What is a Payday Loan?

A payday loan or cash advance is a small, short-term financial instrument that allows a borrower to cover his or her expenses until the next paycheck. 

Typically, the amounts of such loans range of $100 to $1500, on 10-14 days term and have enough high interest rates (APR) from 390 to 900 percent. 

 

Payday lending is regulated at the state level - each state has its own laws regarding payday loans. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress passed a law in October 2006 that limits lending to military personnel at 36% APR. The Defense Department was concerned that payday lenders could cause financial challenges for soldiers and even jeopardizes security clearances.

Some federal banking regulators are trying to limit or prohibit payday loans not just for military personnel, but for all customers. The high interest rates are considered as a hard financial blow to the lower  and middle class people who are the primary borrowers. 

Lenders prove that payday loans are often the only available way to get money for customers with bad credit history or who can not obtain another lower-interest alternative, such as a bank loan or a credit card. In their turn, critics say that the most of borrowers find themselves in a worse financial situation when they have to repay their loan. Many of them get trapped into a cycle of unsecured debt. 

Statistics compiled by the Center for Responsible Lending show that the large part of the payday lending's profit comes from repeat consumers who can not repay prior loans on the due date and instead prolong their loans, paying extra fees each time. 

Retail lending. 
Customers come to a payday lending store and qualify for a small cash advance in the range of $100 to $500 with payment  on the borrower's next paycheck. 

As loan charges, the customer will pay from $15 to $30 per $100 borrowed for 14 days period, which translates to interest rates of 390 to 780 percent (APR). On the due date the borrower returns to payday lending store and writes a check to his lender in the full amount of the cash advance plus charges. 

If the borrower does not repay the loan, the lender may process the check traditionally or through electronic withdrawal from the borrower's bank account. 

If there is not enough money to cover the check at the checking account, the customer will face extra fees from his bank in addition to the costs of the loan. Meanwhile, the most of payday lenders offer an extended payment plan with no additional fees for customers who can not pay out their loan at the due date. In several states like Washington, extended payment plans are required by state law. 

Internet lending. 
You can get a payday loan not only from payday lending store, but online through special lending websites. Typically, a customer fills out a simple online application  form, where he or she indicates required personal and bank account information, Social Security number and employer information. Some lenders require fax copies of a check, a recent bank statement, and signed paperwork. After instant approving the loan amount is direct deposited into the borrower's checking account. On the due date loan payment with fees is electronically withdrawn from borrower's account. 

Examples. 
For example, a borrower wants to get a payday loan. The borrower will write a post-dated personal check for $500 to borrow $570 for up to two weeks. The payday lender agrees to hold the check until the borrower's next paycheck date. At that time, the borrower has the option to redeem the check by paying $570 in cash, or renew his loan by paying off the $570 and then immediately applying for an additional loan of $500, in result  prolonging the loan for another 14 days period. However, in many states extending of payday loans is not allowed by state law. In states where there is an extended payment plan, the borrower could choose  to opt into a payment plan. 

The Consumer Federation of America has conducted a survey of one hundred internet payday loan websites recently. The results  showed that these lenders offer loans from $100 to $1,500, with $500 the most frequently offered. Finance fees ranged from $10 per $100 up to $30 per $100 borrowed. The most frequent rate was $25 per $100, or 650% annual interest rate (APR) if the payday loan is repaid within 14 days. 

Exploiting financial emergencies for profit. 
Critics say that payday lenders are exploiting consumer's temporary financial difficulties to make high profit. Often payday lenders are targeting their services to young or poor people with low-income. Borrowers simply may not understand that the high APR can trap them into a debt-cycle, where they will have to repeatedly extend the loan and pay growing extra fees every 14 days until they can save enough money to pay off the loan amount and get out of this dangerous cycle. There is an opinion that payday lenders disadvantage the poor people, compared to the middle class who pay moderate interest on their credit cards. 

Meanwhile, supporters say that many people that apply for payday loans have already ruined any other available alternatives. They are not able to get a bank loan or a credit card because of serious problems with credit history. 

Costs of payday loans. 
Supporters of payday loans argue that the processing costs for these loans do not differ from other loans. They say that moderate interest rates for low borrowed amounts and short terms would not be profitable. For example, a $200 one-week loan, at a 20% interest rate would give the lender only 72 cents of interest, which would not cover even processing costs. 

Defenders say that payday lenders processing costs are much lower than costs for home loans and other usual loans. Besides payday lenders require only the proof of borrower's income and employment, while traditional loan lenders do full credit checks and value the borrower's ability to pay out the loan.