Payday Loans Are Dead! Long Live Payday Loans!
In yet another example of finance double-speak, major financial players have moved into that netherworld of the functional equivalent of loansharking known as payday lending.
While in theory short-term loans can be a boon to cash-strapped individuals, in practice, the usurious interest of payday loans result in many borrowers falling into a debt treadmill. The Pentagon was so concerned about the way that payday lending could wreak havoc with the lives of combat personnel that it restricted the rates that could be charged to military personnel to 36%. The industry howled that rules would drive payday lenders out of the business of serving the armed forces (they had previously been targeting bases). I suspect that result was a feature, not a bug.
. . . But some industry critics say fixed-income borrowers are not only more reliable, they are also more lucrative. Often elderly or disabled, they are typically dependent on smaller fixed incomes and are rarely able to pay off their loans quickly. “It’s not like they can work more hours,” says David Rothstein, an analyst at Policy Matters Ohio, an economic research group in Cleveland. “They’re trapped.”
The latest sighting, via the Associated Press (hat tip April Charney) is that bigger, more reputable-looking banks are offering payday loans, but predictably calling them something else, in much the way that the term “escort service” is meant to imply something more refined than “prostitution”. From the Clarion Ledger:
Perhaps muttering, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, big banks are now aping the payday lending industry and offering short-term loans at rates that once were called usurious.
The banks are not calling them payday loans and say there are safeguards that distinguish them from payday loans. But, it’s still a short-term note. Wells Fargo, for example, offers its loans for direct deposit customers. As The Associated Press has reported, it says 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.
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. . . .