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Better Alternatives to Payday or Cash Advance loans

Sep 17, 2008
Other options are available to most payday loan customers. These include pawnbrokers, credit union loans with lower interest and more stringent terms, credit payment plans, paycheck cash advances from employers, bank overdraft protection, cash advances from credit cards, emergency community assistance plans, small consumer loans and direct loans from family or friends.

Payday lenders do not compare their interest rates to those of mainstream lenders. Instead, they compare their fees to the overdraft, late payment, and penalty fees that will be incurred if the customer is unable to secure any credit whatsoever.

The lenders therefore list a different set of alternatives (costs expressed here as APRs for two-week terms):[citation needed]

$100 payday advance with $15 fee = 391% APR;
$100 bounced check with $48 NSF/merchant fees = 1,251% APR;
$100 credit card balance with $26 late fee = 678% APR;
$100 utility bill with $50 late/reconnect fees = 1,304% APR.

Variations on payday lending

A minority of mainstream banks offer advances for customers whose paychecks or other funds are deposited electronically into their accounts. The terms are similar to those of a payday loan; a customer receives a predetermined cash credit available for immediate withdrawal. The amount is deducted, along with a fee, usually about 10 percent of the amount borrowed, when the next direct deposit is posted to the customer's account. After the programs attracted regulatory attention, Wells Fargo called its fee "voluntary" and offered to waive it for any reason. It later scaled back the program in several states.

Income tax refund anticipation loans are not technically payday loans (because they are repayable upon receipt of the borrower's income tax refund, not at his next payday), but they have similar credit and cost characteristics. A car title loan is secured by the borrower's car, but are available only to borrowers who hold clear title (i.e., no other loans) to a vehicle. The maximum amount of the loan is some fraction of the resale value of the car. A similar credit facility seen in the UK is a logbook loan secured against a car's logbook, which the lender retains. These loans may be available on slightly better terms than an unsecured payday loan, since they are less risky to the lender. If the borrower defaults, then the lender can attempt to recover costs by repossessing and reselling the car.

Proponents' stance

Proponents claim that cash advance loans provide a service that is not available from other sources. Many credit unions have attempted to offer similar products, but have been unable to do so without government subsidies or grants, a fact that many lenders and reports have highlighted. Furthermore, most of these programs offered by credit unions have ended due to the high default rates of borrowers.

A staff report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York concluded that payday loans should not be categorized as "predatory" since they may improve household welfare. "Defining and Detecting Predatory Lending" reports "if payday lenders raise household welfare by relaxing credit constraints, anti-predatory legislation may lower it." The author of the report, Donald P. Morgan, defined predatory lending as "a welfare reducing provision of credit." However, he also noted that loans are very expensive, and that they are likely to be made to under-educated households or households of uncertain income.
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