Caught Between a Late Fee and a Payday Loan

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Payday loans are bashed by consumer watchdogs because of the loan shark-like interest rates involved, which can exceed 450% when annualized. Nonetheless, the payday loan business is thriving, especially as consumers realize that an actual job is not required. The day your unemployment check arrives also counts as a payday, so if you’re collecting unemployment you can also take out a payday loan.

The LA Times describes how the system works:

A typical unemployed Californian receiving $300 a week in benefits can walk into one of hundreds of storefront operations statewide and walk out with $255 well before that government check arrives — for a $45 fee. Annualized, that’s an interest rate of 459%.

And here’s an example of a payday loan customer:

Ed Reyes, a Los Angeles resident who lost his job in retail about six months ago, said he has had to take out payday loans three times since becoming unemployed. The advances on his government check, he said, have helped him pay his household bills before late charges accrue.

“To be honest, I didn’t know if they’d give me one, but they did,” he said, standing outside the unemployment benefits office in downtown Los Angeles.

Ignacio Rodrigues, a clerk at Van Nuys payday lender Ace Cash Express, said about a quarter of first-time borrowers he sees now use their unemployment checks as proof of income.

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