If you're desperate for cash this holiday season, there's one easy way to go: payday lenders.

The problem here, says the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending says, is that getting dough from these outfits could set you back many times the cost of the original loan. In California, the organization says, interest on such loans can reach as high as a whopping 459 percent.

Whoa. And the holidays are prime time for these loans.

The center recently surveyed 605 likely California voters and concluded that they “would approve a ballot measure to reduce the annual interest rate on payday loans to 36 percent if the election were held today,” according to a statement.


In fact, the center says, 56 percent of likely voters said they would “definitely vote yes” on such a cap on payday loan interest rates.

Seventy-three percent weren't so definitive, but leaned toward supporting the hypothetical choice.

But when those likely voters were informed that “rates are typically 459 percent,” support for a 36 percent cap went up to 65 percent saying they'd definitely go for that, the Center for Responsible Lending said. Another 83 percent said they supported the idea generally.

The center found support for an interest-rate cap regardless of “gender, age, education, party, ideology, region, ethnicity, and religion,” it said.

Credit: Center for Responsible Lending

Credit: Center for Responsible Lending

And more than three out of four of these likely voters agree with descriptions of payday loan outfits as organizations that are “predatory,” “like loan sharks” or that “prey upon low income people,” the organization states.

Nearly half of those folks surveyed said they'd turn out to vote in 2016 just to weigh in on payday loan interest rates, if such an initiative were on the ballot in California, the center says.

Californians might not have to legislate the issue themselves, though. The center has been lobbying Sacramento to reign the loans in, and “payday lenders have been prevented from offering larger loans at even more usurious interest rates,” it says.

But, even more importantly, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working on new regulations that could change the payday loan game for good.

Keep your fingers crossed. And hold fast.

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