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5 Best Direct Lenders 🏆



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Finding a workable solution to alleviating debt when you have bad credit can feel impossible. Navigating high interest rates, loan terms, and making sure you can afford repayments throughout is stressful — to say the least.

This feeling is overwhelmingly felt by others in the current COVID-19 financial climate, with research showing the majority of Americans are struggling to minimize debt reduction.

The research also shows that 55% of us have some solid reasons behind this, including job loss and a lack of emergency savings. With no sign of this dissipating anytime soon, figuring out your best option to reduce debt is crucial.

Fortunately, there are legitimate loan options out there that can help alleviate your financial burden without ending up in a debt trap.

Installment loans for bad credit through direct lenders can be a lifeline for many right now. They offer flexibility and fair rates, and once they meet the recommendations set out by the financial regulators, they could be your best option.

In this review, we take you through the recommendations that aim to protect you. We also differentiate between installment loans and payday loans, and explain how exactly direct lenders work, but not before we highlight our top 6 installment loans for bad credit with direct lenders – sit tight!

Top Installment Loans for Bad Credit Borrowers

Here are our top six installment loans for bad credit:

1. Money Mutual
Best for Low Credit Scores
Best for Autopay & Online Payments
Best for Getting Funds Fast
4. Check Into Cash
Best Minimum Loan Amount
5. Green Light Cash
Best for Flexibility
6. Lend You
Best for High Loan Amounts

1. MoneyMutual: Best for Low Credit Scores

Money Mutual
Money Mutual is trusted by over 2,000,000+ customers throughout the state


  • Funding time is quick
  • Various payment options to choose from
  • Good choice of short-term loans with lower upper limits


  • Unable to predict loan terms and interest rates
  • Limited availability in comparison to competitors

MoneyMutual is another online marketplace that connects borrowers with lenders throughout the country. To date, Money Mutual has connected over 2,000,000 consumers with short term loans. The lender makes it quick and easy for borrowers to get a cash advance of up to $2,500  in as little as 24 hours or less.

  • MIN Loan Amount: $250
  • MAX Loan Amount: $2,500
  • Terms: Varies by lender
  • Rates and fees: Varies by lender

Turnaround Time: 24 hours

MoneyMutual’s selling point, and why the platform was created, was to give customers quick access to cash. The MoneyMutual’s website lays out the reason for its existence, “While many loan options can be time consuming, MoneyMutual was founded to provide consumers a marketplace where they can find short term lenders quickly & easily!

Note: This lender is not available in NY or CT.

Similarly to LendYou’s process, potential borrowers can access cash in just three steps 1) Fill out a short form to give the lenders some information to work with, 2) The lenders will review the information instantly to determine if you’re a suitable candidate for a loan, 3) If a lender can make an offer and work with you, the funds can be deposited in your account in only 24 hours.

The marketplace is free to use. The marketplace earns its money through the lenders in that if a lender decides it would like to work with you, it will give Money Mutual a fee to connect with you. The marketplace won’t get any information that will allow it to compare or evaluate offers from lender to lender. 

For this reason, MoneyMutual advises you to review all offers to receive carefully to make sure it meets your needs and all the terms are fully understood before you agree to anything.

All-in-all, there are a number of pros and cons with MoneyMutual. It should be noted, that you will need to be earning a minimum of $800 per month to qualify. The good news is that those with

bad or fair credit are welcomed with open arms.

2. Best for Autopay and Online Payments

Cashusa offers borrowers autopay and online payment options


  • Diverse offers
  • Variation of options
  • Quick funding process
  • Good loan range
  • No additional fees from the platform


  • Not a direct lender
  • Stricter requirements
  • No live support chat

CashUSA is the final online lending platform to make our list of the best installment loans for bad credit. The lending portal offers borrowers the chance to secure a personal loan from $500 to $10,000. Loans can be repaid over the course of 90 days up to 72 months with APRs typically ranging from 5.99% to 35.99%, which is pretty standard.

If you have fair credit, you might be better off considering the top personal loans for fair credit. These usually have better rates and terms because the borrower has a higher credit score. 

  • MIN Loan Amount: $500
  • MAX Loan Amount: $10,000
  • Terms: 3 – 72 months
  • Rates and fees: 5.99% – 35.99%

Turnaround Time: 1 business day

The lending process with CashUSA is pretty clear and straightforward, but it also offers borrowers some additional benefits. 

First off, the loan request process is fast. Unlike loan applications to traditional banks, your online request will be processed quickly through CashUSA.

In fact, the loan request usually goes to lenders instantly. Considering some banks can take weeks to process a loan, it’s pretty impressive.

The CashUSA website is fully secure. The security of a website is a vital aspect for anyone looking to borrow online to consider. CashUSA uses extremely advanced encryption technology to keep all of your information in safe hands.

A key feature about CashUSA is how convenient it is to make payments. All of your payments can be made directly online. This means you won’t need to worry about late fees as a result of a delayed or lost payment. 

Additionally, CashUSA lenders allow you to set up autopayments for the utmost of convenience. With this, you won’t need to think about making your monthly loan payment ever again – it’s a fool proof way of keeping your repayments in good standing.

Most importantly, those with bad credit won’t be written off from getting a loan. People with bad, and even the worst credit score, can work with CashUSA, too. CashUSA is known as one of the premier bad credit loans with guaranteed approval out there, and is rated as number one in our review.

3. Best for Getting Funds Fast

Bad Credit Loans
Badcreditloans offers borrowers with bad credit accessible loans


  • Extended repayment period
  • Fast cash
  • Low minimum amount


  • Higher interest rates
  • Additional fees

As the name suggests, BadCreditLoans helps connect people with bad credit to lenders in their time of need. The financial marketplace has been around since 1998, acting as an advocate for consumers and matching them with a network of lenders willing to front up the cash to people with bad credit.

  • MIN Loan Amount: $500
  • MAX Loan Amount: $5,000
  • Terms: 3-60 months
  • Rates and fees: 5.99% – 35.99%

Turnaround Time: 1 business day

The website also displays an in-depth, informative news section where you can keep an eye on the latest scams, best practices to help you improve your credit score, and an array of other contributions make BadCreditLoans an invaluable source of information for anyone in need of financial guidance.

Though Americans paid off $60 billion in debt before COVID-19, WalletHub now projects that Americans will take on $140 million in credit card debt throughout the rest of 2020. This debt will only add to the stress on those financially struggling.

If you have several different sources of debt, checking out the top debt consolidation loans could be your next best step. Debt consolidation loans offer an effective way to manage and streamline your debts or credit card payments, not to mention coming with several other advantages.

The APR offers with BadCreditLoans can reach up to 35.99% – this is almost double that of the average credit card. If your credit is particularly low, you could also be restricted to a lower loan limit.

To put the APR into perspective, let’s say you borrowed $1,000 at a rate of 35.99% and needed 36 months to repay it. You would pay $643 on interest alone.

However, to apply for a loan with BadCreditLoans you will need to provide some standard information like your name, address, and social security number. From there, a BadCreditLoans representative will put you in touch with a web of lenders where you can choose from an assortment of loans. 

If you agree to the terms of a loan you’re offered, you can authenticate the loan online, and potentially receive the loan the following business day.

4. Check Into Cash: Best Minimum Loan Amount

Check Into Cash
Check Into Cash offers borrowers a quick turnaround time and a low minimum loan amount


  • Minimum loan amount
  • Quick turnaround time


  • Payoff options are not transparent 

Founded in Tennessee in 1993, Check into cash has a long record of offering customers personal installment loans, Payday loans, title loans, and more all at affordable rates and convenient payment options.

Check Into Cash aims to help people that have been met with unexpected expenses, are in a money crunch between pay cheques, or for whatever reason, need some financial assistance over the short term.

  • MIN Loan Amount: $300
  • MAX Loan Amount: $1,500
  • Terms: Varies by state
  • Rates and fees: 261% to 782% APR
  • Turnaround Time: 1 business day

The small-dollar, short-term lender offers installment loans starting at just $300 and increasing to $1,500. That said, new customers can expect to borrow just $750, or whatever their state maximum is.

Unlike Money Mutual, Check Into Cash is a direct lender. The financial company offers short-term loans specifically for those with bad credit including installment loans, auto title loans, lines of credit, payday loans and flex loans.

The lender offers an extreme APR range starting at 261% and going all the way up to 782%. A particular downfall with this lender is that its payoff options are not very clear. After 27 years in the business, it could do better. 

Furthermore, you could be met with some additional fees if you need some more time to repay the loan. While there are a few fees you should be on top of, they vary by state and include insufficient fund fees and late fees. 

Though these rates are high, Check Into Cash offers accessible loans to those with bad credit. In March, five federal regulatory agencies released a joint statement recognizing the dire need for such lenders in the wake of COVID-19. 

The statement takes a balanced approach towards short-term loans, acknowledging that while there is a need to protect consumers, eliminating financial options that serve as a lifeline for many is not the solution. Instead it has enforced codifying principles for organizations to offer loans in a responsible manner.

For Check Into Cash customers in select states, those who make a late payment and get hit with some fees, will be offered an Extended Payment Plan. It’s not too far from the one Cash Central offers, but it incurs interest at the same rate until you’ve repaid the original amount and the additional fees.

The Check Into Cash process is quick, and customers can be connected with funds within one business day of applying. To apply, you’ll just need a few standard items including your driver’s license or photo ID, social security information, a bank statement or your checking number, bank routing number, and proof of address – all pretty straight forward.

To apply, you can fill out the form on their website which will take all of about five minutes. Then, a Check Into Cash representative will be on the phone to you in no time going through the application process with you.

5. Greenlight Cash: Best for Flexibility

Greenlight Cash is the most flexible marketplace for bad credit borrowers


  • Unrivaled flexibility and accessibility.
  • Predictable monthly payments
  • Quick and simplified borrowing process
  • Any credit is welcome

Greenlight Cash is an online platform that hooks consumers up with a web of reliable lenders throughout the country. In essence, the platform gives customers the green light for installment loans. 

This marketplace partners with a wide network of professionals, giving you the opportunity to team up with them and begin working on conquering your financial situation in an effective way. Just hit submit, and you’ll be one step closer to your funds.

  • MIN Loan Amount: $1,000
  • MAX Loan Amount: $5,000
  • Terms: Varies by lender
  • Rates and fees: 6.63% APR to 250% APR typically
  • Turnaround Time: 1-2 business day

Typically, installment loans come with an expansive range from 4.99% to 450%. Since GreenLightCash plays no part in the lending process itself, an accurate APR can’t be predicted. If you are suffering from credit card debt, we suggest you have a good understanding of how debt consolidation works before applying.

To apply for a loan with GreenLightCash just fill out a standard application form, get matched with a lender, and once you give the rates and terms the green light, you will get your money within 1-2 business days. 

Before applying, there are some eligibility criteria you’ll need to meet. These include being a U.S resident, being over 18, having a stable income, and being currently employed.

If you agree to the terms and conditions of the loan, you are entering into a contract to follow through on your side of the repayments. In the event that you don’t meet your payments on time, you might be required to pay some additional fees. Late payment fees will vary from lender to lender.

6. LendYou: Best for High Loan Amounts

LendYou offers borrowers high installment loan amounts of up to $15,000


  • High loan amounts of up to $15,000 
  • Minimal restrictions on the loan purpose
  • No collateral or guarantor needed

LendYou connects borrowers to lenders to help those looking for short term, unsecured loans. If you need some extra cash to help you with a large purchase, car payment or unexpected expense, LendYou offers a network that gives you options.

When you apply, your application will be sent to LendYou’s affiliate lenders. Should a lender think that you match their criteria for a loan, you could receive a loan offer.

  • MIN Loan Amount: $100
  • MAX Loan Amount: $35000
  • Terms: Varies by lender
  • Rates and fees: Starting at 4.99% APR
  • Turnaround Time: 1 business day

Loans are offered anywhere up to $15,000. The amount you receive will depend on the lender, your application, and your state.

Not only does LendYou offer installment loans, borrowers can access Payday loans and Personal loans too. The structure of the LendYou platform is set up to give you the opportunity to get the best loan rates and terms for you.

Keep in mind, as LendYou is not a lender, it doesn’t make any of the terms or credit decisions. If you’re struggling to make credit card payments, you could also check out the top 5 debt consolidation loans for bad credit borrowers. Debt consolidation will allow you to compile multiple credit card payments into one streamlined payment plan with lower interest rates.

That said, a highlight of this platform is that the whole process is quite fast and done in real time. In total, there are just three steps to take to secure a lons: 1) Online registration, 2) Offer received with loan terms and conditions, 3) If you agree with the loan terms, the money could be with you as soon as the next business day.

To be accepted for a loan, there are some approval requirements you must meet like being older than 18 years old, being a U.S citizen, having a valid checking or savings account with a direct deposit, and earning a minimum regular income of $1,000 per month.

So, why choose LendYou? 

To sum up, you could receive a loan of up to $15,000, there are minimal restrictions on how you chose to use the loan, you won’t need to tie any assets to the loan, and of course, those with bad credit who want guaranteed approval, should be okay with this lender.

Covid-19, the Poverty Line, & the Struggle to Minimize Debt

With hundreds of millions due to become unemployed, COVID-19 is having a disastrous impact on our socio-economic state.

Yet, Professor Philip Alston, a leading human rights expert recently released a five year tenure that has tied this more broadly to our political and human rights failures. Alston identifies the crisis the world is now facing as having five elements, the Covid-19 pandemic, extreme inequality, devastating climate change, a deep economic crisis, and a movement fighting racist systems throughout numerous countries. 

Essentially, Alston suggests that the poverty people are now facing has only been exacerbated by, not caused by, the pandemic.

Furthermore, a recent report released by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and BAI on consumer spending in light of COVID-19, showed that 55% are struggling to repay their debt during the pandemic. 

With this, Americans are about to take on more than $140 billion in credit card debt. This shows that our struggle is bound in some complex factors that will not dissipate anytime soon. So, what can you do to help alleviate your financial distress?

Tips on Managing Debt

Here are our top five steps to helping you alleviate financial debt.

1.Create a budget and don’t diverge from it too much: Make sure you understand where all your money is going and then rank all your expenses including emergency fund contributions, and debt payments.

2. Create an emergency fund: One reason people get into debt is because they don’t have a fund for emergency situations. Try and save about 12 months of your income to have something to fall back on. 

3. Increase your credit score: Better credit will help you pay off your debt quicker. It can also help you find a place to live easier or find a job.

4. Repay your biggest debt first: Most of the time, if someone is in serious debt, they have multiple balances. In this case, paying off the biggest payment first is the best call. Alternatively, you could consider debt consolidation.

5. Evaluate your current job: It won’t matter how much you save or budget if you don’t have enough money. In this case, working out whether there are higher paying positions for someone with your experience or skills could be the best option.

A Buyer’s Guide to Installment Loans

In this guide, we are going to explain what exactly an installment loan is and how it works, how they differ from payday loans, and how direct lenders work, to name a few.

What is an Installment Loan?

An installment loan is an umbrella term that refers to the bulk of both commercial and personal loans extended to borrowers. With credit card transactions dropping as a result of COVID-19, it seems fitting that installment loans fill the niche. If this is the case, understanding how exactly installment loans work is a good place to start.

How Do Installment Loans Work?

Within this umbrella, an installment loan is a loan that is to be repaid with regularly scheduled payments or installments. For every payment made on an installment debt, a borrower will pay a portion of the principal amount borrowed, in addition to paying interest on the debt.

The amount repaid towards each regular loan payment is determined by some key variables including the initial loan amount received, the interest rate, and the length or time that the loan will take to be repaid, also known as the loan term. The regular payment amount also stays the same throughout the repayment period, making it easier for the borrower to budget to meet all required payments.

You should consider monitoring your credit to make sure that it doesn’t fall below where you expect it to be. Using a top credit monitoring service could go a long way when it comes to securing better loan terms and rates.

Installment Loans vs Payday Loans: Which is Better?

As we just outlined, installment loans cover the bulk of car loans, mortgages, and other personal loans, to be repaid over a longer term. They also generally require credit checks. 

On the other hand, payday loans have a much shorter payment term, with higher interest rates. No credit check is needed for this loan type. Here’s a brief explanation of both installment loans and payday loans.

Installment Loans

Installment loans can refer to a diverse range of loans – car loans, mortgages, boat loans – but the installment loans that can be compared to payday loans are usually categorized as personal loans.

With installment loans, you receive a lump sum straight up. Then, you repay a set amount of money each month of the agreed length of the loan term. The term range can be anywhere from 2 years to 30 years. Personal installment loans, however, tend to be about 12 months.

Installment loans can refer to a diverse range of loans – car loans, mortgages, boat loans – but the installment loans that can be compared to payday loans are usually categorized as personal loans.

With installment loans, you receive a lump sum straight up. Then, you repay a set amount of money each month of the agreed length of the loan term. The term range can be anywhere from 2 years to 30 years. Personal installment loans, however, tend to be about 12 months.

Legit personal installment loans conduct a credit check and a quite lengthy application process. You will usually get a much more favourable rate on a personal loan than you would on any payday loan.

Legit personal installment loans conduct a credit check and a quite lengthy application process. You will usually get a much more favourable rate on a personal loan than you would on any payday loan.

Payday Loans

Payday loans, on the other hand, are usually under $1,000 and are due on the borrowers next payday – and so derives the name. In most cases, a post-dated check is written, or access is given to the bank account to allow the lender to withdraw the funds automatically on the date your wage is due.

The issue arises with payday loans when you can’t keep up with repayments. While you will be allowed to push the loan back to your next payday, you will be charged an increased amount of interest. You’ll more than likely be met with some harsh late fees too.

In fact, fees are so harsh that they average around 400%. Not to forget, there are additional fees and penalties that come along with this.

This is compounded by the fact that under a new rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Payday loan lenders won’t have to check whether borrowers can afford loans. Although the CFPB is positioning this as a way to make the marketplace more accessible, it is a rollback of a provision set in place by the Obama administration in 2017, which was created to protect consumers from taking out loans with expensive interest rates. With this new rule, lenders are no longer obligated to assess whether consumers will likely be able to repay the loan in the agreed time.

The most significant part to note about this is that if you fall behind on payments, the interest snowballs, leaving you in what we call a payday loan trap. Should you get stuck in one, you could find it hard to get out.

Key Benefits of Installment Loans

Collateral Loans vs. Non-Collateral Loans

Installments loans can come either with a collateral or non-collateral requirement. Mortgage loans, for example, require the house that the loan is being used to buy, as collateral. The collateral for a house is the house you buy with the loan.

Some installment loans (otherwise known as personal loans) can be extended without the need for collateral. These loans require the borrower to have a good credit score, and a proven ability to repay the loan based on their assets and/or income. 

Despite the economic and financial hardships caused by COVID-19, homeowners are remodelling their homes in droves. This likely means more people will be accessing non-collateralized, personal loans..

Unfortunately for these remodelers, personal loans, or loans that come without collateral, tend to have higher interest rates than collateralized loans, reflecting the increased risk attached should a lender not repay the loan. To help you get the best rates possible, learning how to understand your credit score correctly could be a life (or money, more accurately) saver.

What is the Installment Loan Process?

  1. Fill out an application
  2. Speak with the lender about available options
  3. Figure out what your best options are before agreeing to the loan

Here’s the breakdown for the process of applying for an installment loan. First, an application needs to be filled out with the lender, usually covering some standard questions such as what you want to use the loan for, like a boat. The lender will speak with the applicant and provide several options about the best solution to repaying a loan ie. the loan terms, payment amounts, and payment schedule.

For example, let’s consider someone who wants to get a loan of $10,000 to buy a car. The lender will let the borrower know that were they to make a bigger down payment, they could secure better interest rates, or perhaps a lower monthly payment by taking out a loan over a longer term. In addition, the lender will review the borrowers creditworthiness to help determine an acceptable loan amount and loan terms.

Ordinarily, the borrower retires the loan by making the agreed payments. Borrowers could potentially save on interest by paying off the loan early, before the end of the loan term. This isn’t always the case, however, and sometimes prepayment penalties can be charged for paying off the loan early.

Before going through the loan process, consider whether getting something removed from your credit report would help improve your credit score. This could help you secure better loan terms and rates.

Advantages and Disadvantages of an Installment Loan

So, what are the main advantages and disadvantages of an installment loan? Crucially, installment loans offer flexibility, and can be easily twisted and turned to meet your individual needs when it comes to the length of time you would like to repay the loan over.

Additionally, installment loans allow you to secure financing and a considerably lower interest rate that you would be able to with revolving credit financing, like credit cards. This way, you will have more cash to use for other reasons, as opposed to making one bigger cash expense.

When it comes to longer-term loans, a disadvantage might be that you are required to make payments on a  fixed-interest loan at an increased interest rate than the prevailing market rate.

Another key disadvantage of the installment loan stems from the obvious fact that you will be sealed into a long-term financial commitment.
In the future, circumstances might render you unable to meet the agreed payments any longer, possibly defaults, and forfeiture, and collateral that was tied to the loan. However, finding a top credit repair company could help improve your chances of getting better rates and being able to continue your repayment plan. solve these issues by increasing your credit score.

What Are Online Direct Lenders?

Marketplaces don’t directly fund your loan. Instead, you’ll complete an initial application on their website and a lender will be in touch if they think you are a suitable candidate. 

Online direct lenders, on the other hand, are financial institutions that fund your loan directly, once approved of course. These lenders comply with both state and federal laws. This means they are held accountable to the lending rules and regulations imposed by the relevant state/s.

How Do Online Loans From Direct Lenders Work?

When you apply for a loan with an online direct lender, all your interactions and communication will, more than likely, all be with one financial institution. This concerns the application process, the approval process, funding process, and repaying the loan.

When it comes to online direct lenders, the bulk of the process is done online. This makes loans more accessible and convenient, especially during a time of social distancing.


Installment loans can offer a welcome relief for many of us struggling to make ends meet throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They come with several benefits includings, offering lower interest rates and flexibility. Though MoneyMutual is our best overall, each lender on our list offers different benefits therefore, we advise you conduct further research to establish the best option for your individual needs.

Although some short term loans can come with increased interest rates, regulatory agencies do recognize the benefits of these lenders for consumers in need. A recent survey highlighting those unable to pay as tax day arrival approaches, only serves to reinforce the need for short term lenders during the current economic and financial climate, so long as loans are offered in a responsible manner.

None-the-less, with lenders no longer being required to check whether you can afford to repay the loan, it is vital that you make your own calculations and assessments to avoid a long-term debt trap.

All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.

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Bad Credit

Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders



Illustration by Sarah Maxwell, Folio Art

When Bridget Davis got started in the family’s payday lending business in 1996, there was just one Check ’n Go store in Cincinnati. She says she did it all: customer service, banking duties, even painting walls.

The company had been established two years earlier by her husband, Jared Davis, and was growing rapidly. There were 100 Check ’n Go locations by 1997, when Jared and Bridget (née Byrne) married and traveled the country together looking for more locations to open storefront outlets. They launched another 400 stores in 1998, mostly in strip malls and abandoned gas stations in low-income minority neighborhoods where the payday lending target market abounds. Bridget drove the supply truck and helped select locations and design the store layouts.

But Jared soon fired his wife for committing what may be the ultimate sin in the payday lending business: She forgave a customer’s debt. “A young woman came to pay her $20 interest payment,” Bridget wrote in court documents last year during divorce proceedings from Jared. “I pulled her file, calculated that she had already paid $320 to date on a principle [sic] loan of $100. I told her she was paid in full. [Jared] fired me, stating, ‘We are here to make money, not help customers manage theirs. If you can’t do that, you can’t work here.’ ”

Photograph by Brittany Dexter

It’s a business philosophy that pays well, especially if you’re charging fees and interest rates of 400 percent that can more than triple the amount of the loan in just five months—the typical time most payday borrowers need to repay their debt, says the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit organization focused on public policy. Cincinnati-based Check ’n Go now operates more than 1,100 locations in 25 states as well as an internet lending service with 24/7 access from the comfort of your own home, according to its website. Since its founding, the company has conducted more than 50 million transactions.

What the website doesn’t say is that many, if not most, of those transactions were for small loans of $50 to $500 to working people trying to scrape by and pay their bills. In most states—including Ohio, until it reformed its payday lending laws in 2019—borrowers typically fork over more than one-third of their paycheck to meet the deadline for repayment, usually in two weeks. To help guarantee repayment, borrowers turn over access to their checking account or deposit a check with the lender. In states that don’t offer protection, customers go back again and again to borrow more money from the same payday lender, typically up to 10 times, driving themselves into a debt trap that can lead to bankruptcy.

Jared and Bridget Davis are embroiled in a nasty court battle related to his 2019 divorce filing in Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court. Thousands of pages of filings and 433 docket entries by April 26 offer the public a rare glimpse into the business operations of Check ’n Go, one of Cincinnati’s largest privately-owned companies, as well as personal lifestyles funded by payday lending.

The company cleared $77 million in profit in 2018, a figure that dipped the following year to $55 million, according to an audit by Deloitte. That drop in revenue may have something to do with the payday lending reform laws and interest rate caps passed recently in Ohio as well as a growing number of other states.

The day-to-day business transactions that provide such profit are a depressing window into how those who live on the edge of financial security are often stuck with few options for improving their situations. If a borrower doesn’t repay or refinance his or her original loan, a lender like Check ’n Go deposits the guarantee check and lets it bounce, causing the borrower to incur charges for the bounced check and eventually lose his or her checking account, says Nick DiNardo, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. After two missed payments, payday lenders usually turn over the debt to a collection agency. If the collection agency fails to collect the full amount of the original loan as well as all fees and interest, it goes to court to garnish the borrower’s wages.

That devastating experience is all too familiar to Anthony Smith, a 60-year-old Wyoming resident who says he was laid off from several management positions over a 20-year period. He turned to payday lenders as his credit rating dropped and soon found himself caught in a debt trap that took him years to escape.

Two things happened in 2019, Smith says, that turned around his financial fortunes. First, he found a stable manufacturing job with the Formica Company locally, and then he took his mother’s advice and opened a credit union account. GE Credit Union not only gave him a reasonable loan to pay off his $2,500 debt but also issued him his first credit card in a decade. “I had been a member [of the credit union] for just two months, and I had a credit rating of 520. Can you imagine?” he says. Smith says he is now debt-free for the first time in 10 years.

Consumer advocates say Check ’n Go is one of the biggest payday lending operations in the nation. But knowing its exact ranking is difficult because most payday lending companies, including Check ’n Go and its parent company CNG Holdings, are privately held and reluctant to disclose their finances.

Brothers Jared and David Davis own the majority of the company’s privately held stock. David bought into the company in 1995, but CNG got its game-changing infusion of capital from the brothers’ father, Allen Davis, who retired as CEO of then-Provident Bank in 1998. Allen sold off $37 million in stock options and essentially became CNG’s bank and consultant.

By 2005, however, the sons were part of a public court battle against their father. Allen accused Jared and David of treating his millions in CNG stock as compensation instead of a transfer from his ex-wife (and the brothers’ mother), sticking him with a $13 million tax bill. In turn, the brothers accused Allen of putting his mistress and his yacht captain on the company payroll, taking $1.2 million in fees without board approval, and leading the company into ventures that lost Check ’n Go a lot of money. Several years of legal fighting later, the IRS was still demanding its $13 million. CNG officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Jared and David split $22 million in profit from CNG in 2018 and, according to the Deloitte audit, CNG’s balance sheet showed another $42 million that could be split between the two brothers in 2019. Jared, however, elected not to receive his $21 million distribution “in order to create this artificial financial crisis and shelter millions of dollars from an equitable split between us,” according to Bridget’s divorce filing.

Worse, she claims, Jared said they would be responsible for paying taxes out of their personal accounts rather than from CNG’s company earnings, making her personally responsible for half of the $5.5 million in taxes for 2019. She believes it wasn’t happenstance that $5.5 million was wired to Jared’s private bank account in December of that same year. Bridget has refused to sign the joint tax return, and Jared filed a complaint with the court saying a late tax filing would cost them $1 million in penalties and missed tax opportunities.

“For the duration of our marriage and to the present, Jared has full and complete control of all money paid to us from various investments we have made in addition to our main source of income, CNG,” Bridget wrote in her motion. She suspects that Jared, without her knowledge or consent, plowed the money for their taxes and from other sources of income into Black Diamond Group, the fund that invests in the Agave & Rye restaurant chain. Beyond the original restaurant opened in Covington in 2018, “they have opened four other locations in one year,” she wrote, including Louisville and Lexington. (The ninth location opened in Hamilton this spring.) Agave & Rye’s website touts its Mexican fare as “a chef-inspired take on the standard taco, elevating this simple food into something epic!”

In his response, Jared wrote, “We have very limited regular sources of income.” He says he isn’t receiving any additional distributions from CNG, the couple’s primary source of income, “and this is not within my control. The company has declared that we would not make any further distributions in 2020 given economic circumstances. This decision is based on a formula and is not discretionary.” Agave & Rye helped produce $645,000 in income for Black Diamond in 2020 but has paid out $890,000 in loans, he says. Through August 31, 2020, he wrote, the couple’s “expenses have exceeded income from all sources.”

The divorce case filings start slinging mud when the couple accuses each other of breaking up their 22-year marriage and finding new partners. Jared claims Bridget began an affair during their marriage with Brian Duncan, a contractor she employed through her house flipping business. Bridget, he says, paid Duncan’s company $75,000 in 2018 as well as giving him a personal gift of $70,000 that same year. Jared says she also bought Duncan at least one car and purchased a house for him near hers on Shawnee Run Road for $289,000, then loaned money to Duncan. Jared says Duncan has been late in repaying the note.

While Bridget says Duncan has been drug-free for several years, he has a rap sheet with Hamilton County courts from 2000 to 2017 that runs five pages long. It lists a half-dozen counts of drug abuse and drug possession, including heroin and possession of illegal drug paraphernalia; assaulting a police officer; stealing a Taser from a police officer; criminal damaging while being treated at UC Health; more than a dozen speeding and traffic violations; a half-dozen counts of driving with a suspended license; receiving stolen property; twice fleeing and resisting arrest; three counts of theft; two counts of forgery; and one count for passing bad checks.

Bridget has fired back that Jared not only is hiding his money from her but spending it lavishly on vacations, resorts, and high-end restaurants with his new girlfriend, Susanne Warner. Bridget says Jared gifted Warner with $40,000 without Bridget’s knowledge, then declared it on their joint tax return as a “contribution.” Bridget’s court filings include photocopies of social media posts of Jared and Warner globetrotting from summer 2019 to summer 2020: vacation at Beaver Creek Village in Avon, Colorado; cocktails at High Cotton in Charleston, South Carolina, and dinner at Melvyn’s Restaurant and Lounge in Palm Springs, California; getaways at resorts in Nashville and at a lakefront rental on Norris Lake ($600 per night); in the Bahamas at a Musha Cay private residence ($57,000 per night), at South Beach in Miami, and at a private beach at Fisher Island; in Mexico at Cabo San Lucas; in the U.S. Virgin Islands at Magen’s Bay and on a private yacht ($4,500 per night); in California at Desert Hot Springs, the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, and Montage at Laguna Beach; and in the Bahamas at South Cottage ($2,175 per night).

For her part, Bridget has gone through some of the top lawyers in town faster than President Trump during an impeachment—six in all, two of whom she’s sued for malpractice. She sent four binders of evidence to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking for the recusal of Hamilton County Judge Amy Searcy and claiming Searcy was biased because of campaign donations from Jared and his companies. Rather than deal with the list of questions sent to her by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Searcy stepped down. Two other judges have since stepped into the fray, and in March Bridget filed for a change of venue outside of Hamilton County, arguing she can’t get a fair trial in her hometown. At press time, a trial date had been set for June 28 in Hamilton County.

The poor-mouthing in the divorce case has reached heights of comic absurdity. Jared claims he’s “illiquid” because he didn’t get his distribution from CNG in 2019. Bridget has received debt collection notices for the nearly $21,000 owed on her American Express card and a $735 bill from Jewish Hospital. There’s no sign yet that anyone is coming to repossess her Porsche, which according to her filings has a $5,000 monthly payment. Each party has received $25,000 a month in living expenses, an amount later reduced to $15,000 under a temporary legal agreement while the divorce case is being sorted out. Court filings show that Jared’s net worth is almost $206 million and Bridget’s is $22.5 million.

In the early 1990s, Allen Davis was raising eyebrows at Provident Bank (later bought by National City), and not only because of his very unbanker-like look of beard, ponytail, and casual golf wear. He was leading the company into questionable subprime home loans for people with bad credit and a frequent-shopper program for merchants, though the bank’s charter barred him from getting involved in full-blown predatory lending practices. With guidance and funding from his father, Jared, at age 26, launched Check ’n Go in 1994 and became a pioneer in the payday lending industry. Jared and his family saw there were millions of Americans who didn’t have checking or savings accounts (“unbanked”) or an adequate credit rating (“underbanked”) but still needed loans to meet their everyday expenses. What those potential customers did have was a steady paycheck.

Conventional banks share a big part of the blame for the nation’s army of unbanked borrowers by imposing checking account fees and onerous penalties for bounced checks. In 2019, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimated there were 7.1 million U.S. households without a checking or savings account.

The Davises launched Check ’n Go on the pretext that it would “fill the gap” for people who occasionally needed to borrow money in a hurry—a service for those who couldn’t get a loan any other way. But consumer advocates say the real business model for payday lending isn’t a service at all. The majority of the industry’s revenue comes from repeat business by customers trapped in debt, not from borrowers looking for a quick, one-time fix for their financial troubles.

Ohio’s payday lending lobbyists got a strong hold on the state legislature in the late 1990s, and by 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray could rightfully claim in a campaign ad that “Ohio’s [payday lending] laws are now the worst in the nation. Things have gotten so bad that it is legal to charge 594 percent interest on loans.” His statement was based on a 2014 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The frustration for consumer advocates was that Ohioans had been trying to reform those laws since 2008, when voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative placing a 28 percent cap on the interest of payday loans. But—surprise!—lenders simply registered as mortgage brokers, which enabled them to charge unlimited fees.

The Davis family and five other payday lending companies controlled 90 percent of the market back then, an express gravy train ripping through the poorest communities in Ohio. The predatory feeding frenzy, especially in Ohio’s hard-hit Rust Belt communities, prompted a 2017 column at The Daily Beast titled, “America’s Worst Subprime Lender: Jared Davis vs. Allan Jones?” (Jones is founder and CEO of Tennessee-based Check Into Cash.) In 2016 and 2017, consumer advocates mustered their forces again, and this time they weren’t allowing for loopholes. The Pew Charitable Trusts joined efforts with bipartisan lawmakers and Ohioans for Payday Loan Reform, a statewide coalition of faith, business, local government, and nonprofit organizations. Consumer advocates found a legislative champion in State Rep. Kyle Koehler, a Republican from Springfield.

It no doubt helped reform efforts that former Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger resigned in spring 2018 amid an FBI investigation into his cozy relationship with payday lenders. Rosenberger had taken frequent overseas trips—to destinations including France, Italy, Israel, and China—in the company of payday lending lobbyists. In April 2019, Ohio’s new lending law took effect and, since then, has been called a national model for payday lending reform that balances protections for borrowers, profits for lenders, and access to credit for the poor, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. New prices in Ohio are three to four times lower for payday loans than before the law. Borrowers now have up to three months to repay their loans with no more than 6 percent of their paycheck. Pew estimates that the cost of borrowing $400 for three months dropped from $450 to $109, saving Ohioans at least $75 million a year. And despite claims that the reforms would eliminate access to credit, lenders currently operate in communities across the state and online. “The bipartisan success shows that if you set fair rules and enforce them, lenders play by them and there’s widespread access to credit,” says Gabe Kravitz, a consumer finance officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Other states like Virginia, Kansas, and Michigan are following Ohio’s lead, Kravitz says. Some states, such as Nebraska, have even capped annual interest on payday loans. As a result, Pew researchers have seen a reduction in the number of storefront lending op­erations across the country. Even better, Kravitz says, there’s no evidence that borrowers are turning instead to online payday lending operations.

Cincinnati is one of five cities chosen for a grant to replicate the success of Boston Builds Credit, an ambitious effort that city launched in 2017 to provide credit counseling in poor and minority communities by training specialists at existing social service agencies. The program also encourages consumer partnerships with credit unions, banks, and insurance companies to offer small, manageable loans that can help the unbanked and underbanked improve their credit ratings. “Right now, local organizations are all kind of working in silos on the problem in Cincinnati,” says Todd Moore of the nonprofit credit counseling agency Trinity Debt Relief. Moore, who applied for the Boston grant, says he’s looking for an agency like United Way or Strive Cincinnati to lead the effort here.

Anthony Smith is thankful that he’s escaped the downward spiral of his payday loans, especially during the pandemic’s economic turmoil. “I’m blessed for every day I can get paid and have a job during these difficult times, just to be able to pay my bills and meet my responsibilities,” he says. “I’ve always kept a job, but until now I’ve had crappy credit. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad guy.”

Can others worth millions of dollars say the same?

Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders Source link Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders

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What’s Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?



Questionable’s definition means that something’s quality is up for debate. If a lender says that your credit score is questionable, it’s likely that they mean it’s poor, or at the very least, they’re hesitant to approve you for vehicle financing. Here’s what most lenders consider questionable credit, and what auto loan options you may have.

Questionable Credit and Auto Lenders

Many auto lenders may consider questionable credit as a borrower with a credit score below 660. The credit score tiers as sorted by Experian the national credit bureau, are:

  • Super prime: 850 to 781
  • Prime: 780 to 661
  • Nonprime: 660 to 601
  • Subprime: 600 to 501
  • Deep subprime: 500 to 300

The nonprime credit tiers and below is when you start to get into bad credit territory and may struggle to meet the credit score requirements of traditional auto lenders.

This is because lenders are looking at your creditworthiness – your perceived ability to repay loans based on the information in your credit reports. Besides your actual credit score, there may be situations where the items in your credit reports are what’s making a lender question whether you’re a good candidate for an auto loan. These can include:

  • A past or active bankruptcy
  • A past or recent vehicle repossession
  • Recent missed/late payments
  • High credit card balances
  • No credit history

There are ways to get into an auto loan with questionable credit. Your options can change depending on what’s making your credit history questionable, though.

Questionable Credit Auto Loans

If your credit score is less than stellar, it may be time to look at these two lending options:

  • What Is Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?Subprime financing – Done through special finance dealerships by third-party subprime lenders. These lenders can often assist with many unique credit situations, provided you can meet their requirements. A great option for new borrowers with thin files, situational bad credit, or consumers with older negative marks.
  • In-house financing – May not require a credit check, and is done through buy here pay here (BHPH) dealers. Typically, your income and down payment amount are the most important parts of eligibility. Auto loans without a credit check may not allow for credit repair and may come with a higher-than-average interest rate.

Both of these car loan options are typically available to borrowers with credit challenges. However, if you have more recent, serious delinquencies on your credit reports, a BHPH dealer may be for you. Most traditional and subprime lenders typically don’t approve financing for borrowers with a dismissed bankruptcy, a repossession less than a year old, or borrowers with multiple, recent missed/late payments.

Requirements of Bad Credit Car Loans

In many cases, your income and down payment size are the biggest factors in your overall eligibility for bad credit auto loans. Expect to need:

  • 30 days of recent computer-generated check stubs to prove you have around $1,500 to $2,500 of monthly gross income. Borrowers without W-2 income may need two to three years of professionally prepared tax returns.
  • A down payment of at least $1,000 or 10% of the vehicle’s selling price. BHPH dealers may require up to 20% of the car’s selling price.
  • Proof of residency in the form of a recent utility bill in your name.
  • Proof of a working phone (no prepaid phones), proven with a recent phone bill in your name.
  • A list of five to eight personal references with name, phone number, and address.
  • Valid driver’s license with the correct address, can’t be revoked, expired, or suspended.

Depending on your individual situation, you may need fewer or more items to apply for a bad credit auto loan. However, preparing these documents before you head to a dealership can speed up the process!

Ready to Get on the Road?

With questionable credit, finding a dealership that’s able to assist you with an auto loan is easier said than done. Here at Auto Credit Express, we want to get that done for you with our coast-to-coast network of special finance dealerships.

Complete our free auto loan request form and we’ll get right to work looking for a dealer in your local area that can assist with many tough credit situations.

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Bad Credit

Entrepreneur Tae Lee Finds Her Fortune



By Jasmine Shaw
For The Birmingham Times

Birmingham native Tae Lee had plans last year to visit the continent of Africa, the South American country of Columbia, and the U.S. state of Texas.

“I was going to stay in each place for like four to six weeks, and then COVID-19 happened,” she said. “So, I just was like, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna go to Mexico and stay for six months.’”

Once home from Playa Del Carmen, located on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the 33-year-old entrepreneur put the final touches on “Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt,” a financial literacy card game for ages 10 and up.

“We created ‘Game of Fortune’ because we realized there was a gap in learning the fundamentals of money,” said Lee. “We go through life not knowing anything about money and then—‘Bam!’—real life hits. Credit, debt, and bills come at us quick!”

Lee believes the game “gives players a glimpse of real life” by using everyday scenarios to teach them how to make wiser financial decisions without having to waste their own money.

“I feel like [financial literacy] can be learned in ways other than somebody standing up and preaching it to you over and over again,” she said. “You can learn it in ways that are considered fun, as well.”

Which is why “we want the schools to buy it, so we can give students a fun way to learn about financial literacy,” she added.

Lee, also called the “Money Maximizer,” is an international best-selling financial author, speaker, coach, and trainer who is known for her financial literacy books, including “Never Go Broke (NGB): An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Money and Freedom” and the “NGB Money Success Planner High School Edition.” The Birmingham-based financial guru focuses on creating diverse streams of income in the tax, real estate, insurance, and finance industries.

For Lee, it’s about building generational wealth, not debt.

Indispensable Lessons

Lee got her first glance at entrepreneurial life as a child watching her mother, Valeria Robinson, run her commercial cleaning company, V’s Cleaning. Robinson retired in 2019.

“My grandmother had a cleaning service, too,” said Lee. “So, even though I didn’t start out as an entrepreneur, watching my mom and grandma do it taught me a lot.”

Lee grew up in Birmingham and attended Riley Elementary School, Midfield Middle School, and Huffman High School. She then went on to Jacksonville State University, in Jacksonville, Alabama, where she earned bachelor’s degree in physical education. She struggled to find a career in her field and became overwhelmed by student loans.

“My credit and stuff didn’t get bad until after college,” she said. “I was going through school and taking money, but nobody told me, ‘Oh, you’re gonna have to pay all of this back.’”

Before embarking on her extensive career in money management, Lee had not learned the indispensable lessons that she now shares with clients.

“‘Don’t have bad credit.’ That’s all I learned,” she remembers. “Financial literacy just wasn’t taught much. I learned the majority of my lessons as I aged.”

In an effort to ward off collection calls and raise her credit score, Lee researched tactics to strategically eliminate her debt.

“I knew I had to pay bills on time, and I couldn’t be late with payments,” she said.

Lee eventually began helping friends revamp their finances and opened NGB Inc. in 2017 to share fun, educational methods to help her clients build solid financial foundations.

“People were always coming to me like, ‘How do I invest in this?’ and ‘How do I do that?’ So, I said to myself, ‘You know what, people should be paying to pick your brain.’”

Legacy Building

While Lee enjoyed watching her clients reach milestones, like buying a new car with cash or making their first stock market investment, she was also designing “Game of Fortune” to teach the value of legacy building.

“The game gives players the knowledge to build generational wealth, not generational debt,” she said. “It gives you a glimpse of life, money, and what can truly happen if you mismanage your coins.”

Using index cards to create her first “Game of Fortune” sample deck, Lee filled each card with pertinent terms related to debt elimination and credit and wealth building. She then called on a few friends to help her work through the kinks.

Three of her good friends—Barbara Bratton, Daña Brown, and Sha Cannon—were just a few of the people that gave feedback on the sample deck.

“From there I met with Brandon Brooks, [owner of the Birmingham-based Brooks Realty Investments LLC], and four other financial advisors to fine-tune the definitions and game logistics,” Lee said.

Though Lee was unable to land a job in physical education after graduating from college, she now sees her career with NGB Inc. as life’s unexpected opportunity to teach on her own terms.

“Bartending and waitressing taught me that working for someone else was not for me,” she replied. “In order to get the life I always wanted, I had to create my own business.”

In her entrepreneurial pursuits, Lee strives to be an open-minded leader who embraces the need for flexibility.

“COVID-19 has shown me that in entrepreneurship you have to maneuver,” she said. “When life changes, sometimes your business will, too. You may have to change the path, but your ending goal can be the same.”

“Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt” is available and sold only on the “Game of Fortune” website: To learn more about Tae Lee and Never Go Broke Inc., visit and or email [email protected]; you also can follow her on Facebook ( and Instagram (@nevergobrokeinc).

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