Payday Loans + APR = Very Bad Idea

By Staff

The following guest post is from Jeff Rose. Jeff is a Certified Financial Planner in Illinois, authors the blog Good Financial Cents and is currently working on his first book Soldier of Finance.

I’m not shy about talking about payday loans. In other entries to my blog, you’ve heard me condemn them up and down, backwards and forwards. (Trust me. I’m not done yet.) I’ve even put them near the top of my list of financial Weapons of Mass Destruction. I can’t say enough about how destructive this kind of lending is. They don’t call it predatory lending for nothing, that’s for sure.

I’ve laid out before a number of reasons why payday loans are a flat out bad idea, so I thought I’d use this entry to go into deeper detail about maybe the most important part of what makes payday loans such a rip off.

The APR. Trust me, it’s absolutely, positively, astronomical.

The Basics of APR

I don’t want to assume everyone knows what I mean by APR, so let me frame it up for you quickly before I get too deep into why payday loan APRs are so horrible. Stick with me for a minute, and I promise – you’ll be able to see for yourself why payday loan APRs are not to be messed with.

APR stands for annual percentage rate. In summary, this is the rate at which your loan accrues interest. In plainer English, this is the amount of money you have to pay beyond what you were loaned. To the person who loaned you the money, this is the profit.

Simply having an APR isn’t bad. Most forms of credit and most loans are made profitable through an APR. It’s a necessary part of the credit industry.

What makes payday loan APRs so ridiculous is how high they are. Percentage rates on these are many many times higher than most other forms of credit reinforcing why you need to avoid payday loans at all costs.

Typical Loan APRs

As I mentioned, most forms of credit have an APR. The difference between traditional forms of credit (like mortgages, credit cards, student loans, etc.) and payday loans is that most traditional forms of credit have at least a somewhat reasonable APR, and a payday loan has an exorbitant APR.

For example, a typical credit card’s APR is somewhere between 7% and 36%. Now, I know that’s a big range, but it goes to show you where someone who doesn’t have good credit would be placed – out at the upper end of the 30% range. Please don’t get me wrong – that’s not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good rate. If you have credit cards at that rate, it might make sense to talk to someone about consolidating your debt. Our current Visa carries a rate of 9.99%, but also remember that we pay it off each month.

For a second example, a car loan APR is usually somewhere between 5% and 15%. 15% is certainly on the very high end, but again – I bring it up because it’s an excellent example of typical APRs, and will help to show you just how ludicrous payday loan APRs are.

As a third example (and then, I promise, I’ll show you some actual examples of payday loan APRs), let’s consider mortgage rate prices from January 2010 through to the end of October 2010. Over that period of 10 months, mortgage rates ranged from 5.21% to 4.19%. Keep that in mind as we move on.

It’s worth mentioned that car and mortgage loans are usually for large sums of money, so lenders can afford to charge a lower rate. They still make plenty of money. 4.19% of $200,000 is $8,380, and that’s before you take compounding into account. Not too bad for a few days work.

Some Actual Payday Loan APRs

How does 521% sound? That was the stated APR for a lady that I met with that was struggling with her debt. The was the highest rate she had, with the others all being above 300%. If you ask me, it sounds absolutely ridiculous. And that’s not even the highest it goes. Payday loan APRs can range from about 390% to 780%.

Did your jaw hit the floor yet? Well pick it up and make this promise to me and to yourself right now.

“I promise to NEVER get a payday loan. I promise to remember that there are other options, and to explore what they are before making drastic decisions about my finances.”

Trust me, they simply aren’t worth it.