Check Into Cash, the nation’s biggest privately held payday lender, will keep its Ohio and Arizona stores open despite votes this week to outlaw current payday lending in those states over the next couple of years.
But the Cleveland, Tenn.-based company will alter its lending practices at its 92 stores in Ohio to conform with the voter results and will likely have to alter or end its operations at 46 other stores in Arizona by 2010.
The payday lending industry had sought to overturn legislative restrictions on lending practices in Ohio and Arizona, but voters rejected the ballot initiatives in both states on Tuesday.
The Center for Responsible Lending, a North Carolina-based group critical of what it says are excessive interest rates charged by payday lenders, called the votes this week “a mandate for cracking down on payday lending throughout the nation.”
“You can get no clearer message than a huge majority of voters rejecting 400 percent interest loans,” Uriah King, policy associate for the Center for Responsible Lending, said in a statement after the vote.
But payday lenders insist their short-term loans provide needed credit to thousands of workers, who typically get advance payments on their paychecks to help pay bills on time and avoid even more expensive overdraft charges on checks or higher fees on late payments.
D. Lynn Devault, president of the payday industry trade group known as the Community Financial Services Association of America, said Tuesday’s vote in Ohio threatens $300 million in economic activity and up to 6,000 jobs in a state experiencing its highest jobless rate in 15 years.
“The vast majority of voters have no experience with the payday lending service...and therefore banning was an easy decision with unforutnate consequences for those who have,” he said.
In response to the Ohio vote, Cash America International announced it is closing its 43 Cashland lending shops across the state, idling 150 employees.
Under Ohio law, Check Into Cash can offer what are called microloans that charge an origination fee.
Judy Powers, director of communications for Check Into Cash in Cleveland, Tenn., said Check Into Cash has started making the microloans in Ohio, charging a documentation fee on loans that remain at the new interest rate cap of 28 percent.
“We’re really disappointed in the vote, but we are going to work hard to continue to provide a needed service,” she said.
Under the new type of loans, borrowers will pay a loan origination fee of $15 on loans up to $450 and a $30 fee on loans up to $600. Check Into Cash stores also provide some check-cashing services and sell preloaded debit cards, Ms. Powers said.
In Tennessee, Check Into Cash typically charges $17.50 on a $200 payday loan advance for up to two weeks, Ms. Powers said.
In Arizona, the current payday lending authorization is set to expire in 2010. Payday lenders tried unsuccessfully to regulate, rather than abolish, payday loans.
“The majority of state legislatures have considered this credit option and chosen regulation over elimination,” Mr. Devault said.
Check Into Cash operates 1,264 payday lending outlets in 32 states, including 95 credit service organizations opened this year in Texas. Check Into Cash closed its stores in Georgia in 2004 when the Peach State restricted payday loans.