The Payday Loan Trap

The Payday loan trapDid you know there are more payday loan establishments in the United States than McDonald’s and Burger King fast food restaurants COMBINED? Welcome to America, where we swipe our cards, spend our money and stuff our faces.

12 million Americans take out payday loans each year. That’s a lot, but it’s less than half of the 27 million Americans who eat McDonalds EVERY DAY! That’s a lot of burgers.

Raquel, our young mother, admits she stepped into the payday loan trap.

Payday loans are meant to be a quick fix, but consumers are finding these loans (or cash advances) are causing debt to become the next four-letter word. These loans are typically $500 or less and carry hefty fees. The problem is, most consumers, 80 percent of you, can’t pay off the first loan, so its rolled over or renewed within two weeks, turning that initial $500 into $1,500 before you can even say “super size it!”

Don’t despair. Try these alternatives to get you by in a pinch.

Credit unions.
Credit unions put people before profit, and as not-for-profit financial cooperatives (read: not-for-profit bank) they can offer low or no fees on some of their services. The credit union philosophy is “people helping people” so you can be sure that they won’t pull a fast one on you. Credit unions promote financial literacy too, and many have a financial counselor on staff that can help you re-evaluate your finances and put you on a path to smart money management skills. Many also conduct money management workshops for their members, free of charge.

You have to become a member first, which is easier than understanding what is said through a drive-thru speaker. Find a credit union near you at asmarterchoice.org.

Credit counseling help.
A financial counselor can’t help you if you need cash NOW, (kinda like an apple won’t satisfy that craving for chocolate), but if you are using payday loans, it’s probably a good idea to seek help with your financial situation, and eliminate the need for future payday loans. So join the crowd of roughly two million people who sought the help of a financial counselor last year.

A non-profit agency like Consumer Credit Counseling Service usually offers free money management help such as budget counseling, debt management planning, and mortgage default or rent delinquency counseling. In fact, our Money Possible participants are all meeting with a counselor from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Wichita.

Reduce spending in other areas.
If you stop hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru, wait until that epic movie is on pay-per-view and hold off buying that new iPhone, you might be able to take that quick cash place off speed dial. Don’t be fooled…it’s hard work, just like eating a salad instead of a Big Mac. But you’ll soon find that some of your “needs” are actually “wants” and you can go without them.

Negotiating your bills.
Talk to your credit card companies. Beg your utility company. Negotiate a payment plan. Most would rather keep you as a customer than lose you, and are willing to work with you. At least it’s worth a try.

Cash advance from a credit card.
We usually don’t condone using your credit card for cash, but the 25 to 30 percent interest rate you’ll be charged is far less than the fees and 300 percent to 500 percent interest on a payday loan. Yup…pay day loan places charge 300 to 500 percent interest plus fees!

Think on that for a minute. It’s not uncommon for a consumer to be charged $10 or $20 on every $100 borrowed. So, if you borrow $300, and the fee is $20 per $100, you’ll actually owe $360. Then, if you can’t pay that loan in two weeks, you’ll roll it over and pay another $60. So now you’ve paid $120 in fees to borrow $300. That equals 520 percent interest rate!

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