While the phrase “payday lenders” typically makes you think of shady shops in strip malls or stand-alone stores plastered with self-advertising, there are several “friendlier” options surfacing online.
LendUp and Elevate are two such lenders attempting to change the payday loan landscape, as well as the lives of its customers. The only question is: which lender is the superior choice?
If you’ve found yourself in a bind and need cash quickly, then read on to see which loan may be right for you.
Setting the Context: Traditional Payday Lenders
Before we compare LendUp and Elevate, it’s helpful to have a context for payday lenders in general.
It’s no secret that payday loans are one of the most expensive loans out there, but if you need money in a pinch, it may be your best bet.
First, traditional payday loans are typically littered with fees and traps. For example, if you can’t afford to pay back your loan within the specified time frame, then you may have the option to roll your balance over.
This means that your original loan balance remains (as you can’t pay it off), and a rollover fee is tacked onto that amount.
Depending on how many times you roll your balance over (some states have restrictions on this), you could be looking at paying back a couple hundred dollars more than you originally anticipated. This is an extremely dangerous trap to get caught in.
LendUp is completely against rollover fees and doesn’t charge for extensions (30-day extensions are available on certain loans). Elevate doesn’t penalize you for paying off your loan early if you’re able to, and it says that it offers a 7-day payment extension on its RISE product if you’re unable to make a payment when it’s due.
Second, traditional payday loans usually have very short terms and offer small loan amounts. You have around 7 to 14 days to pay back your loan. This isn’t always realistic, and you may face those rollover fees if you don’t have the money after your next pay day.
LendUp and Elevate both offer longer repayment terms that give you a little breathing room when it comes to making payments, and RISE (Elevate) offers larger loan amounts. The loans are structured to be more cash flow friendly.
As you can tell, both companies are working toward providing better loans for those with poor credit, especially when compared to traditional payday lenders. Let’s see how they compare against each other.
LendUp: What it Offers and Who Benefits
Update: On Sept. 27, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered LendUP to pay more than $3.6 million in fines for allegedly misleading customers about its online lending service. Read the full CFPB order here.
In a nutshell, the CFPB claims LendUP’s parent company, Flurish, Inc., misleadingly advertised its lowest-priced loans. LendUP advertised its loans as available nationwide, yet the most attractive loans were only available to customers in California, the agency says.
The CFPB also claims LendUP failed to accurately market the annual percentage rates offered with its loans and in some cases understated the true APR on its loans.
What does the CFPB’s order mean for LendUP customers?
The CFPB has ordered the company to pay about $1.83 million in refunds to over 50,000 consumers. Consumers are not required to take any action. The company will contact consumers in the coming months about their refunds, the watchdog says.
In response to the CFPB’s claims posted on its website, LendUP says the transgressions date back to the company’s early days. “When we were a seed-stage startup with limited resources and as few as five employees. In those days we didn’t have a fully built out compliance department. We should have.”
LendUp says its “mission is to expand access to credit and lower the cost of borrowing for the millions of Americans that traditional banks are typically unable to serve.”
How does it accomplish that? It offers terms of 7 to 30 days, with loan amounts of $100 to $250 available. APRs range from 206.83% to 773.80%, depending on the terms you’re approved for, and the state you reside in.
For existing customers, long-term installment loans of up to $1,000 are available with APRs as low as 29.99% and repayment terms as long as 12 months. As of April 2016, LendUp is working on making long-term loans available to new customers as well.
LendUp is available in the following states: Alabama, California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
LendUp is unique in that it “gamifies” your payback experience. As you take financial literacy courses, make timely payments, or take out (and pay back) additional loans, you “move up” on its LendUp Ladder. There are four tiers: Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Prime. At the Platinum and Prime tiers, you’re able to report your payments to credit bureaus to rebuild your credit.
LendUp’s APRs rival those of traditional payday lenders initially, but if you ever need to borrow more money, your rate will decrease (as long as you maintain a good track record). LendUp wants to provide its customers with a better financial future, whereas regular payday lenders only focus on making sure they get paid on time.
Additionally, LendUp is a direct lender, which means any loan you take from LendUp is owned and issued by LendUp. There are no third-parties involved in the transaction.
Elevate: What it Offers and Who Benefits:
Elevate offers two different financial products: RISE and Elastic.
RISE is Elevate’s unsecured installment loan – its answer to traditional payday loans. You’ll have a set payment schedule, and similar to LendUp, future loans you take out with RISE are eligible for lower APRs.
To start, RISE has APRs ranging from 36% to 365%, with loan amounts ranging from a few hundred to $5,000, and repayment terms from as little as a few months to 26 months. The reason for the disparity is because all terms vary depending on the state you reside in.
RISE is only available in Alabama, California, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.
You should be aware that even though RISE is available in these states, it is not the lender in all cases. When it’s not, it charges an extremely high fee to find a lender that will extend credit to you. For example, in Ohio, it charges a $1,018 “CSO” fee on a $1,000 loan.
Again, this isn’t the case in all states (a loan in Missouri doesn’t have a CSO fee), but it’s something you should watch out for as those fees will likely make the loan not worth your time.
Elastic differs from RISE in that it’s a bank issued line of credit, which means you can pull funds from it when you need to. You pay for this convenience in the form of a 5% cash advance fee, though.
The credit line is between $500 and $3,500, and your payment schedule is adjusted to match your pay cycle. So if you’re paid bi-weekly, you’ll be required to make a payment every two weeks, and if you get paid monthly, you’ll make a payment one every month.
Elastic requires you to pay off your balance within one billing cycle, otherwise you’ll be subject to a minimum charge. This fee ranges from $1 to $100 for non-monthly customers, and $2 to $200 for monthly customers, depending on your balance. You can view examples on its website here.
Elastic is available in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Washington DC, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
As mentioned, Elevate is typically the direct lender on RISE loans, but not all. Republic Bank & Trust Company is the bank that issues the line of credit for Elastic.
Pros and Cons
Let’s review the pros and cons of each lender to see how the competition stacks up.
- LendUp is currently available in 23 states, which puts it slightly above RISE.
- In many cases, you can extend your loan term up to 30 days from your loan origination date for absolutely no fee, although interest will continue to accrue.
- LendUp is willing to work with borrowers who are unable to pay on time. In multiple places on its site, it says to call if you don’t think you’ll be able to make a payment. It is also very transparent about being an expensive choice for a loan.
- The LendUp Ladder can be motivating for some individuals, and it’s an experience that neither RISE nor Elastic offer.
- As an existing customer, you have access to better long-term installment loans as you move up the Ladder.
- The full LendUp Ladder isn’t available in all states, which means credit reporting isn’t an option for all customers. If you want to rebuild your credit, and the LendUp Ladder isn’t available, you might want to consider another lender that will report your timely payments to the credit bureaus. However, LendUp does mention that it isn’t the best option to use to solely rebuild your credit as it’s fairly expensive.
- LendUp offers short-term loans with lower amounts, so if you’re looking for more than $250, you’re not going to find it here.
- The APRs on short-term loans are on the higher end to start. Even though your APR will decrease the more you borrow with LendUp, that could encourage people to borrow more often when they shouldn’t rely on loans. This is both a pro and a con, as existing customers who truly need cash will at least pay less the next time around.
Elevate – RISE
- RISE has longer repayment terms and offers larger loan amounts, meaning you have greater flexibility when borrowing funds.
- Compared to LendUp, RISE’s APRs are slightly lower.
- If you no longer need the loan, you have the option to reject it for up to 5 business days after you sign the loan agreement. You’ll only have to repay the principal amount you borrowed – no interest or fees.
- RISE is only available in 15 states. The limited availability is a huge drawback, along with the fact that it doesn’t directly offer loans in all of those states.
- The CSO fee it charges in certain states is hefty.
- Similar to LendUp, RISE will offer lower APRs to returning customers based on prior payment history. This is both good and bad for the aforementioned reasons.
- While RISE has lower APRs, the repayment term is typically longer, and on a higher balance, the interest you accrue might end up being just as expensive as a loan from LendUp.
Elevate – Elastic
- Elastic is a convenient and quick option for those who need funds on a continuous basis, as once you’re approved for a line of credit, you can request more funds as you go (provided you continue to make the required payments).
- The way payments are structured encourages borrowers to pay their loan back on time when they receive their paychecks from work.
- Elastic is available in more states than LendUp and RISE, making it a viable option for more people.
- Repayment typically takes around 10 months, making Elastic a decent middle ground between LendUp and RISE.
- The 5% cash advance fee is rather high. Most cash advances on credit cards are around 3%.
- The repayment terms are slightly difficult to understand. There’s a lot of fine print where the “minimum charge” is concerned.
- This is both a pro and a con, but if you maintain a balance on your account for 10 consecutive months, you’ll be subject to a “cooling off” period where you will not have access to additional funds.
Other Payday Lender Alternatives
If neither LendUp nor Elevate work in your favor, or if they’re not available in your state, then check out these payday lender alternatives if you’re in a tight spot with money.
Is your FICO score between 600 and 700, but traditional banks still aren’t willing to lend to you? You may have better luck with Avant. There are no origination fees, and your payments are reported to the credit bureaus.
The vast majority of the loans Avant offers are for $1,000 to $35,000, with APRs ranging from 9.95% to 36%. Repayment terms range from 2 to 5 years. However, Avant’s loans are made by WebBank and affiliates of Avant – not Avant directly. It doesn’t offer loans in Iowa, Maine, North Dakota, or West Virginia.
This is a great option for those with the credit to get approved, as the APRs are much lower than Elevate and LendUp, there are no hidden fees to be concerned about, and it’s available in more states. Avant is an alternative that’s closer to a personal loan than a payday loan, but made for those with lower credit.
Credit Card Cash Advance
As stated before, at least when compared with Elastic, a credit card cash advance may be somewhat cheaper, but it’s still a costly option compared to Avant (or obtaining a personal loan, if your credit is good enough).
If you have a credit card that has a flat fee for a cash advance as opposed to a percentage of the advance amount, this can be the lesser of the “payday lender evils” to go with.
For example, some credit cards charge $3 regardless of the cash advance amount you take out, whereas others charge a 3-5% fee. There are also a few credit cards that do not have any cash advance fees at all. For a list of recommended credit cards for cash advances, check here.
Credit card cash advances are not a good idea for those who currently don’t have a credit card, or those who simply can’t trust themselves when spending with plastic. If you’re in need of a payday loan, you’re not in a stable enough financial situation to risk taking on more debt – especially consumer debt.
Additionally, your credit will be checked when you apply for a new credit card; with some online lenders, you can get preapproved for a loan and see the rates you qualify for with a soft credit inquiry.
Personal Loans from Online Lenders
Speaking of, there are a few other online personal loan lenders similar to Avant that may be willing to lend to you for less than Elevate and LendUp. Quite a few don’t require hard credit inquiries, making them decent options to look into.
Plug your information in here and do a quick comparison of the personal loans that may be available to you. If you need cash quickly, there are some lenders that can have the funds to you within the next business day or two.
Which Payday Lender Will Work For You?
LendUp and Elevate’s RISE and Elastic all serve different purposes, so which one is better for you greatly depends on your circumstance.
The closest thing to a normal payday loan is LendUp because of its small loan amount and quick repayment term. It’s a much better alternative because there are no rollover fees, and LendUp seems willing to work with borrowers unable to pay back the amount they owe. Beware of the high APRs and make sure you know exactly how much the loan is going to cost you upfront.
RISE is closer to a personal loan than a payday loan due to its longer repayment term and larger loan amount. However, since you can borrow a few hundred dollars at a higher APR, it provides flexibility that LendUp doesn’t.
Elastic might be the most convenient choice, as it’s a line of credit option (and the others are installment loans), but it could also be the most expensive with the 5% cash advance fee and minimum charge that gets tacked onto your payment. Since it is a line of credit, that could easily influence you to keep borrowing, and you shouldn’t think of any of these loans as a permanent solution to your financial problems.
Regardless of which choice you go with, be aware of how costly these loans are and what the consequences are if you can’t pay. Just because LendUp allows a 30-day extension, and RISE offers a 7-day extension, doesn’t mean you should rely on it. You want to be the best borrower possible to improve your chances of getting a regular loan in the future, should you need one.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to do the math to see which option is better for you. You may get approved for different rates at different lenders, or a cash advance from an existing credit card you have may turn out to be a better option. While you may not have the luxury of time right now, it’s worth thinking about for the future.
Whatever option you decide to go with, read the fine print, understand the loan in its entirety, and stay away from traditional payday lenders on the street corner. They’re certainly not worth your time (or money).