The small victories are adding up in the battle against predatory loans this week. Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank announced they will discontinue high-risk payday lending programs.
Wells Fargo announced its Direct Deposit Advance service would be discontinued beginning Feb. 1 for new customers, while existing customers will have access to the program until mid-year. U.S. Bank’s Checking Account Advance service will end effective Jan. 31. for new customers and May 30 for current account holders.
Banks’ deposit advance services differ little from the typical storefront payday loan operation – both offer high-interest, short-term loans meant to get consumers out of emergency financial situations, but in reality have been found to trap them in an ongoing cycle of debt.
In a statement on Wells Fargo’s website, officials said the bank is dedicated to helping customers succeed financially and offers a spectrum of credit products to meet customer needs. Similarly, U.S. Bank officials said they are committed to finding new solutions to consumer’s need for short-term, small dollar credit.
Criticism over bank-backed short-term, high-risk loans has grown louder in the past several years, both from consumers and regulatory agencies.
Last summer, a California woman told a Senate panel how a $500 loan from Wells Fargo’s Direct Deposit Advance program resulted in $3,000 in fees.
In November, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which oversee institutions such as Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, issued a 22-page guidance document essentially telling the banks to end payday loan-esque practices.
Friday’s announcements by Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank come just two days after Regions Bank, supervised by the Federal Reserve, said it would discontinue its deposit advance service.
The three banks make up a large chunk of the depository institutions that still offer direct deposit advance loans. Fifth Third Bank, supervised by the Federal Reserve, is the sole large bank providing payday loans to consumers, the Center For Responsible Learning reports.
Wells Fargo and US Bank Discontinue Payday Loan Products [Center For Responsible Lending]