Millions of people are still out of work during the coronavirus pandemic and nearly 900,000 American workers applied for unemployment benefits for the first time this week.
As Americans struggle to pay their bills and cover unexpected expenses, now more than ever, they need access to cash.
New public opinion polling indicates that a significant majority of Americans broadly support non-bank lending sources for those who don’t have access to traditional banking or good credit. Furthermore, they think lenders should be able to charge more interest than some congressional lawmakers want to allow.
According to a survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the Online Lenders Alliance, an association of online lenders and tech companies, about seven out of ten (69 percent) adults say it’s important that the more than 90 million Americans who are either unbanked or credit-challenged have access to loan products such as payday loans, personal loans, and lines of credit.
Unbanked and underbanked households find it difficult to access credit and receive a loan from a bank or credit union. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), they tend to be “lower-income households, less-educated households, younger households, black and Hispanic households, working-age disabled households, and households with volatile income.” Not surprisingly, these households have been hard hit by pandemic layoffs.
Over a quarter of adults (27 percent) have obtained a loan or cash advance in the last 12 months, and while banks are the most popular sources of credit overall, non-bank lenders were popular among those with poor or terrible credit.
When asked about how much the government should allow nonbank lenders to charge, Americans gave surprising answers. Two out of three adults (66 percent) believe that the most the government should allow lenders to charge for a two-week loan of $100 exceeds the 36-percent-annual-rate cap proposed by Congress. Support for charging $20 or more on a $100 loan was actually higher among those who obtained a loan or cash within the past year than those who have not. These are precisely the individuals paying these fees.
Currently, there is so much opposition to nonbank lending (both online and brick-and-mortar) today from those who believe these sources of credit and cash are financially devastating to those who use them. Lawmakers like Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California have introduced legislation to place limits on how much interest they can charge.
As we have written before, this would all but kill this financial service industry and dry up the options that unbanked and credit-challenged Americans have to gain access to credit when they need it.
For the 40 percent of Americans with credit scores below 700 (considered poor or fair), it is nearly impossible or impossible to obtain short-term, small-dollar loans from traditional financial institutions. These individuals are considered a higher risk of non-repayment.
Thankfully, there are alternatives that individuals can tap into and technology is delivering even more options right to their fingertips. The cost of providing riskier loans is a higher price though, but Americans understand that. Over half (58 percent) of adults support lenders taking into consideration a borrower’s credit history before setting the price of a loan.
So when you hear lawmakers (particularly those on the left) propose capping interest rates on certain loans at 36 percent, beware. What they will intentionally or intentionally do is cut off options to lower-income folks, minorities, and disabled Americans, especially at a time when they need financial resources most.