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Best Student Loans for Bad Credit | Find the Best Loan for You



Your credit history doesn’t need to be a barrier between you and your education: Even borrowers with bad credit or no credit can find student loans. You may not even need a co-signer, although the backing of someone with good credit may improve your chances of approval and your interest rate.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know to help you qualify for a student loan with less-than-perfect credit.

The Best Bad Credit Student Loan Companies in 2021

College Ave

3.34% to 12.99% with autopay Fixed APR
No maximum Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score

Sallie Mae

4.25% to 12.59% * Fixed APR
Not disclosed Max. Loan Amount
Mid 600s Min. Credit Score


4.24% to 12.99% with autopay Fixed APR
No maximum Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score


3.99% to 8.49% with autopay Fixed APR
Cost of attendance, minus aid Max. Loan Amount
660 Min. Credit Score


4.44% to 9.59% with autopay Fixed APR
$50,000 yearly Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score


As low as 3.99% with autopay Fixed APR
$45,000 yearly Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score


4.23% to 10.66% with autopay Fixed APR
No maximum Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score


4.092% to 8.609% with autopay Fixed APR
$200,000 Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score

Ascent Funding

3.58% – 11.95% with autopay Fixed APR
$200,000 Max. Loan Amount
540 Min. Credit Score

Find the Best Student Loans for You

Best for instant approval

College Ave Student Loans offers student loans to borrowers in all 50 states. Undergraduate, graduate and parent loans are available. The lender specializes in simple applications with an instant decision.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, parent loans, refinancing, MBA, law, dental, medical, career, international
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A+

Best Features

  • Loans are available from $5,000.

  • Prequalify for a rate in less than 1 minute.

  • Loan terms are available from 5 to 20 years.

See full profile

Best for product availability

Sallie Mae is a publicly traded consumer bank that offers private student loans to pay for undergraduate, graduate and specialty degrees. The company started in 1972 as a government entity that serviced federal student loans. It went private in 2004 and has served nearly half a million students and families with its range of student loan products. Beyond student loans, Sallie Mae Bank offers savings products to help families plan and pay for college, and credit cards with incentives for using cash back rewards to pay back student loans.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, career training, parent, K-12, graduate, MBA, medical, medical residency, dental, dental residency, health professions, law school, bar study
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A+

Best Features

  • Student loans completely cover school-certified expenses such as tuition, fees, books, housing, meals, travel or a laptop.

  • Customer service is 100% U.S.-based.

  • Borrowers don’t have to pay a loan origination fee.

See full profile

Best for no fees

Discover Bank has been operating for more than 100 years, and since 2010, it has offered private student loans to students attending more than 2,400 colleges and universities. Loans of up to 100% of education costs with fixed or variable rates are available.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, parent, refinancing, MBA, law, international, consolidation, health professions, residency, bar exam. International loans require a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A+

Best Features

  • Loans as small as $1,000 are available.

  • Discover has no origination, application or late fees.

See full profile

Best for minimal fees

LendKey is a student loan lending platform that connects credit unions and community banks with online borrowers. Founded in 2009, LendKey has served more than 99,000 borrowers with more than $3.1 billion in loans from partner lenders. Undergraduate and graduate student loans are available, as well as student loan refinancing.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, refinance
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A

Best Features

  • Students can consider multiple lenders with a single application.

  • LendKey has no origination or application fees.

See full profile

Best for ACH discount

PNC Bank was established in 1845 and operates in all 50 states. The bank is engaged in a number of community efforts, including its Grow Up Great program in conjunction with Sesame Workshop and various financial literacy efforts. For students, PNC offers opportunities to win $2,000 scholarships toward education expenses. PNC provides a range of loans for students at all stages of postsecondary education, including professional training loans and refinancing.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, refinancing, MBA, law, dental, medical, bar and residency
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A+

Best Features

  • PNC offers a range of loans for undergraduate, graduate and professional education.

  • Loans are available in all 50 states.

  • Borrowers can receive an interest rate discount for automatic payment from a checking or savings account.

See full profile

Best for fixed APR

The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority is a nonprofit quasi-state authority that provides college financing to students and parents. The lender specializes in providing loans to Rhode Island residents and students, though not all loans have residency requirements.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, refinance, parent
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: unrated

Best Features

  • Students may be enrolled at least half-time and still qualify.

  • There is no prepayment fee, so borrowers may pay off their loans early.

  • Rewards are available for interns and nurses.

See full profile

Best for multiple repayment options and no fees

SoFi is an online lender offering student loan refinancing, undergraduate, graduate and parent loans in all 50 states. The lender has served more than 375,000 borrowers with $30 billion in refinanced student loans. Although SoFi focused on refinancing in its early years, the company has expanded to also offer its own undergraduate, graduate and parent loans.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, parent loans, refinancing, parent refinancing, MBA, law, dental, medical
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A+

Best Features

  • All types of student loans are eligible for refinancing.

  • SoFi’s lending process is completely online.

  • Loan terms are available from five to 20 years.

See full profile

Best for small loan amounts

EDvestinU is a nonprofit student loan lending and refinancing organization. It offers student loans to borrowers in all 50 states. Undergraduate and graduate loans and student loan consolidation are available.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, refinancing
  • Minimum FICO credit score: undisclosed
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: B

Best Features

  • Loans are available from $1,000.

  • Borrowers can make full payments while in school, pay the interest only or defer payments.

  • EDvestinU student loans have no application, origination or prepayment fees.

See full profile

Best for bad credit

Ascent offers student loans to borrowers in all 50 states. Undergraduate and graduate loans are available. The lender specializes in providing opportunities for students to borrow loans in their own names.

Before You Apply

  • Loan types: undergraduate, graduate, MBA, law, dental, medical, international, health professionals, graduate Ph.D./general, DACA students with an eligible co-signer
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 540
  • Co-signer accepted: yes
  • Better Business Bureau rating: A

Best Features

  • Ascent offers a 1% cash back graduation reward with the satisfaction of certain terms and conditions.

  • Co-signed loans offer the ability to make full payments while in school and during a nine-month grace period following graduation, or choose to pay interest only, a flat fee or defer payments.

  • Ascent student loans have no origination, prepayment or application fees.

See full profile

What to Consider When Selecting a Student Loan for Bad Credit

Getting a student loan is harder with bad credit. You must consider all of the usual factors, such as interest rates and loan limits, as well as others specific to your situation.

Here are the most important criteria when selecting student loans for bad credit:

  • Consider a co-signer. If you have bad credit, a co-signer – someone who can make payments if you don’t make them – should expand your private loan options, says Madison Block, marketing communications and programs associate at the nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling. You can look for student loans that offer a co-signer release, which removes the co-signer from your loan once you’ve made a certain number of on-time payments.
  • Consider the effects on your already low credit score. Although not all student loans require credit checks, most private lenders take your creditworthiness into account. If you have bad credit, you may only qualify for high interest rate loans.
  • Consider the interest rates of the student loans you’re considering, Block says. While some lenders may not factor in credit scores or require co-signers, they could charge higher interest rates than those that do, she says. Meanwhile, lenders that advertise very low interest rates generally require excellent credit and charge higher rates for applicants with bad credit.
  • Consider the repayment options. If you think you might struggle to make payments, look for lenders with flexible payment options, which could include extending your repayment term or refinancing to lower your payment, as well as deferment or forbearance plans. Private student loans are generally less flexible than federal student loans, which include several flexible repayment options.
  • Consider the loan’s total cost. “Make sure you are doing your homework on the total costs of your loan over time and not just choosing based on interest rate alone,” says Brandon Ashton, director of retirement security at Cornerstone Financial Services, Southfield, Michigan. “Sometimes fees and charges can offset a good interest rate.”
  • Consider refinancing in the future. As you build a credit history and hopefully improve your credit score, you may be able to refinance your private student loan to a lower interest rate, Ashton says. If you find a better refinance option, check whether your current lender is willing to beat that competing offer, he says.

How to Get a Student Loan With Bad Credit

If you have bad credit, being strategic about the student loans you apply for is important. Because applying for several loans in a short time period can hurt your credit score, target lenders that you think are the best fit for you. Funding U and Ascent, for instance, offer private student loans and look at factors such as GPA, major and graduation date when borrowers can’t qualify based on credit and income.

Whether you want a private student loan or a federal loan, you can apply for many of them online. When you do, you will need to provide personal information, such as your address and Social Security number or alien registration number. If you’ve lived at your current address for less than one year, you will also need to list your previous residence.

The application will ask about your school and your degree, as well as any financial aid or scholarships you expect to receive. Have your federal tax information or tax returns ready, and be prepared to provide details about bank accounts, investments and monthly mortgage or rent payments. You will also need to name two personal contacts who are not your co-signer, if you have one.

Before you apply for a student loan, though, you will need to decide how much you want to borrow. Estimating your educational expenses, including tuition and fees, housing, food, and books, can help you do this. Also, your financial aid award letter should include your school’s one-year cost of attendance.

You can then start by applying for federal student loans – having bad credit or no credit will not disqualify you. Federal loans, except for Direct PLUS loans, don’t take your credit history into account, making them better options for applicants with bad credit.

They also tend to offer lower interest rates and greater repayment flexibility and forgiveness options than private student loans. Federal loans don’t require payment until after you graduate, leave school or decide to enroll less than half-time, but many private lenders will expect payment while you’re still in school.

You’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, at or on the myStudentAid mobile app to be considered for federal loans, grants or work-study awards. The application becomes available each October for the following school year, but every school and state has its own FAFSA deadline.

Make sure you meet not only the federal filing deadline but also state and college FAFSA deadlines because aid is limited. Most state deadlines can be found at the FAFSA website, but also check your school’s website for deadlines.

You should receive a financial aid award letter in mid-March to April if you are a regular decision applicant. Your college will explain how to accept all or part of your aid.

“If federal loans aren’t an option or you’ve exhausted your federal loans, then consider applying for a private loan with a co-signer who has good credit,” Ashton says.

Having a co-signer who will make payments if you don’t can help you get a good interest rate with a reputable lender, he says. Still, make sure you shop around for the best offer. You might only be approved for high-interest loans, or your application could be rejected, depending on your credit score.

When applying for private student loans for bad credit, the most important factors to evaluate are the repayment period and interest rate, says Josh Simpson, financial advisor with Lake Advisory Group. Many private student loans will need to be paid while you’re in school, but some lenders may offer deferred payments.

Some may allow you to defer payments for six months after you graduate or when you enroll less than half-time. Ask lenders about their repayment options.

If your loan is approved, the next step for all private and federal loans is school certification. During this process, the school confirms your cost of attendance, financial aid eligibility and other loan details. Your school also checks that your loan amount isn’t more than the total cost of attendance, minus any loans or other aid you’ve received.

Certification will include your school setting a date to receive the money. The entire process typically takes seven to 10 days but can be longer, depending on time of year and school.

How to Build or Improve Your Credit Score Before Applying for a Student Loan

If you have bad credit and know you will need a student loan, improving your credit score before applying is a good idea. Luckily, there are many ways to build your credit and boost your score.

But this won’t happen overnight. If you have no credit, you will need at least six months of credit usage to generate a FICO credit score, according to FICO, the credit analytics firm.

A score damaged by serious misuse, such as a foreclosure or bankruptcy, can take years to recover. On the other hand, a poor credit score could improve to fair with only 12 months of responsible use.

Whether you are trying to raise your credit score or build credit history, these expert-recommended strategies can help before you apply for a student loan:

  • Pay your bills on time and in full every month. “The most important factor in determining credit scores is payment history,” Block says. “Unfortunately, it can take a few months for your score to improve if your credit history isn’t good to start with.”
  • Consider a secured credit card. Secured credit cards work like traditional credit cards, except the credit limit is secured by a deposit you make when you open the account. The deposit is usually equal to your credit line and can be used to pay your account if you don’t. “Consumers with low or no credit score may have trouble qualifying for a standard credit card,” says Paramita Pal, head of U.S. Bankcard at TD Bank. “In those instances, you may want to consider a secured credit card. Secured cards report to the credit bureaus, so proper use will help a score improve over time.”
  • Ask someone with good credit habits to add you as an authorized user to a credit card. The primary cardholder is responsible for payments, but the account – and payment history – will appear in your credit file. Make sure you are piggybacking on the credit of a friend or family member you trust because his or her actions – good or bad – will be reflected in your credit history.
  • Take out a credit-builder loan. Unlike a traditional loan, a credit-builder loan deposits money into a savings account rather than giving it to you upfront. You won’t be able to access the money until you’ve repaid the loan, and then the lender will return it to you, plus any interest. Typical loans are $300 to $1,000, and borrowers pay in installments over six to 24 months, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Lower your credit utilization rate. Reducing the percentage of total available credit you’re using, called your credit utilization rate, is one of the fastest ways to improve your credit score. Amounts owed, which accounts for your credit utilization rate, is the second-largest factor in your FICO score. The general guideline is to use less than 30% of your credit, if possible. If your available credit is $1,000 and you spend $500, your utilization rate would be 50%. You can reduce your rate by using less credit or asking for a credit limit increase: Just be careful not to spend more at the same time.
  • Avoid carrying balances on your credit cards. Another way to improve your credit score is to pay off card balances. “But do not cancel cards you aren’t using regularly,” Pal says. Length of credit history is another important factor in determining your credit score, according to FICO. A longer credit history will increase your FICO score, Pal says.

“Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit report to ensure the credit agencies have accurate information on your balances, number of credit lines,” she says. “Inaccuracies can hurt a credit score.”

The three national credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and Transunion – are offering free weekly credit reports through April 2021 to help you monitor for errors and signs of fraud during the coronavirus pandemic. You can access them at; previously, you could get one free credit report yearly from each credit bureau.

“Request your reports throughout the year and review for any errors,” Pal says.

If you think you spot an error on your credit report, you will need to dispute the information by contacting both the credit bureau and the creditor.

Can You Get a Student Loan Without a Co-Signer If You Have Bad Credit?

You can get a student loan without a co-signer if you have bad credit or no credit – most federal loans do not require a co-signer – but private loans often do.

Unlike need-based federal loans that are funded by the government, private student loans from banks, credit unions and online lenders require a credit history to prove that you can pay back the debt. Many students have thin or no credit histories, which makes approval difficult for private loans.

A creditworthy co-signer on a private loan can help your chances of approval and secure a better interest rate than you would on your own.

If you don’t want a co-signer on your student loan permanently, look for a loan with a co-signer release. This would allow you to release your co-signer from the loan after you meet certain requirements, such as making a certain number of on-time payments.

Can You Get a Student Loan With No Credit?

Borrowers with no credit can get student loans, Simpson says. Federal student loans are the best choice because they don’t require a credit history.

But, adds Ashton, “They have limits on how much you can borrow.”

Federal loan limits depend on the type of loan, as well as your year in school and your dependency status. Generally, graduate students can borrow more than undergraduates: Annual loan limits range from $5,500 to $12,500 for undergraduates and $20,500 for graduate students.

Private student loan limits depend partly on your credit score and vary by lender. Citizens Bank, for instance, limits undergraduate loan amounts to the full cost of your education, up to $150,000 total. Meanwhile, PNC caps loans at $50,000 annually, with a maximum aggregate educational debt of $225,000.

What Is the Minimum Credit Score for a Student Loan?

Most lenders require a credit score of 650 to 670 for a private student loan, but some don’t have a minimum credit score. Instead, they base credit decisions on several factors, such as debt-to-income ratio, earning potential or household income.

Parents who want Direct PLUS loans won’t need to meet a credit score minimum but cannot have an adverse credit history. That means you can’t have debts that are 90 days or more delinquent or in collections, among other credit mistakes.

Does Applying for a Student Loan With Bad Credit Lower Your Score Even More?

Applying for a private student loan will lower your credit score, but the damage should be minimal and temporary, as long as you don’t apply for too many loans at once. A new loan results in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which means a creditor has requested to review your credit file to assess your risk as a borrower.

“Having too many hard inquiries in a short amount of time can decrease your score,” Block says.

But one or two inquiries per year, she says, should not significantly affect your credit score. For most people, one credit inquiry will drop your FICO score by less than five points. That’s different from applying for several credit cards and a loan in one week, which may indicate financial problems.

The stronger your credit history, the better your credit score will tolerate a credit inquiry. Your score will bounce back within a few months if everything else in your credit history remains positive.

If your credit is less than perfect, the effect of inquiries will still be short term. Inquiries remain on your credit report for two years, but FICO scores only consider the ones from the last 12 months.

Do All Student Loans Require a Credit Check?

Not all student loans require a credit check. “Federal student loans don’t take credit history into account like private student loans do,” Block says.

This means that applying for a federal student loan won’t result in a hard inquiry on your credit report. Parent PLUS loans are the exceptions.

If you can’t get enough federal help to pay for college, then consider private student loans. Adding a co-signer should help you qualify for a loan and pay a lower interest rate than you would on your own, Block says.

Private lenders may use a soft credit inquiry to preapprove student applicants. Soft inquiries, unlike hard inquiries, will not hurt your credit score. That said, a poor credit history will affect your chances of approval.

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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; you also can follow her on Facebook ( and Instagram (@nevergobrokeinc).

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