Here's something we hadn't expected, payday loans from a major bank delivered through its online banking program. Minneapolis, MN-based U.S. Bank, not known for its pioneering work in online banking, quietly added payday lending to its platform recently.*
How it works
Users are alerted to the feature through a green link at the top of their checking-account transaction detail (see below).
Clicking on the link returns the well-designed "advance" pop-up screen where users can elect to take an advance from their next paycheck or from one of their pre-existing credit accounts (see below).
After selecting payday advance, users choose the amount and then follow the instructions to complete the loan. Funds are moved in real-time with no credit check. Since we don't have a direct-deposit paycheck, we didn't expect to qualify for an advance. However, we did receive a token "advance limit" of $80 (see "Available Credit" in lower-right box below).
Pricing & Disclosures
The advances are priced at 10% of the advanced amount, with a $20 minimum advance. Advances are automatically deducted from the checking account in one month if not already repaid. The APR if the amount is outstanding for the full month is 120%. Only one advance can be outstanding at a time.
In our example below, we chose a $20 advance and were required to repay $22.
The program is well-disclosed with a lengthy FAQ and Disclosure Statement (click on the continuation link at the bottom to see these documents).
Putting an advance button at the top of checking-account transaction data is a great idea. However, at least in our case, the bank's implementation was questionable. Although we maintain as low a balance as possible in this checking account, we often run $10,000 or more through it. Also, we have an open credit limit of $20,000 on a U.S. Bank credit card linked to this account. Offering us an $80 advance limit is ridiculous.
Also, we're not sure that online payday lending is strategically very smart. Why charge 120% APR on small advances of one-month duration, risking customer and press backlash, when you could instead upsell an overdraft line of credit with a reasonable APR?
The bank would stand to make much more on a reasonably priced overdraft line of credit, which could be delivered nearly as seamlessly. For example, a $2,000 outstanding balance on an 18% line of credit would provide $200 or more of annual profit vs. about $40 for a pair of $200 advances. And the customer will likely be more satisfied with the credit line.
Although the bank demonstrates in its disclosures (see notes below) that its program is less expensive than an NSF fee or a typical payday loan, the 120% APR will likely create a bit of a furor with consumer advocates lambasting the bank in the press. It appears to have escaped notice so far.
U.S. Bank deserves a pat on the back for its innovation, but without more consumer-friendly pricing, the payday-advance program may backfire on them.
*We have several accounts at U.S. Bank and noticed it this week for the first time.
End Notes (click on the following link for more information):