Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Keep it on the up and up

Secrets don't make friends. That is a saying I learned in elementary school, and it has stuck with me these many years. It isn't just that secrets don't make friends; they end friendships, relationships, marriages, etc. One of the largest groups of people to keep secrets these days is African American gay men. What! You might say. Gay men are out of the closet, black and white alike. We all remember the real world San Francisco, the openly gay, interracial poster couple season. You might say, 'hey, our community may be small, but we're here and all you have to do is open your eyes to see us. Well, in some cases that is true, but many eyes are open with the wool coming down, because the so-called down-low brother's are multiplying faster than rainbow flags. In case you were not aware of the term, a down-low brother is a gay man in secret; many have girlfriends or even wives, possibly children. They may or may not consider themselves homosexual, but nevertheless they have sex with other men for pleasure, in secret. Now, I am not one to even comment on lifestyle choices. To each his own, have fun and look good doing it is my motto, but don't involve anyone unwillingly or unknowingly in it. There is no excuse for lying and cheating, opposite and same sex alike, but there is something fundamentally wrong about keeping your real sexual identity from a partner or spouse. What choices do women have if their partners cannot even be honest about their sexuality? That is the ultimate in unfair. And Dangerous. Is it possible that a down-low brother, so obsessed with secrecy and denial, might disregard or forget the condom? Is it outrageous to think that a man who lies to his partners would also be inconsiderate of safe sex practices? This is not a 'straight women beware' rant. This is a get up and take responsibility for the truth and your lifestyle, be honest and forthright, get out of the shadows and into the open air where sexual freedom and choice is not only in the hands of one partner. Keep your sex on the up and up.


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If your credit card uses different rates for purchases, transfers, and cash advances, realize that the card issuer may pay the lower interest rate balance first. Consequently, if you carry a balance, your high-rate cash advance may not be "paid" until all lower-rate balances are paid in full.
Fixed-Rate credit cards are not fixed forever. Rates can be changed at any time, as long as the card issuer provides 15 days advance notice of the change in terms. Fees may also increase. These "Change in Terms" notices are usually included with your monthly statement.
Your interest rate may dramatically increase if you make late payments. For example, some issuers will raise your interest rate to the maximum after one or two late payments. Consequently, your 12% credit card could quickly turn into a 25% credit card.
Your credit card issuer may also raise your interest rate after conducting a routine credit report review. If your overall credit history has deteriorated, the issuer may raise your interest rate, even though you've never made a late payment on the card in question.
The 25 day grace period only applies when you pay-off your entire balance due each month. If you only pay the minimum payment, interest is immediately accrued from the moment you charge something to your credit card. Some companies are also shortening the grace period to 20 days, and some cards have no grace periods.
Ignore offers to reduce or skip payments. These options are frequently offered over the holidays. When you skip a payment, the loan continues to accrue interest; therefore, these offers simply increase the overall interest and finance charges that the creditor collects. On a similar note, beware of offers of no payment/no interest for a period of time. Furniture stores, jewelry stores, and electronics stores frequently offer these programs. For example, no payment/no interest for 12 months!! This can be a good offer, but once again, read the fine print. Make sure you know the details of the program. Generally, you need to pay off the entire balance before the end of the "free" period to receive the benefit. Otherwise, you will probably have to pay interest on the entire balance from the date of your purchase entails taking out one loan to pay off many others. This is often done to secure a lower interest rate, secure a fixed interest rate or for the convenience of servicing only one loan. can simply be from a number of unsecured loans into another unsecured loan, but more often it involves a secured loan against an asset that serves as collateral, most commonly a house. In this case, a mortgage is secured against the house. The collateralization of the loan allows a lower interest rate than without it, because by collateralizing, the asset owner agrees to allow the forced sale (foreclosure) of the asset to pay back the loan. The risk to the lender is reduced so the interest rate offered is lower.

Sometimes, debt consolidation companies can discount the amount of the loan. When the debtor is in danger of bankruptcy, the debt consolidator will buy the loan at a discount. A prudent debtor can shop around for consolidators who will pass along some of the savings. Consolidation can affect the ability of the debtor to discharge debts in bankruptcy, so the decision to consolidate must be weighed carefully.

Debt consolidation is often advisable in theory when someone is paying credit card debt. Credit cards can carry a much larger interest rate than even an unsecured loan from a bank. Debtors with property such as a home or car may get a lower rate through a secured loan using their property as collateral. Then the total interest and the total cash flow paid towards the debt is lower allowing the debt to be paid off sooner, incurring less interest. In practice, many people are in credit card debt because they spend more than their income. If that habit continues, the consolidation will not benefit them much because they will simply increase their credit card balances again.

Because of the theoretical advantage that debt consolidation offers a consumer that has high interest debt balances, companies can take advantage of that benefit of refinancing to charge very high fees in the debt consolidation loan. Sometimes these fees are near the state maximum for mortgage fees. In addition, some unscrupulous companies will knowingly wait until a client has backed themselves into a corner and must refinance in order to consolidate and pay off bills that they are behind on the payments. If the client does not refinance they may lose their house, so they are willing to pay any allowable fee to complete the debt consolidation. In some cases the situation is that the client does not have enough time to shop for another lender with lower fees and may not even be fully aware of them. This practice is known as predatory lending Certainly many, if not most, debt consolidation transactions do not involve predatory lending.

Credit card debt is an example of unsecured consumer debt, accessed through plastic credit cards.

Debt results when a client of a credit card company purchases an item or service through the card system. Debt accumulates and increases via interest and penalties when the consumer does not pay the company for the money he or she has spent.

The results of not paying this debt on time are that the company will charge a late payment penalty (generally in the US from $10 to $40) and report the late payment to credit rating agencies. Being late on a payment is sometimes referred to as being in "default". The late payment penalty itself increases the amount of debt the consumer has.

When a consumer has been late on a payment, it is possible that other creditors, even creditors the consumer was not late in paying, may increase the interest rates the consumer is paying. This practice is called universal default.

If the customer is carrying an amount of debt that is so high that it is over their credit limit, then they might be charged an over-the-limit fee of up to $39 until their balance is paid down to below their credit limit. This, too, may add to the consumer's debt.

Sometimes the late fees, over-the-limit fees, high annual percentage rates (APRs), and universal default overcome consumers who frequently do not pay off their debt, and the customer declares bankruptcy. If a customer files for bankruptcy, the credit card companies are required to forgive all or much of the debt, unless such discharge of debt is successfully challenged by one or more creditors, or blocked by a bankruptcy judge on legal grounds irrespective of creditors' challenges.

Because forgiveness of debt reduces likelihood of profit and continued survival, the companies are generally willing to offer another deal to the consumers in danger of bankruptcy. This deal consists of reduced APRs, removal of past late fees and penalty charges, and reaging the accounts so that the credit agencies see them as late accounts.A credit card is a system of payment named after the small plastic card issued to users of the system. A credit card is different from a debit card in that it does not remove money from the user's account after every transaction. In the case of credit cards, the issuer lends money to the consumer (or the user). It is also different from a charge card (though this name is sometimes used by the public to describe credit cards), which requires the balance to be paid in full each month. In contrast, a credit card allows the consumer to 'revolve' their balance, at the cost of having interest charged. Most credit cards are the same shape and size, as specified by the standard.

A user is issued credit after an account has been approved by the credit provider, and is given a credit card, with which the user will be able to make purchases from merchants accepting that credit card up to a pre-established credit limit. Often a general bank issues the credit, but sometimes a captive bank created to issue a particular brand of credit card, such as or Banks issues the credit.

When a purchase is made, the credit card user agrees to pay the card issuer. The cardholder indicates their consent to pay, by signing a receipt with a record of the card details and indicating the amount to be paid or by entering a Personal identification number (PIN). Also, many merchants now accept verbal authorizations via telephone and electronic authorization using the Internet, known as a Card not present (CNP) transaction.

Electronic verification systems allow merchants to verify that the card is valid and the credit card customer has sufficient credit to cover the purchase in a few seconds, allowing the verification to happen at time of purchase. The verification is performed using a credit card payment terminal or Point of Sale (POS) system with a communications link to the merchant's acquiring bank. Data from the card is obtained from a magnetic stripe or chip on the card; the latter system is in the United Kingdom commonly known as Chip an PIN, but is more technically an EMV card.

Other variations of verification systems are used by eCommerce merchants to determine if the user's account is valid and able to accept the charge. These will typically involve the cardholder providing additional information, such as the security code printed on the back of the card, or the address of the cardholder.

Each month, the credit card user is sent a statement indicating the purchases undertaken with the card, any outstanding fees, and the total amount owed. After receiving the statement, the cardholder may dispute any charges that he or she thinks are incorrect (see Fair Credit Billing Act for details of the US regulations). Otherwise, the cardholder must pay a defined minimum proportion of the bill by a due date, or may choose to pay a higher amount up to the entire amount owed. The credit provider charges interest on the amount owed (typically at a much higher rate than most other forms of debt). Some financial institutions can arrange for automatic payments to be deducted from the user's bank accounts.

Credit card issuers usually waive interest charges if the balance is paid in full each month, but typically will charge full interest on the entire outstanding balance from the date of each purchase if the total balance is not paid.

For example, if a user had a $1,000 outstanding balance and pays it in full, there would be no interest charged. If, however, even $1.00 of the total balance remained unpaid, interest would be charged on the $1 from the date of purchase until the payment is received. The precise manner in which interest is charged is usually detailed in a cardholder agreement which may be summarized on the back of the monthly statement. The general calculation formula most financial institutions use to determine the amount of interest to be charged is APR/100 x ADB/365 x number of days revolved. Take the Annual percentage rate (APR) and divide by 100 then multiply to the amount of the average daily balance divided by 365 and then take this total and multiply by the total number of days the amount revolved before payment was made on the account. Financial institutions refer to interest charged back to the original time of the transaction and up to the time a payment was made, if not in full, as RRFC or residual retail finance charge. Thus after an amount has revolved and a payment has been made that the user of the card will still receive interest charges on their statement after paying the next statement in full (in fact the statement may only have a charge for interest that collected up until the date the full balance was paid...i.e. when the balance stopped revolving).

The credit card may simply serve as a form of revolving credit, or it may become a complicated financial instrument with multiple balance segments each at a different interest rate, possibly with a single umbrella credit limit, or with separate credit limits applicable to the various balance segments. Usually this compartmentalization is the result of special incentive offers from the issuing bank, either to encourage balance transfers from cards of other issuers, or to encourage more spending on the part of the customer. In the event that several interest rates apply to various balance segments, payment allocation is generally at the discretion of the issuing bank, and payments will therefore usually be allocated towards the lowest rate balances until paid in full before any money is paid towards higher rate balances. Interest rates can vary considerably from card to card, and the interest rate on a particular card may jump dramatically if the card user is late with a payment on that card or any other credit instrument, or even if the issuing bank decides to raise its revenue. As the rates and terms vary, services have been set up allowing users to calculate savings available by switching cards, which can be considerable if there is a large outstanding balance (see external links for some on-line services).

Because of intense competition in the credit card industry, credit providers often offer incentives such as frequent flier points, gift certificates, or cash back (typically up to 1 percent based on total purchases) to try to attract customers to their program.

Low interest credit cards or even 0% interest credit cards are available. The only downside to consumers is that the period of low interest credit cards is limited to a fixed term, usually between 6 and 12 months after which a higher rate is charged. However, services are available which alert credit card holders when their low interest period is due to expire. Most such services charge a monthly or annual fee. credit card's grace period is the time the customer has to pay the balance before interest is charged to the balance. Grace periods vary, but usually range from 20 to 30 days depending on the type of credit card and the issuing bank. Some policies allow for reinstatement after certain conditions are met. Usually, if a customer is late paying the balance, finance charges will be calculated and the grace period does not apply. Finance charge(s) incurred depends on the grace period and balance, with most credit cards there is no grace period if there's any outstanding balance from the previous billing cycle or statement (ie. interest is applied on both the previous balance and new transactions). However, there are some credit cards that will only apply finance charge on the previous or old balance, excluding new transactions.

For merchants, a credit card transaction is often more secure than other forms of payment, such as checks, because the issuing bank commits to pay the merchant the moment the transaction is authorized, regardless of whether the consumer defaults on their credit card payment (except for legitimate disputes, which are discussed below, and can result in charge backs to the merchant). In most cases, cards are even more secure than cash, because they discourage theft by the merchant's employees.

For each purchase, the bank charges a commission (discount fee), to the merchant for this service and there may be a certain delay before the agreed payment is received by the merchant. The commission is often a percentage of the transaction amount, plus a fixed fee. In addition, a merchant may be penalized or have their ability to receive payment using that credit card restricted if there are too many cancellations or reversals of charges as a result of disputes. Some small merchants require credit purchases to have a minimum amount (usually between $5 and $10) to compensate for the transaction costs, though this is not always allowed by the credit card consortium.

In some countries, like the Nordic countries, banks guarantee payment on stolen cards only if an ID card is checked and the ID card number/civic registration number is written down on the receipt together with the signature. In these countries merchants therefore usually ask for ID. Non-Nordic citizens, who are unlikely to possess a Nordic ID card or driving license, will instead have to show their passport, and the passport number will be written down on the receipt, sometimes together with other information. Some shops use the card's PIN code for identification, and in that case showing an ID card is not necessary.

Authorization: When the cardholders pays for the purchase, the merchant performs some risk assessment and may submit the transaction to the acquirer for authorization. The acquirer verifies with the issuer—almost instantly—that the card number and transaction amount are both valid, and informs the merchant on how to proceed. The issuer may provisionally debit the funds from the cardholder's credit account at this stage.
Batching: After the transaction is authorized it is then stored in a batch, which the merchant sends to the acquiring bank later to receive payment (usually at the end of the day).
Clearing and settlement: The acquiring bank sends the transactions in the batch through the card association, which debits the card-issuing bank for the transaction amount, and credits the acquirer for the transaction amount minus the interchange fee.
Funding: The acquiring bank pays the merchant. The amount the merchant receives is equal to the transaction amount minus the discount rate charged by the acquiring bank to the merchant for the service.
The entire process, from authorization to funding, usually takes about 2-7 business days. However, many merchant card processors offer next-day deposits to customers subject to type of banking account.

In the event of a chargeback (when there's an error in processing the transaction or the cardholder disputes the transaction), the issuer returns the transaction to the acquirer for resolution. The acquirer then forwards the chargeback to the merchant, who must either accept the chargeback or contest it.

Commodity money is any money that is both used as a general purpose medium of exchange and as a tradable commodity in its own right.

Commodity based currencies are often viewed as more stable, but this is not always the case. The value of a commodity based currency as a medium of exchange depends on its supply relative to other goods and services available in the economy. Historically, gold, silver and other metals commonly used in commodity based monetary systems have been subject to regular and sometimes extraordinary fluctuations in purchasing power. This not only damages its stability as a medium of exchange; it also reduces its effectiveness as a store of value. In the 1500s and 1600s huge quantities of gold and even larger amounts of silver were discovered in the New World and brought back to Europe for conversion into coin. As a result, the purchasing power of those coins fell by 60% to 80%, i.e. the prices of goods rose, because the supply of goods did not keep pace with the increased supply of money. In addition, the relative value of silver to gold shifted dramatically downward. Such discoveries of huge sources of gold or silver are a thing of the past, and lend to their supply stability. More recently, from 1980 to 2001, gold was a particularly poor store of value, as gold prices dropped from a high of $850/oz. ($27.30 /g) to a low of $255/oz. ($8.20 /g).It should be noted that gold was not a currency at this time, and was fluctuating due to its status as a final store of value — that is, the price never goes to zero as fiat currencies inevitably do. The advantage of gold and silver, however, lies in the fact that, unlike fiat paper currency, the supply cannot be increased arbitrarily by a central bank.

It is also possible for the trading value of a commodity money to be greater than its value as a medium of exchange when governments attempt to fix exchange rates between different commodity monies. When this happens people will often start melting down coins and reselling the metal used to make them. This has happened periodically in the United States, eventually causing it to move away from pure silver nickels and pure copper pennies. Shipping coins from one jurisdiction to another so that they could be reminted was sometimes a lucrative trade before the advent of trusted paper money.

Commodity money's ability to function as a store of value is also limited by its very nature. Copper and tin risk rust and corrosion. Gold and silver are soft metals that can lose weight through scratches and abrasions, but this is nothing by comparison to fiat currencies, where billions of dollars can be injected ("printed") into the market within moments.

Stability aside, commodity-based currencies may have a tendency to restrain growth in a very active economy. For example, in order to maintain the price level, the supply of money in an any economy must be equal or greater than the volume of goods and services produced. If commodities are used as money, then the total production can easily outstrip the supply of those commodities, which leads to price deflation. The lower prices of goods would signal to their producers to reduce the supply of goods, hence restoring the price level. As such, production within commodity-based economies tends to be limited by the supply of the commodity currency.[citation needed]

This problem is compounded by the fact that money also serves as a store of value. This encourages hoarding (in other circumstances known as "saving")and takes the commodity money out circulation, reducing the supply. The supply of circulating commodity currency is further reduced by the fact that commodity moneys also have competing non-monetary uses. For example, gold and silver are used in jewelry, and nickel and copper have important industrial uses.

Commodity based currencies also limit the geographic extent of the trading market. To make large purchases either a large volume or a high weight or both of the commodity must be transported to the seller. The cost of transportation of the currency raises the transaction cost and makes long distance sales less attractive

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The lender should also ask you to sign a loan agreement. If the lender does not offer to give you a copy of the loan agreement, ask for one. Read this document carefully before signing it, and keep a copy for your records

How and when do I pay back the loan?
A payday loan agreement usually says that you must pay the total amount you owe for the loan on or before the date stated in your loan agreement. This includes the amount you borrowed, plus interest and any additional fees and charges.

Some lenders will cash your postdated cheque or process your direct withdrawal on the day the loan is due. However, some lenders may require that you pay the loan in cash, on or before the due date.

If you have not paid the loan in cash by the due date, some lenders may cash your cheque or process the direct withdrawal you signed on the day after your loan's due date, and charge you another fee. Ask the lender what the most inexpensive way is for you to repay your loan.

How does a payday loan affect my credit report?
Credit-reporting agencies collect information on whether or not you make your payments on time. This information, also called your "credit history", is part of your credit report and is used to calculate your credit score.

Making payments on time can help improve your credit score by demonstrating that you are able to manage your debt. Even if you have poor credit, you can rebuild it by using a credit card or other type of credit and paying back the money you owe on time.

This is not the case with payday loans. Since payday lenders are not currently members of the main credit-reporting agencies, getting a payday loan and paying it off on time will not improve your credit score. However, if you do not pay your loan back on time and it is sent to a collection agency, this will likely be reported to a credit-reporting agency and could have a negative impact on your credit report.

How much will a payday loan cost?
A payday loan is much more expensive than most other types of loans offered by financial institutions such as banks or credit unions. Before you apply for a payday loan, find out about all the fees and charges you will have to pay — including the fees you will be charged if you cannot repay the loan on time. The fees may not be easy to see right away, so read the agreement carefully before signing it. If you do not receive an explanation of all of the fees, charges and interest that will apply to the loan, or if you are not satisfied with the explanation you receive, do not sign the loan agreement.

How does the cost of a payday loan compare with other credit products?
Payday loans are much more expensive than other types of loans, including credit cards. But how much are you really paying? How does the cost of a payday loan compare with taking a cash advance on a credit card, using overdraft protection on your bank account or borrowing on a line of credit?

Let's compare the cost of using different types of loans. We'll assume that you borrow $300, for 14 days. Note the considerable difference in the cost of each type of loan.

Things to consider before you apply for a payday loan
Even if you think you may be turned down, ask your bank or credit union for overdraft protection on your bank account, or a line of credit. These are relatively inexpensive ways of obtaining access to extra funds, for short-term use.

If you are turned down for any of these credit options, ask why. If the reason is that you have a poor credit history, contact the three credit-reporting agencies to get a copy of your credit report. Read the reports carefully to make sure that all of the information in it is correct. If you find any errors, contact the credit-reporting agency to find out how you can have the information corrected. The three major credit-reporting agencies in Canada are Equifax Canada, TransUnion Canada and Northern Credit Bureaus. All three of these agencies will give you a copy of your credit report for free if you request that it be sent to you by regular mail.

Ask yourself if you really need to take out a loan, or whether you can get by until your next pay cheque. If you need the money immediately, try to make other arrangements. For example, you may be able to cash in vacation days. Or you might consider getting a short-term loan from a family member or a friend.

If you find that you need to apply for a payday loan because you have no alternative, only borrow an amount that you are 100 percent sure you can repay on the due date of the loan.

Don't borrow more than you need.

Things to consider if you take out a payday loan
Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Read carefully — and take home with you — a copy of the loan agreement that you are being asked to sign. Don't feel pressured to sign the loan agreement right away if you have questions and want more time to read through the agreement on your own. If the lender does not want to give you a copy of the agreement, look for another lender.

Be sure to ask about all the fees, charges and interest that apply when you first get the loan, and what other charges you will owe if you can't pay the loan back on time.

If you are taking out a payday loan at another location to pay back the first payday loan, or you are extending or "rolling over" the loan that you had with the same lender, you could find yourself in serious financial difficulty. The fees, charges and interest will add up quickly on these types of loans, which can put you into serious debt.
How can I figure out the cost of each type of loan?
To estimate the total cost of a loan, including the annual cost of the loan expressed as a percentage of the amount borrowed, follow the steps below.

Step 1:

Determine how much interest you will pay. First, find out the annual interest rate that applies to the loan (if there is one). Figure out the daily interest rate by dividing the annual interest rate of the loan by 365 days. Then, multiply that rate by the length of time you are taking the loan. Finally, multiply the result by the amount you will borrow, in dollars:

Amount of interest

= Annual interest rate

365 days × Length of the loan
(number of days) × Amount of the loan

Step 2:

Determine the total cost of the loan by adding any fees that may apply to the interest you will have to pay. Find out what fees apply to the loan and add them to the cost of the interest, found in Step 1:

Total cost of the loan = Amount of interest + Total fees

Step 3:

Estimate the annual cost of the loan, expressed as a percentage of the amount borrowed. First, divide the total cost of the loan, found in Step 2, by the amount of the loan. Then, divide this rate by the length of time you are taking the loan (in days) and multiply it by 365 (the number of days in the year):

Annual cost of the loan (%)

= Cost of the loan

Amount of the loan ÷ Length of the loan
(number of days) × 365 days

Let's find out the cost of a $300 payday loan, taken for 14 days.

We'll assume that the lender charges you a one-time set-up fee of $10 and a service fee of $40, which includes interest on the loan.

Step 1:

Determine how much interest you will pay. In this case, there is no interest fee. The interest is therefore $0.

Step 2:

Figure out the cost of the loan by adding together any fees that apply and the interest you will have to pay. In this case, you would add the $10 set-up fee and the $40 service fee together:

$10 + $40 = $50

Step 3:

Estimate the total annual cost of the loan, expressed as a percentage of the amount borrowed:

Annual cost of the loan (%)

= Cost of the loan

Amount of the loan ÷ Length of the loan
(number of days) × 365 days
= $50
———— ÷ 14 days × 365 days
= 4.35 or approximately 435%

The total cost of the payday loan would be $50 with an annual cost of 435 percent of the amount borrowed.

Information asymmetries are common in credit market models, but the usual assumption,

at least in commercial lending, is that borrowers are the better informed party and that

lenders have to screen and monitor to assess whether firms are creditworthy. The opposite

asymmetry, as we assume here, does not seem implausible in the context of consumer lending.

“Fringe” borrowers are less educated than mainstream borrowers (Caskey 2003), and many

are first-time borrowers (or are rebounding from a failed first foray into credit). Lenders

know from experience with large numbers of borrowers, whereas the borrower may only have

their own experience to guide them. Credit can also be confusing; after marriage, mortgages

are probably the most complicated contract most people ever enter. Given the subtleties

involved with credit, and the supposed lack of sophistication of sub-prime borrowers, our

assumption that lenders know better seems plausible.

While lenders might deceive households about several variables that influence household

loan demand, we focus on income. We suppose that lenders exaggerate household’s future

income in order boost loan demand. Our borrowers are gullible, in the sense that they can

be fooled about their future income, but they borrow rationally given their beliefs. Fooling

borrowers is costly to lenders, where the costs could represent conscience, technological costs

(of learning the pitch), or risk of prosecution. The upside to exaggerating borrowers’ income

prospects is obvious—they borrow more. As long as the extra borrowing does not increase

default risk too much, and as long as deceiving borrowers is easy enough, income deception

and predatory—welfare reducing—lending may occur.

After defining predatory lending, we test whether payday lending fits our definition. Payday

lenders make small, short-term loans to mostly lower-middle income households. The

business is booming, but critics condemn payday lending, especially the high fees and frequent

loan rollovers, as predatory. Many states prohibit payday loans outright, or indirectly,

via usury limits.

To test whether payday lending qualifies as predatory, we compared debt and delinquency

rates for households in states that allow payday lending to those in states that do not. We

focus especially on differences across states households that, according to our model, seem

more vulnerable to predation: households with more income uncertainly or less education.

We use smoking as a third, more ambiguous, proxy for households with high, or perhaps

hyperbolic, discount rates. In general, high discounters will pay higher future costs for a

given, immediate, gain in welfare. Smokers’ seem to fit that description. What makes the

smoking proxy ambiguous is that smokers may have hyperbolic, not just high, discount rates.

Hyperbolic discount rates decline over time in a way that leads to procrastination and selfcontrol

problems (Laibson 1997). The hyperbolic discounter postpones quitting smoking,

or repaying credit. Without knowing whether smokers discount rates are merely high, or

hyperbolic, we will not be able to say whether any extra debt for smokers in payday states

is welfare reducing.2

Given those proxies, we use a difference-in-difference approach to test whether payday

lending fits our definition of predatory. First we look for differences in household debt

and delinquency across payday states and non-payday states, then we test whether those

difference are higher for potential prey. To ensure that any such differences are not merely

state effects, we difference a third time across time by comparing whether those differences

changed after the advent of payday lending circa 1995. That triple difference identifies any

difference in debt and delinquency for potential prey in payday states after payday lending

was introduced.

Our findings seem mostly inconsistent with the hypothesis that payday lenders prey on,

i.e., lower the welfare of, households with uncertain income or households with less education.

Those types of households who happen to live in states that allow unlimited payday loans

are less likely to report being turned down for credit, but are not more likely, by and large,

to report higher debt levels, contrary to the overborrowing prediction of our model. Nor are

such households more likely to have missed a debt payment in the previous year. On the

contrary, households with uncertain income who live in states with unlimited payday loans

are less likely to have missed a debt payment over the previous year. The latter result is

consistent with claims by defenders of payday lending that some households borrow from

2Consistent with a high discount rate, Munasinghe and Sicherman (2000) discover that smokers have

flatter wage profiles and they are willing to trade more future earnings for a given increase in current earnings.

Gruber and Mulainathan (2002) find that high cigarette taxes make smokers ”happier,” consistent with

hypberbolic discount rates (because taxes help smokers commit to quitting). DellaVigna and Malmendier

(2004) show how credit card lenders can manipulate hyperbolic discounters by front-loading benefits and

back-loading costs.

payday lenders to avoid missing payments on other debt. On the whole, our results seem

consistent with the hypothesis that payday lending represents a legitimate increase in the

supply of credit, not a contrived increase in credit demand.

We find some interesting differences for smokers, but those differences are harder to

interpret in relation to the predatory hypothesis without knowing apriori whether smokers

are hyperbolic, or merely high, discounters.

We also find, using a small set of data from different sources, that payday loan rates

and fees decline significantly as the number of payday lenders and pawnshops increase.

Reformers often advocate usury limits to lower payday loan fees but our evidence suggests

that competition among payday lenders (and pawnshops) works to lower payday loan prices.

Our paper has several cousins in the academic literature. Ausubel (1991) argues that

credit card lenders exploit their superior information about household credit demand in their

marketing and pricing of credit cards. The predators in our model profit from their information

advantage as well. Our concept of income delusion or deception also has a behavioral

flavor, as well, hence our use of smoking as a proxy for self-control problems. Brunnermeier

and Parker (2004), for example, imagine that households choose what to expect about future

income (or other outcomes). High hopes give households’ current “felicity,” even if it

distorts borrowing and other income-dependent decisions. Our households have high hopes

for income, and they make bad borrowing decisions, but we do not count the current felicity

from high hopes as an offset to the welfare loss from overborrowing.

Our costly falsification (of household income prospects) and costly verification (by counselors)

resemble Townsend’s (1979) costly state verification and Lacker andWeinbergs’ (1989)

costly state falsification. The main difference here is that the falsifying and verifying comes

before income is realized, not after.

More importantly, we hope our findings inform the current, very real-world debate,

around predatory lending. The stakes in that debate are high: millions of lower income

households borrow regularly from thousands of payday loan offices around the country. If

payday lenders raise household welfare by relaxing credit constraints, anti-predatory legislation

may lower it.

Payday lenders make small, short-term loans to households. The typical loan is about $300

for two weeks. The typical fee is $15 per $100 borrowed. Lenders require two recent pay

stubs (as proof of employment), and a recent bank account statement. Borrowers secure

the loan with a post-dated personal check for the loan amount plus fees. When the loan

matures, lenders deposit the check.

Payday lending evolved from check cashing much like bank lending evolved from deposit

taking. For a fee, check cashiers turn personal paychecks into cash. After cashing several

paychecks for the same customer, lending against f uture paychecks was a natural next step.

High finance charges is the main criticism against payday lenders. The typical fee of $15

per $100 per two weeks implies an annual interest rate of 15x365/14, or 390 percent. Payday

lenders are also criticize for overlending, in the sense that borrowers often refinance their

loans repeatedly, and for ”targeting” women making the transition from welfare-to-work

(Fox and Mierzewski 2001) and soldiers (Graves and Peterson 2004).

Despite their critics, payday lending has boomed. The number of payday advance offices

grew from 0 in 1990 to 14, 000 in 2003 (Stegman and Harris 2003). The industry originated

$8 to $14 billion in loans in 2000, implying 26-47 million individual loans. Rapid entry

suggests the industry is profitable.

Payday lenders present stiff competition for pawnshops, even though the internet, namely

E-bay, significantly foreclosure costs for pawnshops (Caskey 2003). The number of pawn

shops in the U.S. grew about six percent per year between 1986 and 1996, but growth

essentially stalled from 1997 to 2003. Prices of shares in EZCorp, the largest, publicly

traded pawn shop holder, were essentially flat or declining between 1994 and 2004, while

Ace Cash Express share prices, a retail financial firm selling check cashing and payday loans,

rose substantially over that period (Figure 4). EZCorp CEO, Joseph Rotunday, blamed

payday lenders for pawnshops’ dismal performance:

The company had been progressing very nicely until the late 1990s.... (when)

a new product called payroll advance/payday loans came along and provided our

customer base an alternative choice. Many of them elected the payday loan over

the traditional pawn loan. (Quoted by Caskey (2003) p.14).

Payday lending is heavily regulated (Table 1). As of 2001, eighteen states effectively

prohibited payday loans via usury limits, and most other states prices, loan size, and loan

frequency per customer (Fox and Mierzwinski 2001). Note that the payday loan limit ranges

from 0 (where payday loans are illegal) to 1250. Nine states allow unlimited payday loans.

Payday lenders have circumvented usury limits by affiliating with national or state

chartered banks, but the Comptroller of the Currency—the overseer of nationally chartered

banks–recently banned such affiliations. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation still

permits payday lenders to affiliate with state banks, but recently restricted those partnerships

(Graves and Peterson 2005).

Regulatory risk—the threat of costly or disabling legislation in the future—looms large for

Payday lenders. The Utah legislature is reconsidering its permissive laws governing payday

lending. North Carolina recently drove payday lenders from the state by expressly outlawing

the practice.

Heavy regulation increases the cost of payday lending. High regulatory risk increases limits

entry into the industry and increases the expected return required by industry investors.

Driving up costs and driving away investors may be exactly what regulators intended if they

view payday lending as predatory.
We define predatory lending as a welfare reducing provision of credit. Households can be

made worse off by borrowing if lenders can deceive households into borrowing more than is

optimal. Excess borrowing reduces household welfare, and may increase default risk.

We illustrate our concept of predatory lending in a standard model of household borrowing.

Before we get to predatory lending, we review basic principles about welfare improving

lending, the type that lets households maintain their consumption despite fluctuations in

their income.

The model has two periods: today (period zero) and payday (period one. Household income

goes up and down periodically, but not randomly (for now): income equals zero today

and y on payday. If households consume Ct in period t, their utility is U (Ct).Household welfare

is the sum of utility over both periods: U (C0)+δU (C1), where δ equals the household’s

time rate of discount. Households with high δ value current consumption highly relative to

future consumption. In other words, high discounters are impatient.

A digression here on discount rates serves later discussion. In classical economics δ is

constant. If δ changes over time, so does household behavior, even if nothing else changes.

If δ(t) is hyperbolic, households will postpone unpleasant tasks until current consumption

does not seem so precious relative to future consumption (Laibson 1997). With hyperbolic

discounting, that day never arrives, so hyperbolic discounters have behavioral problems: they

procrastinate. They may never repay debt, much less begin saving. Hyperbolic discounters

who start smoking may never quit.

Returning to the model, if the marginal utility of consumption (U 0) is diminishing, households

will demand credit to reduce fluctuations in their standard of living. Households

without credit, however, must fend for themselves (autarky). Welfare under autarky equals

U(0)+δU (y). The fluctuations in consumption for households without credit make autarky

a possible worst case, and hence, a good benchmark for comparing cases with credit.

If households borrow B at interest rate r, welfare equals U (B) + δU (y − (1 + r)B).

Borrowing increases utility in period zero, when the proceeds are consumed, but lowers utility

in period one, when households pay for their borrowing. Rational, informed households trade

off the good and bad side of borrowing; they borrow until the marginal utility of consuming

another unit today just equals the marginal, discounted disutility of repaying the extra debt

on payday:

U 0(B) = δ(1 + r)U 0(y − (1 + r)B). (1)

Equation (1) determines household loan demand as a function of their income, their

discount rate, and the market interest rate: B(y, δ, r). For standard utility functions,

household loan demand is increasing in income and decreasing in the discount factor and

interest rate: By > 0; Bδ < 0; Br < 0. Household welfare with optimal borrowing equals

U (B(y, r, d))+δU (y − (1+r)B(y, r, δ)). As long as households follow (1), their welfare with

positive borrowing must be higher than without (autarky).

The welfare gain from borrowing depends on the cost of credit production. Suppose the

cost of lending $B to a particular household equals (1 + ρ)B + f, where ρ represents the

opportunity cost per unit loaned and f is the fixed cost per loan. Think of f as the cost

of record-keeping and credit check required for each loan, however large or small the loan

may be. If the going price for loans is (1+r) per unit borrowed, the lenders’ profits equal

(r − ρ)B − f.

With perfect competition among lenders, the loan interest rate is competed down until

it just covers the costs of the loan: r = ρ + f /B. Equilibrium r and B are determined

where that credit supply curve equals demand (1).

Equilibrium in the payday credit market is illustrated in Figure (3). If fixed costs per loan

are prohibitively high, the market may not exist. Perhaps the payday lending technology

lowered the fixed cost per loan enough to make the business viable.3 Before the advent of

payday lending, households who applied to banks for a very small, short-term loan may have

been denied.

Fixed costs per loan imply that smaller loans will cost more per dollar borrowed than

larger loans. That means households with low credit demand will pay higher rates than

households with high loan demand. Loan demand is increasing in income, so high income

households who demand larger quantities of credit will enjoy a ”quantity” discount, while

lower income households will pay a ”small lot” premium, or penalty. That price ”discrimination”

is not invidious, however; the higher cost of smaller loans reflects the fixed costs of

lending. The high price of payday loans may partly reflect the combination of fixed costs

and small loan amounts (Flannery and Samolyk 2005).

A usury limit lowers household welfare. Suppose the maximum legal interest rate is r.

At that maximum rate, the minimum loan that lenders’ cost is f /(r− ρ) = B. Low income

households with loan demand less than B face a beggar’s choice: borrow B at r or do not

borrow at all. Such households would be willing to pay more to to avoid going without

credit, so raising the usury limit would raise welfare for those households.

Competition is another key determinant of how much households gains from borrowing.

3Alternatively, or additionaly, the demand for small, short term loans may have increased in the mid

1990s. The welfare reform then almost certainly increased demand for such credit as households who once

”worked” at home for the government were forced to go to work in the market.

Even with no competition — monopoly—households cannot be worse off than under autarky.

The monopolist raises interest rates until the marginal revenue from higher rates equals the

marginal cost from lower loan demand:

B(y, r) = −(r − ρ)Br(y, r). (2)

At that monopoly interest rate, rm, household loan demand equals B(y, rm).Household welfare

under monopoly equals U (Br(y, rm))+δU (y −(1+rm)Br(y, rm)). Welfare is lower under

monopoly because credit costs more and their standard of living fluctuates more (because

costly credit reduces their demand for credit) If households borrow from the monopolist,

however, they must better off than without credit.

In sum, welfare for rational households is highest if credit is available at competitive

prices. If households choose to borrow, they must be at least as well off as they were

without credit. Limiting loan rates cannot raise household welfare and may reduce it.

Monopoly lenders lower household welfare, but even with a monopolist, households cannot

be worse off than without credit.

The high cost of payday lending may partly reflect fixed costs per loan. Before payday

lending, those fixed costs may have been prohibitive; very small, short-term loans may not

have been worthwhile for banks. The payday lending technology may have lowered those

fixed costs, thus increasing the supply of credit to low income households demanding small

loans. That version of the genesis of payday lending suggests the innovation was welfare

improving, not predatory.

In the textbook model household welfare cannot be lower than under autarky because households

are fully informed and rational. Here we show households how can be made worse off

than without credit if predatory lenders can delude households about their (households’)

future income.

Suppose that by spending C(τ ), lenders can convince a prospective borrower that her

income on payday will be y +τ. The cost C can be interpreted variously as the cost of a guilty

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