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Money Fix: Deciding to take a payday loan

A pay-day loan may seem like a solution

A pay-day loan may seem like a solution to a cash-crunch, but experts warn that with interest rates as high as 400 percent, some can be a trap. Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun, 2004

When you're in a pinch, a payday loan seems like a go-to resource. You get money quickly, and ideally, you pay it back quickly. Reality is, most likely you won't.

According to new research from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the average payday loan requires a repayment of more than $400, typically in two weeks, but the average borrower can only afford $50. Americans spend $7.4 billion per year on payday loans, including an average of $520 in interest per borrower, who end up indebted for five months of the year.

MORE SNARE THAN SOLUTION

Payday loans can be more snare than safety net. "A payday loan can make sense if you're facing having phone, gas or electricity service turned off. But it is often a case of the cure being worse than the sickness," says Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Financial Network.

INTEREST RATES OF 400%

Interest rates are exorbitant -- some have an annual rate of 400 percent. Trouble multiplies with "rolling over" loans, which many do, says Gallegos. The cost of three rollovers on a $100 loan could total $60.

"Adding a payday loan to existing debt could result in you using future paychecks to pay off interest on this loan, therefore further limiting available funds each month and adding to the amount of debt you may already be struggling to pay off," warns Leslie Tayne, an attorney specializing in debt issues in Melville.

Look elsewhere for help. If you're wary of asking family and friends, offer to pay interest to make it more attractive to them.

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