Payday loans are legal in 27 states, and 9 others allows some form of short term storefront lending with restrictions. The remaining 14 and the District of Columbia forbid the practice. The annual percentage rate (APR) is also limited in some jurisdictions to prevent usury. And in some states, there are laws limiting the number of loans a borrower can take at a single time.
Several companies, including TrueConnect and HoneyBee, offer cash advance loans to employees. These can be for as much as $2,500, and they have repayment periods of up to three months. You pay a fee of around 5%, up to $50. These loans also have the advantage of being reported to credit bureaus, so they can help you build your credit score. Payday loans aren’t reported to the credit bureaus.
The propensity for very low default rates seems to be an incentive for investors interested in payday lenders. In the Advance America 10-k SEC filing from December 2011 they note that their agreement with investors, "limits the average of actual charge-offs incurred during each fiscal month to a maximum of 4.50% of the average amount of adjusted transaction receivables outstanding at the end of each fiscal month during the prior twelve consecutive months". They go on to note that for 2011 their average monthly receivables were $287.1 million and their average charge-off was $9.3 million, or 3.2%. In comparison with traditional lenders, payday firms also save on costs by not engaging in traditional forms of underwriting, relying on their easy rollover terms and the small size of each individual loan as method of diversification eliminating the need for verifying each borrower's ability to repay. It is perhaps due to this that payday lenders rarely exhibit any real effort to verify that the borrower will be able to pay the principal on their payday in addition to their other debt obligations.
As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes on its site, these loans are typically for small amounts but give lenders access to your checking account or require you to write a check for the full balance in advance, which the lender can deposit when the loan comes due. Worse still, payday loans carry sensationally high interest rates, with some costing as much as 400%. That’s serious money for a cash-strapped consumer, and though state laws and other factors influence charges, you’ll want to enter a payday loan agreement carefully.
Unlike most loans, which require a minimum credit score for acceptance, payday loans don’t have any credit requirements. To apply, you need to present proof of income and a checking account, but the lender doesn’t look at your FICO score. Likewise, records of timely payments don’t appear on your credit report. So, a payday loan can’t help you build credit, and applying for one doesn’t impact it, either.
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Borrowers usually charge a substantial amount in interest, often around 400 percent. With some payday loans, especially those that are extended, the amount you pay in interest is higher than the original loan amount. Payday loans have a reputation of being predatory, targeting those who have poor credit and very few options, need quick access to cash and need the loan to fill pay gaps.
Brian Melzer of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that payday loan users did suffer a reduction in their household financial situation, as the high costs of repeated rollover loans impacted their ability to pay recurring bills such as utilities and rent. This assumes a payday user will rollover their loan rather than repay it, which has been shown both by the FDIC and the Consumer Finance Protection bureau in large sample studies of payday consumers 
Have unexpected bills or car repairs caught you off guard? Has your budget been stretched too tight this month? If your current finances won’t see you through to your next payday, a short-term loan could help bridge the gap. You can conveniently apply for these loans online to receive your funds either by check, direct deposit or cash pickup in a store. The application process typically takes minutes, and you can see your funds quickly if you’re approved — in as little as 15 minutes with some lenders.
If you need cash for an emergency situation, a short-term loan might be the best option. The interest rates are quite high, but if you realize you're going to overdraft your bank account multiple times within a few days, and get fees for each overdraft, then a payday loan might actually be a cheaper option. Make sure you have a plan to pay the loan off when it's due without getting further in debt. To save some money, look for lenders like Speedy Cash that have discounts if you're a new customer or if you pay off your loan early.
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As for federal regulation, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act gave the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) specific authority to regulate all payday lenders, regardless of size. Also, the Military Lending Act imposes a 36% rate cap on tax refund loans and certain payday and auto title loans made to active duty armed forces members and their covered dependents, and prohibits certain terms in such loans.
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A medical emergency needs an immediate response. You can't hold off on treating a major problem, and your primary care physician may not be able to see you soon enough. Emergency room visits rack up bills from the hospital, the doctors and the specialists. If you have health insurance, the coinsurance or copayment for your stay may be a hard-to-handle amount. The best payday loans let you focus on getting well rather than your healthcare costs.
Though you may not have a lot of extra time, a side gig could too be an option. Ideas include driving with a ride-share service like Uber, walking dogs, participating in research studies or even taking online surveys to earn more cash. If you find yourself regularly needing small amounts of money to last you through the week, consider exploring ongoing freelance opportunities in your area of expertise — Upwork and Fiverr are a few places to start.
However, despite the tendency to characterize payday loan default rates as high, several researchers have noted that this is an artifact of the normal short term of the payday product, and that during the term of loans with longer periods there are frequently points where the borrower is in default and then becomes current again. Actual charge offs are no more frequent than with traditional forms of credit, as the majority of payday loans are rolled over into new loans repeatedly without any payment applied to the original principal.
Some payday loan companies gather your personal information and then shop around for a lender. That means your information could go out to third parties as part of the lending process. Other companies will even sell contact information, leaving you dealing with sales calls and spam emails. LendUp protects customer information and will never sell it.
Before you dive into a product marketed as a one-stop financial Band-Aid, consider your alternatives. Though they aren’t significantly better, installment loans can come with slightly less egregious terms and more manageable payments. While it may requires a level of humility and openness, asking to borrow from friends or family could be another possibility. Better damaged pride than ruined finances.
You can’t always predict when an emergency will occur, but you can prepare for it. Ideally, you should keep enough money to cover your household expenses for two months or more in a savings account. If that goal is too high, aim to save at least the amount of one paycheck. It is also a good idea to have a few credit cards available for unexpected costs.
A 2009 study by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Adair Morse found that in natural disaster areas where payday loans were readily available consumers fared better than those in disaster zones where payday lending was not present. Not only were fewer foreclosures recorded, but such categories as birth rate were not affected adversely by comparison. Moreover, Morse's study found that fewer people in areas served by payday lenders were treated for drug and alcohol addiction.
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You’ll sign an ACH authorization to give the payday lender permission to withdraw the repayment amount from your checking or savings account. Unless the lender allows you make repayments by check, you will need to sign this authorization. Before you sign the authorization, make sure you know how much will be debited and on what dates, whether this amount will repay your loan or simply renew it, and also how to revoke the authorization (federal law requires lenders to state this).