U.S. Bancorp’s money talks

The Minneapolis-based company offers high-interest “paycheck loans.”

Candice Wheeler

I’ve been screwed over by my bank a handful of times due to obscene overdraft fees — a charge that can be as much as $35 each day it goes unpaid.

U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo are offering their customers who receive paychecks via direct deposit the option of short-term loans to act as a safety net to catch those fees before they skyrocket. Some people rely on these types of loans, which charge a 10 percent fee, to get them out of their financial binds.

The advocacy group Minnesotans for a Fair Economy is calling these “paycheck” loans an unavoidable debt trap for low-income borrowers. The group has also criticized the banks for their lack of foreclosure assistance in mainly black and Latino neighborhoods. Last year’s $452 million in total mortgage revenue was an all-time record for U.S. Bank.

In their first quarter of 2012, U.S. Bank recorded a net income of $1.3 billion — 9 percent higher than 2011. These figures are driven by a 7-percent growth in net interest income and an 11 percent growth in fee revenue.

But cash advances, despite the high fees, can be helpful when used as a safety net for faulty pending transactions that often lead to an overdraft. In 2011, customers paid approximately $31.6 billion in overdraft fees.

U.S. Bank allows customers to use the loans continually for up to nine months, followed by 90-day break before they can start up again.

There’s no doubt these advances could send those who are financially unstable into a habitual cycle of debt; any loan or credit card could. But there isn’t necessarily any harm in offering the loans. It’s essentially the customer’s decision whether or not to utilize the funds, and it’s reassuring to have that emergency cash available at my fingertips.

 

Candice Wheeler welcomes comments at [email protected]