out an extra $42 to get a $300 two-week advance on a paycheck in Michigan.

No doubt, borrowers may be able to afford to pay $15 or $20 in fees for each $100 borrowed for some payday loans.

But the real question is can they actually afford to repay the payday loans? Come up with $300 or $500 in just two weeks? Or even in a month? It’s not a small issue, especially as regulators examine whether borrowers can afford to repay mortgages and student loans, too.

Payday lending is receiving more scrutiny. Richard Cordray, director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, noted in a speech in February that the fees may seem small for quick cash, but consumers in a financial jam could fall into debt traps if the fees pile up and consumers must borrow again to avoid defaulting and to keep making ends meet.

About 19 million Americans use payday loans each year, according to the Community Financial Services Association of America, a trade group.

Some services, such as Check ‘n Go, have online calculators that can make the loans seem doable. Plug in a $300 amount to calculate the payback in Michigan and you’d see there’s a $ finance charge. You’d pay back $, and the annualized interest rate would be %.

The payback would vary significantly by state. In Texas, that $300 payday loan would have a finance charge of $; you’d pay back $ and the APR would be %.

“It is highly unrealistic for borrowers to think that they will repay the loan on their next payday,” according to Pew’s latest “Payday Lending in America” report.

Alex Horowitz, research manager for Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C., maintains that many people end up getting trapped in a payday loan cycle that lasts closer to five months or more.

About 27% of those surveyed in the Pew Report said a payday lender making a withdrawal from their bank account caused an overdraft, according to Pew’s report.

Only 14% of those surveyed in the Pew report said they can afford to pay more than $400 toward their payday loan debt in a month, the report noted.

Amy Cantu, a spokeswoman for the Community Financial Services Association of America, disputed several areas of the Pew report, noting that the typical customer uses the product for weeks or months, not years. A consumer may use the product seven times over the course of the year for a short period of time, and not all uses are consecutive, she said.

Your Money: Payday loans can get out of control

The Communicating Arts Credit Union in Detroit has a MyPayToday product that offers a loan of $500 at a time but the consumer has two months to pay it off. The annual fee is $70 – which could lead to significant savings for repeated fees if a person borrowed this way more than a few times a year. There’s also an interest rate of 18%.

Fifth Third Bank has an Early Access short-term product that was launched in 2012 and can be available for many customers with certain checking accounts in its markets, including Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Illinois and Florida.

Even the bank’s information acknowledges that the product is “an expensive form of credit.” A $300 advance with the Early Access product would cost $30 – or an annualized percentage rate of 120%.

And yes, you could rack up overdraft charges if you’re not careful. Fifth Third said it would not charge overdraft fees on an automatic payment to cover the Early Access loan, but subsequent checks that bounce would face overdraft fees.

“Our point of view is that it’s for emergencies,” said Jack Riley, spokesman for Fifth Third Bank in eastern Michigan.

As the regulators debate this one, though, consumers who are tempted to take a payday loan must honestly answer: How quickly will I really be able to repay this loan?

Average borrowers nationwide end up indebted for five months, paying $520 in finance charges for loans averaging $375, according to the Pew report.

Will the payday loan get you through a short rough patch? Or will you end up in debt a lot longer than advertised?

All payday borrowers must have an income stream and a checking account. Most payday loans in Elyria payday borrowers are employed, but experts say it is possible for someone to get a payday loan with a benefit check, such as Social Security.

One in six payday loan borrowers has used a tax refund to eliminate payday loan debt, according to a report by Pew Charitable Trusts.

There are some options to consider instead of a payday loan – a small loan from a family member or friend; a small loan from a bank or credit union; asking for an advance in pay from an employer, and asking the creditor for more time to pay the bills.