PAYDAY LOANS: FRIENDS IN NEED OR WOLVES IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING?

Earlier this year, during an interview on Heart FM, I was asked about payday loans: would I advise anyone who was especially cash-strapped (for example as a result of Christmas), to take out one of these loans? This is a tricky matter: anyone considering any such loan must have exhausted all other possibilities.

Payday loans, usually for sums up to £1,000 ($1,500), are known to carry very high interest rates. Those rates could be affordable if it’s the only game in town AND if the loan really is repaid quickly, i.e. on payday, but if it’s rolled over then the problem starts. However, they are marketed as being instantly available, which of course is very attractive when things are tight.

Advantages

So the attractions are:

• Instant availability, even if you have a poor credit record
• Lack of bureaucracy, with a simple application method
• The fact that it’s cash: a cheque is less useful if you have to pay it in to a bank account with a maxed-out overdraft, though of course cheque / cash converter shops have foreseen that problem.
• The fact that it’s local, with a collector who probably lives near you.

If there is no alternative, and if the sum borrowed is repaid at the next payday, then paying that interest (high rate but small sum) is better than having to default on the mortgage or a credit card bill.

Disadvantages

The problem arises, of course, if the sum isn’t paid quickly. Then, of course, it will become more and more difficult to repay, because of that very high interest rate. I could publish a table showing how the sum owing would build up at those very high interest rates: but that would be very depressing for you and for me.

Should you do it?

In the radio interview I said that if anyone was in a situation where they saw no alternative solution, then they should take the loan, provided they immediately got help from one of the debt advice charities, for example the CAB (Citizens Advice), or CCCS (Consumer Credit Counselling Services), or National Debtline, or one of the many local “not-for-profit” debt advisory services, and put together a plan. Step one of that plan must be to repay the payday loan as a first priority.

I still stand by that advice.

Those interest rates, by the way

In order to check my facts after that interview, I found a website that lists the top 5 payday loan providers (the “top 5” ranking is by “rough estimate of lender’s approval rates”). I found the APRs of these lenders varied from over 990% to over 2300%. Eye-watering stuff, if you can’t repay quickly.

For extra info see the MoneySavingExpert website, for example this post:
http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/loans/2010/01/loan-sharks-leaving-victims-in-debt-all-year . That article talked about interest rates (APR) “up to 1500%”. As you can see above, I found some rates to be even higher.

Credit Unions: an alternative

Credit unions are an alternative and much cheaper source of short-term finance that people in this situation could look at: an alternative, in fact, to high-street lenders as well as to payday loans.

The local one here in Bristol, for example, is at http://www.bristolcreditunion.org/; they offer loans from £100 to £7,500 ($150 to $11,250). Their website says: “By law credit unions cannot charge any more than 2% per month on the reducing balance of a loan. This represents a maximum interest rate of 26.8% APR (Annual Percentage Rate), and that is the most you will ever pay on your loan.”

Worth checking out? 26.8% sounds better than those payday loans.

Taking advice

If you are in debt, and whether or not you are considering a payday loan, I always bang on about the need to get help as soon as possible. That should preferably come from an independent, impartial (i.e. not-for-profit) advice service such as the local CAB (that’s the Citizens Advice Bureau, for the benefit of any readers of this blog who are not in the UK) or CCCS (Consumer Credit Counselling Service) or National Debtline. Then you need to formulate a plan with the help of that advice, and inform the creditors that is what you’re doing and ask them to freeze interest while that’s happening.

Many creditors will agree to that, but if you don’t ask you don’t get. Many debtors spend too long in denial and they don’t communicate with their creditors, which makes the situation worse. I know: I was one of those.

In fact my book’s subtitle could even be “Learn from my mistakes”.

Christmas is coming!

At the top of this post I mentioned Christmas. This is a good time to say that one way of avoiding payday loans is to cut down spending. Don’t cut down on the fun but do cut down on the presents!

As I say in my book: “Christmas is not an emergency.” (it comes every year)

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“Back to the Black: how to become debt-free and stay that way”, is now available as a multi-format eBook at Smashwords to sample (view or download the first 20% free) or to buy at only $3.99. Go to: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/22886

Website: www.back-to-the-black.com

Blog: http://backtotheblackblog.wordpress.com

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