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Who Knew? Banks Can Be Worse Than Payday Lenders

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A recent report from Moebs Services revealed some good news for banks: Despite legislation designed to limit overdraft fees by making them more transparent, banks racked up fees totaling $32 billion last year. Unsurprisingly, the largest banks were found to charge the most for this service. However, another very enlightening piece of information came out in the study, as well -- the fact that many overdraft users rely on payday lenders to cover overdrafts, since they actually charge less than banks for short-term lending.

Overdraft fees: more common than you think
After banks like JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) , Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB  ) , and PNC Financial (NYSE: PNC  ) were forced to stop ordering check transactions to maximize overdraft charges, income dropped. Banks found other ways to increase revenue, and though last year's number represents a drop from the all-time high of $37 billion in 2009, it's still 1.3% higher than reported fee revenue for 2011.

The study notes that approximately 26% of checking account holders commonly overdraw their accounts. Of those consumers, more than half utilize payday lenders to cover the overdraft, rather than pay the bank. Why? Because, amazingly, it is cheaper to pay roughly $16 to borrow $100 from a payday lender to cover the overdrawn amount than it is to pay the $30-$35 that the typical large institution charges in fees.

Bank payday loans, debit cards help fuel fees
Banks have bumped up revenue by dabbling in payday-style lending themselves. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, U.S. Bancorp offers a product called Checking Account Advance, and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) names its offering Direct Deposit Advance. Regions Financial (NYSE: RF  ) and Fifth Third Bank (NASDAQ: FITB  ) also pitch such loans, which are generally limited to online customers with direct deposit. These loans often sport an annual percentage rate somewhere between 225% to 300% for a 12-day term. Last year, Fifth Third was sued by customers claiming the interest rates on its Early Access loan program violated federal and state laws, and it was more recently cited in another lawsuit over the same service.

Debit cards are also bringing home the bacon, despite the legislated restrictions on so-called "swipe fees." Banks have merely stepped up the marketing of these products, attempting to make up the difference in volume. Additionally, banks are encouraging current debit card customers to make more use of their cards -- since the bank makes money on the frequency of transactions, rather than purchase size.

Will the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau make good on its pledge to investigate -- and possibly regulate -- these loans? Perhaps, and that may give some low-income consumers, upon whom this type of burden typically falls, some relief. It may also stifle a little of those big fee revenues, too -- but, if past practice is any indication, banks will find a way to make it up, somehow.

With big finance firms still trading at deep discounts to their historic norms, investors everywhere are wondering if this is the new normal, or whether finance stocks are a screaming buy today. The answer depends on the company, so to help figure out whether Regions Financial is a buy today, I invite you to read our premium research report on the company today. Click here now for instant access!

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (1)

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  • Report this Comment On April 11, 2013, at 1:46 PM, presenttense wrote:

    There is so much controversy and debate over payday lenders and rate caps when bank fees are simply taken for granted. Calculate the APR on a $30 overdraft fee for a $5 bounced check, for example. OUCH! A payday lender’s fee is around 20% of the money borrowed. You just have to pay it back on time. That’s why they’re commonly used to avoid fees charged by banks. People attack payday lenders because they’re the low-lying fruit.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2015, at 9:04 AM, alexfrendman wrote:

    Banks has already lost some points of credibility, and keep to complete with non-banking despite a heavy criticism over payday loan lenders. It’s always easy to criticize something from outside without taking into consideration all the details and balancing opinions to get closer to the objective point. The antagonists of payday loans will always keep to the points of price, malicious activity within the industry, not sufficient regulations and so on and so forth. What is curious about that stubborn and heavy criticizing is that those who do that usually have access to the best options from banks and other crediting institutions and make their decisions independently from the results of their credit checks. While those who actually exploit the options of short-term lending have to admit payday loans as somehow the only remedy. Can you argue with that? Those who don’t use small loans deprive those who do of the access to this credit tool. Isn’t it ridiculous? The times have changed; the industry has already been under control of the weightiest governmental organizations, such as FTC Payday loans are capped, overly restricted and monitored. Why do legit lenders and needy borrowers have to lack the options because someone has been using a short-term loan for years and fell into a so-called debt pit? Why don’t we finally understand, that in order to make reasonable choices people should at least have one?

    Don’t let anybody deprive you of choice. Get to know more about your legal rights and available options on

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