Report Rips Banks on 'Payday' Loans
Minneapolis Star Tribune
April 17, 2012
Besides storefront and Internet payday lenders, four major U.S. banks also participate in the fast-cash industry, charging interest rates up to 365 percent, alleges a new report by Minnesotans for a Fair Economy. The banks -- Wells Fargo, Fifth Third, Regions, and U.S. Bank -- sometimes charge even higher fees and interest rates for emergency loans than payday lenders, according to the report, but they use their charters help them avoid the regulation that governs the payday sector. They also have become more aggressive in marketing their products, says Uriah King of the Center for Responsible Lending. Representatives from Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank say the banks do not offer payday lending but do have services called "checking account advances" or "direct deposit advances," available only to people who have checking accounts with them and make regular direct deposits. They claim to charge straightforward fees for these loans and do not calculate an annual percentage rate (APR) on interest. According to Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, a $500 advance repaid over a typical 10-day term would cost $50 at U.S. Bank, the equivalent of an APR of 365 percent, and would cost $37.50 at Wells Fargo, amounting to an APR of 274 percent. State law caps the fees that can be charged on payday loans, depending on the amount. For loans between $350 and $1,000, the limit is 33 percent annual interest plus a $25 administrative fee. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson already has sued eight non-bank Internet payday lenders for charging unlawfully high annual interest rates of up to 782 percent.
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