Oklahoma’s payday loan usage rate is highest in nation

Elise Robillard was desperate for a quick cash infusion the first time she walked into a payday lending store.

A long-term substitute teacher and mother of two young children, Robillard’s tires were bald, and she couldn’t afford to replace them.

So she turned to small, short-term payday advances thinking they would keep her afloat. The loans have few financial qualifications, but annual interest rates as high as 391 percent.

More and more overextended Oklahomans, like other Americans, are using advances to cover everyday expenses — mortgages, rent, utilities, or outstanding credit card debt, car repairs or medical bills, studies have found.

But unlike Americans living in other states, Oklahomans use the loans at a staggeringly high rate, according to analysts.

In all, an estimated 1 in 8 Oklahoma adults has taken out a payday loan — the highest usage rate in the nation, said Nick Bourke, director of consumer finance at Pew Charitable Trusts. The typical borrower takes out 10 payday loans per year, often relying on new loans to pay off old cash advances, he said.

Nationally, the average usage rate is closer to 1 in 20, Pew found.

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