© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Not-so-easy money: Report details hidden fees in cash app loans

Lightbox with word cash advance on wood background
bankrx - stock.adobe.com
Lightbox with word cash advance on wood background

Wisconsin lawmakers recently debated reforms for payday loans. Efforts to protect consumers come amid new research about financial pain associated with cash advances offered through smartphone apps. The Center for Responsible Lending is out with findingsthat detail how "earned wage advances" from digital platforms come with extra costs disguised as things like tips. Traditional payday lenders are often criticized for charging excessive interest rates on loans that are usually around $500.

Lucia Constantine, a researcher with the Center for Responsible Lending, said customers are usually seeking smaller amounts from the apps, but she warns they can be just as costly.

"They are trapping consumers in a cycle of borrowing that is similar to that of a payday loan, " she said.

The report said after using these financial products, customers are seeing overdrafts on their checking accounts increase by 56% on average. Industry leaders deny they're barraging consumers with hidden fees, stressing that features such as suggested tips are optional. More broadly, a bipartisan payday loan reform billin the Wisconsin Legislature failed to advance this month.

Constantine said like longstanding payday lenders, these cash advance apps can be hard to regulate. Meanwhile, she urged those in a bind to explore other options.

"[They should] try talking to their friends and family as a first source. The other option which I would recommend is reaching out to their credit union or banking institution to see if they can get some sort of small-dollar loan," she said.

She noted places such as credit unions typically provide more transparency on loan costs. According to the report, three-quarters of consumers took out at least one advance on the same day or day after a re-payment was posted.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
Up North Updates
* indicates required
Related Content