Payday Loan

What Is a Payday Loan?

A payday loan is a type of short-term borrowing where a lender will extend high-interest credit based on your income. Its principal is typically a portion of your next paycheck. Payday loans charge high interest rates for short-term immediate credit. They are also called cash advance loans or check advance loans.

Key Takeaways

  • Payday loans are short-term, very-high-interest loans available to consumers.
  • Payday loans are typically based on how much you earn, and you usually have to provide a pay stub when applying for one.
  • A number of laws have been put in place over the years to regulate the high fees and interest rates with payday loans.
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Understanding Payday Loans

Payday loans charge borrowers high levels of interest and do not require any collateral, making them a type of unsecured personal loan. These loans may be considered predatory lending, as they have extremely high interest, don’t consider a borrower’s ability to repay, and have hidden provisions that charge borrowers added fees. As a result, they can create a debt trap for consumers. If you’re considering a payday loan, then you may want to look first at safer personal loan alternatives.

Obtaining a Payday Loan

Payday loan providers are typically small credit merchants with physical stores that allow on-site credit applications and approval. Some payday loan services may also be available through online lenders.

To complete a payday loan application, you must normally provide pay stubs from your employer that show your current level of income. Payday lenders often base their loan principal on a percentage of the borrower’s predicted short-term income. Many also use a borrower’s wages as collateral. Lenders generally do not conduct a full credit check or consider your ability to repay the loan.

In the United States, as of 2021, 16 states and the District of Columbia have banned payday loans.

Payday Loan Interest Rates

Payday lenders charge very high levels of interest: as much as 780% in annual percentage rate (APR), with an average loan running at nearly 400%. Most states have usury laws that limit interest charges to anywhere from 5% to 30%. However, payday lenders fall under exemptions that allow for their high interest.

As these loans qualify for many state lending loopholes, borrowers should beware. Regulations on these loans are governed by the individual states, with 16 states—Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia—plus the District of Columbia outlawing payday loans of any kind.

In California, for example, a payday lender can charge a 14-day APR of 460% for a $100 loan. Finance charges on these loans also are a significant factor to consider, as the average fee is $15 per $100 of loan.

Although the federal Truth in Lending Act requires payday lenders to disclose their finance charges, many people overlook the costs. Most loans are for 30 days or less and help borrowers to meet short-term liabilities. Loan amounts on these loans are usually from $100 to $1,000, with $500 being common. The loans usually can be rolled over for additional finance charges, and many borrowers—as high as 80% of them—end up as repeat customers.

A number of court cases have been filed against payday lenders, as lending laws have been enacted since the 2008 financial crisis to create a more transparent and fair lending market for consumers. If you’re considering taking out a payday loan, then a personal loan calculator can be a vital tool for determining what kind of interest rate you can afford.

Efforts to Regulate Payday Loans

Efforts to regulate payday lenders were proposed in 2016 under the Obama administration and put in place in 2017, when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), under then-Director Richard Cordray, passed rules to protect consumers from what Cordray referred to as “debt traps.”

The rules included a mandatory underwriting provision requiring lenders to assess a borrower’s ability to repay a loan and still meet everyday living expenses before the loan is made. The rules also required lenders to provide written notice before trying to collect from a borrower’s bank account and further required that after two unsuccessful attempts to debit an account, the lender could not try again without the permission of the borrower. These rules were first proposed in 2016 and will become mandatory on June 13, 2022, as per CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio.

In February 2019, the CFPB—then under the Trump administration and Director Kathleen L. Kraninger—issued proposed rules to revoke the mandatory underwriting provision and delay implementation of the 2017 rules. In June 2019, the CFPB issued a final rule delaying the August 2019 compliance date, and on July 7, 2020, it issued a final rule revoking the mandatory underwriting provision but leaving in place the limitation of repeated attempts by payday lenders to collect from a borrower’s bank account.

Under the Biden administration, the new leadership at the CFPB established stricter rules for payday lending, which become mandatory on June 13, 2022.

Are Payday Loans Fixed or Variable?

Payday loans are usually meant to be paid off in one lump-sum payment when you get your paycheck. Because of this, the interest rate on these loans is fixed. In fact, many payday lenders don’t even express their charges as an interest rate, but they instead charge a fixed flat fee that can be anywhere from $10 to $30 per $100 borrowed.

Is a Payday Loan Secured or Unsecured?

Most payday loans are unsecured. This means that you do not have to give the lender any collateral or borrow against a valuable item as you do in a pawn shop.

Instead, the lender will normally ask you for permission to electronically take money from your bank, credit union, or prepaid card account. Alternatively, the lender may ask you to write a check for the repayment amount, which the lender will cash when the loan is due. Under federal law, lenders cannot condition a payday loan on obtaining an authorization from the consumer for “preauthorized” (recurring) electronic fund transfers.

How Long Do Payday Loans Stay in the System?

The records of traditional loans may be kept for six to 10 years by credit bureaus—the companies that calculate credit scores, which in turn may affect your ability to borrow money in the future. Payday lenders do not usually report to the credit bureaus, even in case of overdue repayments. But the payday loan may be filed once it is passed to the collectors after the lender sells the debts.

If you repay your payday loan on time, then your credit score shouldn’t be affected. On the other hand, if you default on your loan and your debt is placed in the hands of a collection agency, then you will see a dip in your score.

Can Payday Loan Debt Be Forgiven?

In practice, it’s very rare for payday loan debt to be written off. This is because payday lenders make significant sums from the interest that they charge on these loans.

This means that you should try and pay off payday loans as soon as you possibly can. If you can’t pay back a payday loan, the account may be sent to a collection agency, which will pursue you for the money and interest that you owe. This is not only unpleasant but also can add money to your overall debt—and it will damage your credit.

Can You Get a Payday Loan Without a Bank Account?

Yes. Having a bank account isn’t universally required to borrow money, but lenders that don’t require it generally charge high interest rates. This includes many payday lenders. Payday lenders may ask for a bank account, but sometimes a prepaid card account may be enough to qualify.

Because these loans cost so much and may be difficult to repay, it’s almost always best to avoid them. If you can’t pay back the loan promptly, fees can add up, leading to a debt trap that’s hard to get out of. Because of this, you should only take out a payday loan if you are absolutely sure that you can pay it back.

The Bottom Line

Payday loans are designed to cover short-term expenses, and they can be taken out without collateral or even a bank account. The catch is that these loans charge very high fees and interest rates.

Borrowers should beware of these loans. They may be considered predatory lending, as they have extremely high interest, don’t consider a borrower’s ability to repay, and have hidden provisions that charge borrowers added fees. As a result, they can create a debt trap for consumers. If you’re considering a payday loan, then you may want to first take a look at safer personal loan alternatives.

Article Sources
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  2. Experian. "How to Get a Small Loan With No Credit."

  3. Consumer Federation of America. “Legal Status of Payday Loans by State.”

  4. Consumer Federation of America. “How Payday Loans Work.”

  5. Conference of State Bank Supervisors. “50-State Survey of Consumer Finance Laws.”

  6. State of California. "Consumer Financial Education: Other Loans."

  7. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. "Truth in Lending (Regulation Z)."

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  12. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, via Federal Register. “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans: A Proposed Rule by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on 02/14/2019.”

  13. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, via Federal Register. “Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans; Delay of Compliance Date; Correcting Amendments: A Rule by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on 06/17/2019.”

  14. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Payday Loan Protections.” Accessed Jan. 16, 2022.

  15. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Docket No. CFPB-2019-0006,” Page 218.

  16. The White House. “Nominations Sent to the Senate.”

  17. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Do I Have to Put Up Something as Collateral for a Payday Loan?

  18. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “I Heard That Taking Out a Payday Loan Can Help Rebuild My Credit or Improve My Credit Score. Is This True?

  19. Experian. “What Happens If I Default on a Payday Loan?

  20. Experian. “Can You Get a Loan without a Bank Account?

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