Per data collected by one r/borrow user, the subreddit facilitated 3,473 loans totaling over $780,000 in 2015
When asked if they’d be able to cover a $400 emergency expense, Neal Gabler’s recent Atlantic cover story noted, nearly half of all respondents to a 2014 Federal Reserve study said that they wouldn’t have enough cash on hand.
So how would they scrape the money together? Most told the Fed they would try for a bank loan, use a credit card, or make a potentially embarrassing request to family and friends. Two percent of respondents said they would take out a payday loan.
To avoid this suite of unattractive choices, some borrowers are asking strangers for money on Reddit instead. Since 2011, a section of the site, r/borrow (and its predecessor, r/loans), has matched users looking for quick credit with lenders willing to put up cash. Most loans on r/borrow charge very high interest rates-usually between 10 and 25 percent, to be paid back over weeks or months. According to a moderator of the subreddit, r/borrow users, like Redditors at large, skew young, white, and male. Loans tend to range from $100 to a few thousand dollars, and cover the gamut of emergency financial needs, including car repairs, debt consolidation, medical bills, or unexpected travel costs.
Relatively speaking, these aren’t huge numbers-the consumer-credit market handles trillions of dollars each year-but they do highlight the ways in which traditional lending options can fail to give some people what they need. “It’s not surprising that borrowers are looking for alternative ways of getting access to credit,” says Paul Leonard, the former director of the California office of the Center for Responsible Lending.
When Americans need money, they often turn first to banks for a loan, but their options there are only as good as their credit
If their credit score-a https://cashcentralpaydayloans.com/payday-loans-or/ figure that can be calculated incorrectly and yet is often taken as the sole indicator of a prospective borrower’s reliability-is low, they often turn to loans with much higher interest rates. Take Justin O’Dell, a cable technician living in Dexter, Michigan. He says his mother took out several credit cards in his name while he was in college and racked up about $40,000 in debt. “My choices were to press charges for credit fraud or eat the debt,” he said. “I ate the debt.” No longer able to get student loans, O’Dell was forced to drop out of college.
When O’Dell later needed some cash to pay his cellphone bill after his wife lost her job, he briefly considered a payday loan-an extremely high-interest alternative that is known to catch consumers in cycles of debt and is mostly unregulated in 32 states. (Payday loans are not equal-opportunity debt traps, either: “There is some evidence that lenders have concentrated themselves in communities of color,” said Joe Valenti, the director of consumer finance for the Center for American Progress.) But after deciding against that option, and against the embarrassment of asking his father, O’Dell ultimately opted for the comfortable distance of a Reddit loan. “You don’t have to walk back to dad with your tail between your legs and ask for help,” he said. Now, he turns to Reddit when surprise expenses arise.
On r/borrow, loans are being granted to the tune of $20,000 per week, according to user-collected data, and part of the platform’s success lies in its anti-establishment appeal. Lenders and borrowers alike are fond of the way that r/borrow takes lending out of a cold, institutional paradigm. O’Dell compared it to other personal-giving subreddits, such as r/secretsanta and the “Random Acts Of” forums, where users gift strangers with pizza, books, crafts, and even sex. “The nice thing about it is that you’re dealing with another person,” he said.