Yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a new white paper examining payday and deposit advance loans. The paper found that most borrowers are not using payday loans for short-term needs (as the payday industry often claims), but instead are repeatedly rolling over loans and taking out additional loans. As a result, borrowers often become stuck in an expensive and financially disastrous cycle of debt. The CFPB found that nearly half of payday borrowers have more than 10 loans a year, while 14 percent undertook 20 or more transactions annually.
This study is more comprehensive than almost any other study ever conducted, since the CFPB was able to acquire data on millions of borrowers directly from banks and small dollar lenders.
In a press release, CFPB Directory Richard Cordray explained: “This comprehensive study shows that payday and deposit advance loans put many consumers at risk of turning what is supposed to be a short-term, emergency loan into a long-term, expensive debt burden. For too many consumers, payday and deposit advance loans are debt traps that cause them to be living their lives off money borrowed at huge interest rates.”
The paper indicates that the Bureau is very concerned with current industry practices. The Bureau plans to conduct additional research and analysis, looking at online payday lending, the effectiveness of state restrictions on payday lending, and consumers’ motivations for borrowing. The report concludes that consumers need additional protections in this market and that the Bureau intends to use its authority to implement new protections once its research is complete. Even though, by law, the CFPB cannot set rate interest rate caps (the gold standard policy), there is much the Bureau still can do to protect consumers.
The Bureau’s interest in investigating payday borrowers’ experiences provides an important opportunity for asset builders to bring attention to the financial instability that results when predatory loans lead consumers into cycles of debt. This opportunity comes as asset-building advocates have worked for years to implement better consumer protections at the state and local levels. In fact, Twenty-five states currently have pending legislation addressing predatory small dollar lending. And the Assets & Opportunity Network recently released a 2013 Network Federal Policy Agenda, outlining the key policy issues that are most important to Network members. The number one issue on the agenda is educating the CFPB on predatory small dollar lending and other consumer issues. A few weeks ago, Network members weighed in with their recommendations on how the CFPB could curb predatory lending, which will become the basis for a statement and comments to the CFPB in the coming weeks.
Click here to read the full CFPB paper. Other key findings from the report are below.
Key Findings: Payday and Deposit Advance Loans Can Become Debt Traps for Consumers
The report found many consumers repeatedly roll over their payday and deposit advance loans or take out additional loans; often a short time after the previous one was repaid. This means that a sizable share of consumers end up in cycles of repeated borrowing and incur significant costs over time. The study also confirmed that these loans are quite expensive and not suitable for sustained use. Specifically, the study found limited underwriting and the single payment structure of the loans may contribute to trapping consumers in debt.
Loose Lending: Lenders often do not take a borrower’s ability to repay into consideration when making a loan. Instead, they may rely on ensuring they are one of the first in line to be repaid from a borrower’s income. For the consumer, this means there may not be sufficient funds after paying off the loan for expenses such as for their rent or groceries – leading them to return to the bank or payday lender for more money.
Payday: Eligibility to qualify for a payday loan usually requires proper identification, proof of income, and a personal checking account. No collateral is held for the loan, although the borrower does provide the lender with a personal check or authorization to debit her checking account for repayment. Credit score and financial obligations are generally not taken in to account.
Deposit Advance: Depository institutions have various eligibility rules for their customers, who generally already have checking accounts with them. The borrower authorizes the bank to claim repayment as soon as the next qualifying electronic deposit is received. Typically, though, a customer’s ability to repay the loan outside of other debts and ordinary living expenses is not taken into account.
Risky Loan Structures: The risk posed by the loose underwriting is compounded by some of the features of payday and deposit advance loans, particularly the rapid repayment structure. Paying back a lump sum when a consumer’s next paycheck or other deposit arrives can be difficult for an already cash-strapped consumer, leading them to take out another loan.
Payday: Payday loans typically must be repaid in full when the borrower’s next paycheck or other income is due. The report finds the median loan term to be just 14 days.
Deposit Advance: There is not a fixed due date with a deposit advance. Instead, the bank will repay itself from the next qualifying electronic deposit into the borrower’s account. The report finds that deposit advance “episodes,” which may include multiple advances, have a median duration of 12 days.
High Costs: Both payday loans and deposit advances are designed for short-term use and can have very high costs. These high costs can add up – on top of the already existing loans that a consumer is taking on.
Payday: Fees for storefront payday loans generally range from $10-$20 per $100 borrowed. For the typical loan of $350, for example, the median $15 fee per $100 would mean that the borrower must come up with more than $400 in just two weeks. A loan outstanding for two weeks with a $15 fee per $100 has an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of 391 percent.
Deposit Advance: Fees generally are about $10 per $100 borrowed. For a deposit advance with a $10 fee per $100 borrowed on a 12-day loan, for example, the APR would be 304 percent.
Sustained Use: The loose underwriting, the rapid repayment requirement, and the high costs all may contribute to turning a short-term loan into a very expensive, long-term loan. For consumers, it is unclear whether they fully appreciate the risk that they may end up using these products much longer than the original term. Or, that they may end up paying fees that equal or exceed the amount they borrowed, leading them into a revolving door of debt.
Payday: For payday borrowers, nearly half have more than 10 transactions a year, while 14 percent undertook 20 or more transactions annually. Payday borrowers are indebted a median of 55 percent (or 199 days) of the year. For the majority of payday borrowers, new loans are most frequently taken on the same day a previous loan is closed, or shortly thereafter.
Deposit Advance: More than half of all users borrow more than $3,000 per year while 14 percent borrow more than $9,000 per year. These borrowers typically have an outstanding balance at least 9 months of the year and typically are indebted more than 40 percent of the year. And while these products are sometimes described as a way to avoid the high cost of overdraft fees, 65 percent of deposit advance users incur such fees. The heaviest deposit advance borrowers accrue the most overdraft fees.