High Interest Rent-A-Banks Are Abusing Oregon Borrowers

I still remember a conversation I had a number of years ago with a Starbucks barista in Hillsboro who told me she was paying 28% interest on a loan for a car she’d just bought from a local dealer. I was appalled.

Some Oregonians are being victimized much worse than that today.

Oregon is one of eight states that allow payday loans and have banks that charge as much as or more than state-licensed payday lenders, according to an analysis just-released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent non-profit that aims to serve the public interest by improving public policy, informing the public, and invigorating civic life.

Oregon laws limit payday loan charges, but PEW reports that some payday lenders are partnering with several state-chartered banks supervised by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) under so-called “rent-a-bank” arrangements to issue loans with prices that exceed these limits. The banks originate the loans on the lenders’ behalf.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. supervises the six banks known to  be having these arrangements, some of which have annual percentage rates that typically range from the 90%s to the low 200%s. —rates that are much higher than what banks usually charge or that the laws of many borrowers’ states permit. 

The PEW analysis cited a situation in Virginia where a car title lender makes loans that it contends do not have to comply with Virginia law because they are originated by a Utah-based bank. This lender issued a three-year, $2,272 loan with an annual percentage rate (APR) of 98.7%, and $4,867 in finance charges. That meant the borrower repaid $7,139 on a $2,272 loan.

According to the National Consumer Law Center, cited by PEW, a business called OppLoans  (aka OppFi) uses FDIC-supervised FinWise Bank (Utah), Capital Community Bank (CC Bank) (Utah), and First Electronic Bank, a Utah industrial bank, to make installment loans in Oregon of $500 to $4,000 at 160% APR.  

Here’s what an Oregonian taking out a $4000 five-year car loan from OppLoans with an annual APR) of 160% would pay back:

Monthly Payment: $533.63

Total Paid: $32,017.80

Total Interest: $28,017.80

Figuring out what a loan will cost each payment period and over time can be complicated.

NetCredit (“We’re committed to helping our customers find success in their financial journeys.”), a subsidiary of Chicago-based Enova International, Inc. (NYSE: ENVA), offers a maximum loan of $5000.

Its website says 10% of each Cash Advance is deducted from the amount requested before the advance proceeds are delivered to the borrower.

Each billing cycle, the borrower’s minimum payment includes 5% (if payments are made monthly) or 2.5% (if payments are made bi-weekly or semi-monthly) of the cash balance, plus a Statement Balance Fee based on the cash advance balance. A fee table spells out how the Statement Balance Fee is assessed and the corresponding amounts.

If a statement shows a Cash Advance Balance of $1,000.01 – $1,100.00, the fee is $55.00 if the borrower pays bi-weekly or semi monthly and $110 if the borrower pays monthly. If the statement shows a Cash Advance Balance of $4,800.01 – $4,900.00, the fee is $245 if the borrower pays bi-weekly or semi monthly and $490 if the borrower pays monthly.

Each Billing Cycle, the minimum payment will include a portion of the Cash Advance Balance plus a Statement Balance Fee based on the Cash Advance Balance.

You try to figure it all out.

“Competition in markets, including credit markets, typically drives down costs,” the Pew analysis says. “However, Pew’s prior research has found that people seeking payday loans focus on how quickly they can borrow, how likely they are to be approved, and the ease of borrowing. Payday lenders therefore tend to compete on these factors rather than price because their customers are in dire financial straits. Borrowers’ low sensitivity to cost when they are in distress explains the lack of price competition in payday lending.”

PEW is adamant that aggressive action is needed to shut down these abusive loans.

“As the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), FDIC, and other federal banking regulators consider new guidance for how banks can better manage third-party risk, they should take this opportunity to scrutinize the high-cost lending partnerships among a few of the banks regulated by the FDIC,” Alex Horowitz and Gabe Kravitz with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ consumer finance project said in a Feb. 2022 Opinion piece in the Hill.

They’re right on the money. These exploitative high-cost rent-a-bank loans need to end.