People have a habit of thinking that they are always smarter than that ‘other guy.’ Whether it is the coworker who supports a different professional sports team than you do, or that uncle of yours who has radical political views, we all seem to think that we usually know what’s best for other people. Let’s face it – getting up on a soapbox and looking down on others can often be a real rush for some people. This has become even more obvious in the Information Age, as everyone and their sister has a point of view about things that they are sure is more informed than yours.payday-loans-61

This all applies to payday loans. Many people seem to think that payday lenders are predators and that the people who take out loans from these lenders are ill informed and in need of rescuing. The lenders charge supposedly sky-high interest rates and “trap” their customers into a never ending cycle of debt. At least, that’s how the story gets told online time and time again. Oh, and those customers who take out payday loans?? They simply don’t know enough about finances to understand just how much they are screwing up by taking out payday loans, right?

This mindset is poisonous, judgmental and, as it turns out, not at all correct. Recent information that was released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau seems to reveal the truth about both payday lenders and their customers, and this truth is not at all what you’ve heard or read about in all of those online exposes or local news stories. In fact, it looks like payday lenders are providing very much needed financial services, and, contrary to popular belief, the people who take out payday loans are actually pretty financially savvy.

The CFPB recently analyzed the complaints that they have received over the past three years. When all of the data was laid out on the table, it appears that payday lending really isn’t a problem at all. In fact, only about one percent of the consumer complaints logged online had anything to do with payday loans. The vast majority of complaints were related to mainstream financial services, like mortgages and regular old credit cards. Debt collection was also factored in, and those three areas all added up to over 66 percent of the complaints that were officially logged to the CFPB. This data is backed up by data from the FTC that pretty much reveals the same stats.

The date from the CFPB also disclosed that if people use overdraft protection – the mainstream financial alternative to payday or short term loans – and the APR terms used for payday loans were also used for those overdrafts that people would be much worse off. The APR on the typical overdraft protection fee would come in at an astonishing 1700 percent, while the average APR on a payday loan is only around 350 percent. The CFPB also noted that since people understand payday loan fees as flat, one time fees, rather than bloated APRs that they are better equipped to pay back their loans on time, without any misunderstanding.

We know that the websites and news organizations that love to beat up on payday lenders are not going to change their tactics any time soon. But knowing that even an organization like the CFPB understands that payday loans are not the scourge of the financial world, like so many people pretend that it is, goes a long way in helping to really understand how the payday lending industry compares to other types of financial service providers. And it’s nice to know that payday loan customers really are not the ignorant, helpless people that so many reporters from the mainstream news community like to make them out to be.