Payday loan regulations

Evidence Rating  
Insufficient Evidence
Evidence rating: Insufficient Evidence

Strategies with this rating have limited research documenting effects. These strategies need further research, often with stronger designs, to confirm effects.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers

Payday loans are small, short-term loans that must be repaid by a borrower’s next payday. To receive a loan, a borrower generally writes a check to the lender, who provides cash for the amount minus a fee. When the loan is due the check is cashed. Payday loans are usually offered by specialized companies instead of banks or credit unions. Fees average $15-$30 per $100 borrowed1, yielding annual percentage rates of nearly 400%. Payday loan regulations can include bans, caps on maximum interest rates and loan amounts, minimum loan terms, and truth in lending statements educating consumers on the true costs of loans. 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased financial stability

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether payday loan regulation increases financial stability for individuals in the communities where they are implemented. Available evidence suggests that payday loan bans, caps, and consumer education on the true costs of the loans appear to reduce, though not eliminate, use of payday loans2, 3, 4. Bans may reduce involuntary bank account closures5 and bankruptcies6, and caps on maximum loan amounts or interest rates may decrease use of other high cost, short-term credit resources such as pawn shops2, 3. However, bans and caps may also limit access to credit in emergencies, increasing the number of bounced checks, overdraft fees, and bills paid late3, 6. Payday loan access may increase financial hardship in some circumstances, but may alleviate it in others7, 8, 9. Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects. 

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

Payday loan regulations vary by state. Thirty-eight states specifically allow payday lending, while the other twelve have no payday specific statutes and rely on other regulations10.

Implementation Resources

CRL - Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). State of lending: Payday loans.

NCSL-Payday lending statutes - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Payday lending statutes.


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1 Stegman 2007 - Stegman MA. Payday lending. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 2007;21(1):169-90.

2 McKernan 2013 - McKernan S-M, Ratcliffe C, Kuehn D. Prohibitions, price caps, and disclosures: A look at state policies and alternative financial product use. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 2013;95:207-23.

3 Zinman 2010* - Zinman J. Restricting consumer credit access: Household survey evidence on effects around the Oregon rate cap. Journal of Banking & Finance. 2010;34(3):546-56.

4 Bertrand 2011* - Bertrand M, Morse A. Information disclosure, cognitive biases, and payday borrowing. Journal of Finance. 2011;66(6):1865-93.

5 Campbell 2012* - Campbell D, Asís Martínez-Jerez F, Tufano P. Bouncing out of the banking system: An empirical analysis of involuntary bank account closures. Journal of Banking & Finance. 2012;36(4):1224-35.

6 Morgan 2012* - Morgan DP, Strain MR, Seblani I. How payday credit access affects overdrafts and other outcomes. Journal of Money, Credit and Banking. 2012;44(2-3):519-31.

7 NBER-Zinman 2013 - Zinman J. Consumer credit: Too much or too little (or just right)? National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); 2013: Working Paper 19682.

8 Morse 2011* - Morse A. Payday lenders: Heroes or villains? Journal of Financial Economics. 2011;102(1):28-44.

9 Melzer 2011* - Melzer BT. The real costs of credit access: Evidence from the payday lending market. Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2011;126(1):517-55.

10 NCSL-Payday lending statutes - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Payday lending statutes.

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