We spoke to John Fairbanks at the National Credit Union Administration who told us that “Many credit unions have their own programs to provide small-dollar, short-term loans, either in lieu of payday loans or as a means of helping members get rid of existing payday loans so they can begin to rehabilitate their credit.” Payday alternative loans are available through federal credit unions and have applications fees that are capped at $20 for the entire amount of the loan. State credit unions also offer similar short-term, small-dollar loans.
A payday loan (also called a payday advance, salary loan, payroll loan, small dollar loan, short term, or cash advance loan) is a small, short-term unsecured loan, "regardless of whether repayment of loans is linked to a borrower's payday."[1][2][3] The loans are also sometimes referred to as "cash advances," though that term can also refer to cash provided against a prearranged line of credit such as a credit card. Payday advance loans rely on the consumer having previous payroll and employment records. Legislation regarding payday loans varies widely between different countries, and in federal systems, between different states or provinces.
1. All loans subject to approval pursuant to standard underwriting criteria. Rates and terms will vary depending upon the state where you reside. Not all consumers will qualify for a loan or for the maximum loan amount. Terms and conditions apply. Loans should be used for short-term financial needs only, and not as a long-term solution. Customers with credit difficulties should seek credit counseling.​ ACE Cash Express, Inc. is licensed by the Department of Business Oversight pursuant to Financial Code Section 23005(a) of the California Deferred Deposit Transaction Law. Loans in Minnesota made by ACE Minnesota Corp. Loans in Ohio arranged by FSH Credit Services LLC d/b/a ACE Cash Express, CS.900100.000, and made by, and subject to the approval of, an unaffiliated third party lender. Loans in Texas arranged by ACE Credit Access LLC and made by, and subject to the approval of, an unaffiliated third party lender. ACE Cash Express, Inc. is licensed by the Virginia State Corporation Commission, PL-115.
"... payday lending services extend small amounts of uncollateralized credit to high-risk borrowers, and provide loans to poor households when other financial institutions will not. Throughout the past decade, this "democratization of credit" has made small loans available to mass sectors of the population, and particularly the poor, that would not have had access to credit of any kind in the past."[40]

Though regulated at the state and federal level, there are still payday lenders that attempt to skirt the rules. Some are online-only lenders based in other countries. Other lenders work around state laws by operating out of Native American reservations. Be wary of brokers that offer to connect you with lending partners – this can result in a lot of calls and emails about offers.

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