Research suggests deceptive industry practices drive cycles of costly reborrowing
A report published today by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) shows few payday loan borrowers are benefiting from no-cost extended payment plans, which are required to be offered to borrowers in the majority of states that do not prohibit payday lending. Instead of using the payment plans, borrowers continue to pay for costly loan rollovers. While no-cost extended payment plans are meant to help borrowers exit the cycle of rollovers and fees, the payday business model continues to depend on high rollover rates and fees.
“Our research suggests that state laws that require payday lenders to offer no-cost extended repayment plans are not working as intended,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “Payday lenders have a powerful incentive to protect their revenue by steering borrowers into costly re-borrowing.”
Every year, more than 12 million borrowers take out payday loans in the 26 states where payday lending is not prohibited. Sixteen of those states require payday lenders to offer no-cost extended payment plans. A payment plan allows a borrower to repay only the principal and fees already incurred, splitting the remaining balance over several months. A borrower’s other, costlier option, if they do not repay their loan, is to rollover their loan. Essentially, a rollover renews the borrower’s loan for another pay-period and the borrower is charged an additional payday loan fee.
The savings of a no-cost extended payment plan can be substantial. For example, on a typical $300 loan, a borrower would pay $45 in rollover fees every two weeks until they can pay off the principal and incurred fees. After four months, the borrower would have paid $360 in rollover fees and still owe the original $300. If the same borrower opted for a no-cost extended payment plan at the time of the first rollover, they would only have to pay $345 over an extended period. Previous CFPB research found that most payday loans were made to borrowers who use the rollover option so many times that the accrued fees were greater than the original principal.
Rollover fees are a strong incentive for lenders to keep borrowers in the dark about no-cost extended payment plans. The CFPB’s supervision of the industry has found some payday lenders have deceived struggling borrowers by misrepresenting or withholding information about their payment options.
Today’s report found substantial differences among the 16 states that require lenders to offer no-cost payment options:
- State no-cost extended payment plans vary substantially. Typical features include disclosure of the right to elect an extended payment plan at the time borrowers enter into a payday loan agreement, the requirement that an extended payment plan be repaid in several installments, and that there be no additional fees charged for an extended payment plan.
- Usage rates for extended no-cost extended payment plans are low in all states. Even in Washington state, which has perhaps the most borrower-friendly extended payment plan, the usage rate is a small fraction of all payday borrowers, 13.4%. States, such as Florida, with more restrictive requirements, have even lower usage rates.
- The pandemic has affected payday loan volumes, but not no-cost extended payment plan usage. Nationally, payday loan volume declined in 2020 from 2019 by as much as 65%, while payment plan usage rates remained unchanged. However, there was variation within states. California, for example, saw payment plan enrollment more than double.
The CFPB will continue to monitor the payday loan industry, and it will use its enforcement and supervisory authorities where it sees abuses and violations.