Payday Loan Rollover: How Short-Term Loans Turn Into Long-Term Debt

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4 out of 5 payday loan borrowers wind up extending their loans and paying much, much more than they expected to than when they originally borrowed.1 How does this happen? Through a harmless-sounding technique called rollover.


Why Do People “Need” Payday Loans in the First Place?

People who turn to payday loans often have “bad” credit score—a FICO score of 630 or less.

Not sure what a credit score is? Let Katie Ross, Education and Development Manager for American Consumer Credit Counseling explain. “A credit score is all of the data contained in a credit report, which includes credit history and current account statuses, all compiled into one number using the same method for every consumer so it is standardized. The score is a tool for creditors to quickly assess borrowers to make initial product and interest rate offerings without performing a full credit inquiry.”

If you have a low credit score, then you’ve likely had an experience of getting shut out of from borrowing from traditional institutions like banks or credit unions. And it means that the interest rates you pay on the loans you can get are going to be much higher.

Lenders that serve these “subprime” borrowers—people whose credit scores are below average—charge those higher rates in order to protect themselves from risk. Since subprime borrowers default on their loans at a higher rate than borrowers with prime scores, lenders risk losing too much money if they charged them normal interest rates.

Enter: payday loans.

On paper, these are short-term loans with high-interest rates—the perfect way for someone with poor credit to get cash in a hurry. But in the real word, many payday loans end up trapping borrowers in a cycle of extremely high-cost debt, one from which it can take them years to escape. And the reason for that can be summed up in one simple word: rollover.

How does loan rollover work?

When a person cannot afford to pay their payday loan off by the given date, many lenders will give them the opportunity of “rolling over” their loan. It’s basically giving them an extension on the loan’s due date in return for an additional fee.

The most common form of loan rollover involves the borrower paying off only the interest owed on their loan. So for a 14-day, $300 loan with a 15 percent interest rate, rolling the loan over would mean paying the lender the $45 owed in interest in order to secure a 14-day extension on the due date.

But what about that additional fee? Well, what happens is that the lender then charges the borrower an additional 15 percent in interest on this new, extended term. In one fell swoop, the cost of borrowing for this payday loan jumps from 15 percent to 30 percent. That’s a big jump!

And if the borrower is still unable to pay their loan off after the new 14-day term, the lender might have them roll their loan over again.  That’s an additional $45 paid, and an additional 15 percent interest fee charged. The cost of borrowing has now risen to 45 percent, and the borrower is nowhere closer to paying off the original $300 they borrowed.

That’s how a “short-term” payday loan can so easily turn into a long-term problem.

The cost of rollover

If the main appeal of payday loans is that they can get you out of debt fast, then rolling a loan over and over again would seem entirely unappealing. And yet, it’s a fact that many payday loan customers end up with long-term debt.

According to a 2014 study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), 80 percent of all payday loans are the result of rollover or reborrowing—which is the practice of taking out a new payday loan soon after the old one is paid back. (Like rollover, reborrowing is a sign that a given borrower cannot afford to pay back their payday loan.) This begs the question: would the payday loan industry survive if its customers could afford to pay back their loans the first time?

Maybe not. Another study from the CFPB cites an alarming statistic: the average payday loan customer takes out 10 loans per year and spends almost 200 days in debt. Even though payday loans are sold as a “short-term” debt solution, these numbers point to a pattern of long-term indebtedness.

The reason that rollover (and reborrowing) are so common for payday loans likely has something to do with how these loans are structured. Specifically, how they are designed to be paid back all at once. According to a study from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the average payday loan borrower states they can afford about $100 a month towards their loan, even though they owe closer to $430.2 With only a few short weeks to pay back the loan, many payday loan borrowers find that they simply cannot afford to pay the loan back all at once.

How to Avoid Payday Loans

Folks with bad credit who are considering a payday loan should instead do two things.

The first thing they should do is consider out taking a long-term installment loan instead—as these loans designed to be paid off in a series of small, manageable payments (read more in What’s the Difference Between a Payday Loan and an Installment Loan?). Instead of accruing an additional interest fee every two weeks without ever touching the loan’s principal amount, borrowers who take out an installment loan would be paying both off principal and interest with every payment they make.

The second thing these people should do is focus on improving their credit scores. The better their credit, the less likely they are to resort to a payday loan.

“It’s no secret that consumers with excellent credit have access to their best credit cards and lowest interest rates,” says Chris Piper, Director of Market Strategy for DriveTime Automotive Group. “Having subprime credit can negatively affect your ability to finance a vehicle, own a home and even got a job – especially if you will have access to money or its’ in the finance industry. Slowly working on improving your credit is imperative to reducing financial stressors in your life.

Piper stresses that, “Outside of regularly reviewing their credit reports and scores (and knowing that you should never pay to review your credit reports or scores), subprime consumers should understand what element of their credit history is keeping their score low.”

He says that “it might be as simple as an incorrectly reported delinquency, or maybe the utilization on a single credit card is too high and negatively impacting their score. Knowing what the exact reasons why their score is low and practicing good credit hygiene and resolving those issues, when possible, is a sure-fire way to move out of the subprime credit range.”

According to Sacha Ferrandi, founder of Source Capital Funding, Inc., “One of the best ways to avoid payday and predatory lenders is to treat credit cards like debit cards, paying back the credit card loan as soon (or shortly after) you make the purchase. This is a great example of borrowing responsibly, as the credit card simply becomes a way to earn points in addition to making a purchase.

If you have credit card debt, make sure to pay off that debt on time” says Ferrandi. “Missed payments will severely hurt your credit score and if your credit score drops low enough, financing from a bank will become next to impossible, leaving only payday advances to rely on if an emergency arises.”

And even if you still need to take out a loan, choosing a personal installment loan could help you pay your bills and improve your credit at the same time. Certain lenders, like OppLoans, report your payment information to the credit bureaus. Payment history a huge factor in how credit scores are calculated.

While there are no “magic bullets” when it comes to raising your score, making your payments on time is a great place to start. Plus, with an installment loan, you’re more likely to have payments you can actually afford. Unlike payday loans, installments loans are designed to be paid off the first time—no rollover required.

Works Cited

1 “CFPB Finds Four Out Of Five Payday Loans Are Rolled Over Or Renewed.” ConsumerFinance.gov. Accessed on February 10, 2017 from https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/cfpb-finds-four-out-of-five-payday-loans-are-rolled-over-or-renewed/.

2 “How Borrowers Choose and Repay Payday Loans.” PewTrusts.org. Accessed on February 10, 2017 from http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2013/02/20/pew_choosing_borrowing_payday_feb2013-%281%29.pdf



About the Contributors:

Sacha Ferrandi, is the Founder of Source Capital Funding, Inc. (HardMoneyFirst.com) and is an expert in finance, entrepreneurship, and real estate. Source Capital Funding, Inc., is based in San Diego and operates across the United States.

Chris Piper, Director of Market Strategy for DriveTime Automotive Group (DriveTime.com), the nation’s largest used car dealership network helping people with less-than-perfect credit find and finance a vehicle.

Katie Ross, joined the American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) management team in 2002 and is currently responsible for organizing and implementing high performance development initiatives designed to increase consumer financial awareness. Ms. Ross’s main focus is to conceptualize the creative strategic programming for ACCC’s client base and national base to ensure a maximum level of educational programs that support and cultivate ACCC’s organization.