Payday loan alternatives rise

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sky-high interest payday loans are getting some more affordable competition in the Twin Cities area from community-based organizations.

Exodus Lending is one nonprofit offering residents interest-free loans to help pay off debts, Minnesota Public Radio reported . The organization has helped about 200 borrowers since April 2015, according to Exodus Executive Director Sara Nelson-Pallmeyer.

Exodus gets its capital in interest-free loans from supporters. The group then gives people struggling with payday loans up to $1,000 in no-cost loans.

“We started because a payday lender opened on the same block as Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in South Minneapolis,” Nelson-Pallmeyer said. “People within the congregation were alarmed and disturbed by another outfit like this taking people’s money out of the community.”

Payday lenders argue that high interest rates are necessary to make small loans worthwhile. They say most customers feel satisfied with the service. Minnesota residents took out about 330,000 payday loans last year, borrowing around $133 million.

Village Financial Cooperative plans to open a credit union next year, with the goal of increasing access to banking services, including low-cost, short-term, small loans, said Me’Lea Connelly, Village Financial’s development director.

“Credit unions and our effort in general are focused on people, not profit,” she said. “And so, the first thing that we want to know is, what impact are we going to make in our members’ lives, what is the need the community has and where are they asking us to step in?”

There are at least five credit unions in Minnesota that already make small-dollar or auto loans to people wouldn’t normally quality for a loan.

MidMinnesota Federal Credit Union in Brainerd has made nearly $1.5 million in auto loans to people with poor credit. Less than 1 percent of those loans are delinquent.