Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Big banks offer payday loans by another name

They're marketed under a different name, but a handful of major banks already let customers borrow against their paychecks for a fee. And there are signs the option may soon become more widely available.

Banks say their loans are intended for emergencies and they are quick to distance themselves from the payday lending industry. But consumer advocates say these direct deposit loans — as banks prefer to call them — bear the same predatory trademarks as the payday loans commonly found in low-income neighborhoods.

Specifically: Fees that amount to triple-digit interest rates, short repayment periods and the potential to ensnare customers in a cycle of debt.

With a traditional payday loans for teenagers, for example, a customer might pay $16 to borrow $100. If the loan is due in two weeks, that translates into an annual interest rate of 417 percent.

Since the borrowers who use payday loans are often struggling to get by, it's common for them to seek another loan by the time of their next paycheck. Critics say this creates a cycle where borrowers continually fork over fees to stay afloat.

Banks say their direct deposit loans are different because they come with safeguards to prevent such over reliance.

Wells Fargo, for example, notes customers can only borrow up to half their direct deposit amount or $500, whichever is less.

Its fees are cheaper too, at $7.50 for every $100 borrowed — although that still amounts to a 261 percent annualized interest rate over the typical pay cycle. The amount of the advance and the fee are automatically deducted from the next direct deposit.

Wells Fargo admits that it's an expensive form of credit intended only for short term use. But customers can max out their loans continually for up to six months before they're cut off. Then after a one-month "cooling off" period, they can resume taking advances.

U.S. Bank, which has more than 3,000 branches mostly in the Midwest and West, and Fifth Third Bank, which operates 1,300 branches in the Midwest and South, offer loans with similar terms and restrictions.

"When you're allowed to be indebted for six billing cycles in a row, that's not a short-term loan," says Uriah King, vice president for state policy at the Center for Responsible Lending, an advocacy group based in North Carolina. "They call them short-term loans, but that's just not how they're used. And banks know that."

Even if customers can only borrow half the amount of their next direct deposit, that can be a significant setback if they're living paycheck to paycheck, King says. They'll likely need to take another loan to continue covering living expenses.

Payday lenders cashing in on credit crunch

When we’re struggling to make ends meet, it is easy to turn to other methods of funding. This week, Debt Management Today explores the growing use of payday loans, and the effect they are having on the debt management sector as a whole.

With the Payday loans with a bankruptcy industry worth an estimated £1.2 billion, according to the Mail Online, and growing fast, is it any wonder that increasing numbers of clients entering debt management plans have previously turned to payday loans in an attempt to get some quick cash?

Bev Budsworth, Managing Director at The Business Debt Advisor explained further: “We have seen a definite increase in debtors who have taken out payday loans – I think there has been formidable growth in recent times.

“We get a lot of people referred to us because they have been trying to get loans to pay off their payday loans but have been declined.

“People are not always cognizant of the fact that they need help and are just desperate to get hold of money as the payday loan creditor has their debit card and will take the money out at the end of the week or month, leaving them without enough money to live on.”

Vance Parsons, Director of Euro Debt, agreed: “With the rising cost of food, fuel and utility bills against stagnant wage inflation and reduced income due to a struggling jobs market, the wait for pay day can seem never-ending for families already under financial pressure. As a consequence, more and more people are being tempted by the offer of payday loans.”

This type of loan can seem very attractive because of the lack of credit checks, and for those heavily in debt the idea of paying back only a small amount at a time can appear to be the ideal situation. However, the cost can easily add up.

Vance Parsons continued: “We know that almost a quarter of people that come to us for help do so because they have got themselves into a spiral of debt, robbing Peter to pay Paul. As interest mounts, the debt spiral deepens. Payday loans just add to this misery as all too quickly the cost of the loan increases, making it difficult to withdraw from the agreement.”

A lot of debt management companies come across individuals with more than one payday loan. Bevy Buds worth clarified: “More frequently, customers we help with debt management plans have at least two to three payday loans – however one of our clients has 13.”