Published: August 2009

Wisconsinites for Responsible Lending

Wisconsinites for Responsible Lending (WRL) is a statewide coalition of groups and concerned residents that has come together to promote responsible lending practices and products and address one of the pressing economic and social issues affecting our state: Predatory Payday Lending.

Table of Contents

Issue Campaign: NO more predatory payday loans!

Why focus on payday lending?

Predatory payday lending is having devastating effects on our communities. It strips consumers of their income and traps them in a never-ending cycle of high-cost debt. Predatory payday loans wreck family finances, stripping American families with 4.2 billion dollars in excessive fees each year. In 2003, Wisconsin consumers paid 85 million dollars in fees. The number of licensed payday lenders in Wisconsin has increased sharply from 346 in 2004 to 530 in 2008. Cash-strapped Wisconsinites are losing millions of dollars. The urgent need to stimulate the economy makes reforming payday lending a priority because it will put more cash back in consumers’ pockets.

Payday lenders profit from repeat borrowers, charging abusive fees and interest rates that surpass 400%. According to the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), the average borrower pays $800 to borrow $300. The societal costs are even greater. Consumers struggle to pay the loan back, fall behind on basic expenses and often seek taxpayer help from social service organizations and publicly-funded government programs that provide food and assistance to cover rent and utilities.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia either prohibit payday lending completely or have established two-digit limits on interest rates. The Pentagon declared that high payday loan fees threaten the security and stability of military families, prompting Congress to pass a national 36% interest rate cap on payday loans for active duty members of the military.


The campaign has three main goals:

  1. Implement a comprehensive 36% rate cap. It costs taxpayers nothing and protects worker earnings and benefits. States that enforce two-digit interest rate caps save their citizens nearly $2 billion per year collectively.
  2. Promote responsible lending practices and alternatives to high-cost credit.
  3. Increase awareness of resources and organizations providing financial literacy education among people who are likely to take out a payday loan.

True Stories

Patricia, a retired nursing home aid, is a City of Waukesha resident who needed extra money to pay for moving expenses. She recently had some medical issues and decided that it was best to move closer to her family. Patricia had to pay double rent for one month and also rent a small moving truck. This was more than she could afford on her small monthly disability income. Since her other family members were also struggling financially, she felt that she had no other options at the time, but to seek fast cash from payday lenders.

Patricia used the services of two payday lenders, Check Into Cash and Speedy Loan. While she felt that she understood the terms of the loan, she knew she could not pay the loan back in full and would have to pay the loan back in installments. Patricia took out three loans in the amount $200 (APR 273.75%), $200 (APR 286.79%) and $150 (259.03% APR). The fees amounted to $123.50 for the $550 borrowed or about $22 per $100 borrowed.

Patricia immediately began making three separate payments each month of $46.50, $45, and $33. She has since rolled over the loans 18 times by paying the finance charges of $123.50 to avoid having her personal checks cashed. She quickly learned that the minimum payments she was making were only covering interest thus making it hard to pay down the principal of her loans. This means that Patricia has paid $2,223 in interest only and not one penny toward the principal balance of $550.

Patricia is retired and on a limited income so she finds it hard to keep up with the fees and monthly payments. She is working with a financial counselor to find a solution to this debt trap, while preserving her good credit score. Once her loans are paid off, Patricia has stated that she will never use a payday loan service again.

Click here to read more stories.

Join the Coalition!

Community organizations and individuals across the state are joining the movement to urge state lawmakers to enact legislation that will protect Wisconsinites against abusive and predatory payday lending. Take a look at our ever-expanding list.

To join, email Sarah Hawks at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Follow WRL on Twitter and Facebook

To get our Tweets, go to

To find us on Facebook, go to Facebook and search for “Wisconsinites for Responsible Lending”. Click to become a fan!

Take Action!

On May 27th, Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) and Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) introduced a bill that would cap payday loans at 36% APR. We need your help to ensure this bill becomes law this session!

The first step to doing that is to encourage your state legislators to sign onto to this bill before June 12, 2009.

Please call and ask your state Senator and Representative to co-sponsor Representative Hintz’s Predatory Lending Consumer Protection Act (LRB 1920/2) before June 12, 2009.

Click here to locate your legislators online. You can also call the legislative hotline at 1-800-362-9472.

Here's additional information:

WRL in the Media

WRL Press Release Support for 36% Payday Lending Cap Grows Across the State Waukesha, WIS. – Wisconsinites for Responsible Lending (WRL) announces the addition of new member organizations to its grassroots coalition. Wisconsin AFL-CIO, SEIU (Service Employees International Union), AFT-Wisconsin, Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, WISDOM, ESTHER (Fox Cities), the Fox Cities Housing Coalition, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW), and First Presbyterian Church of Omro have recently joined the coalition. Click here to read more...

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Payday Lenders Shell Out Record Cash To Kill Regulation State is one of few to allow loan sharks’ high interest rate...Payday lenders contributed a record $140,200 to the governor and legislative candidates in 2008 when it looked like Democrats, who favor capping the industry’s controversial loan rates, would capture full control of the legislature, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review shows. Click here to read more...

Express Do We Really Need Payday Lenders in Wisconsin? They were kicked out of North Carolina, are constitutionally banned in Arkansas and heavily regulated in Minnesota. The Bush-era Department of Defense found that they are a threat to members of the military. Click here to read more...

Appleton Post Crescent Editorial Editorial: Don't let lobbying stop payday loan bill (8/6/09) The checkbooks are coming out in full force in the debate over the future of payday lending in Wisconsin. A bill authored by Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, would put a cap of 36 percent on the yearly interest rate lenders could charge. Click here to read more...

The Capital Times Wisconsin is one of few states with no ceiling on payday loan interest (8/5/09) They lure customers with marquee signs and lurid promises of "100% Approval" and "Open Early and Late." Some 40 payday loan stores, most of which did not exist 20 years ago, are now tucked into Madison's low-income neighborhoods and lined up along commercial strips from the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to outlying communities. They offer quick money with no credit check, and people take the bait. Click here to read more...

The Sheboygan Press Editorial: Rein in interest on payday loans (8/4/09) Payday loans are either the best thing for cash-strapped people or an unregulated operation that winds up ripping off these same borrowers. It is true that for many people, these high-interest borrowing methods are the only avenue open to them. Their credit rating won't allow them to get a loan from a commercial bank, so they turn to a payday loan store, write a post-dated check and hope they have the money in two weeks to pay off the loan and interest. Click here to read more...

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Payday lenders giving lobbyists big paydays to stop interest cap (8/3/09) The latest bid to regulate Wisconsin's payday lending industry is turning into a big bonanza for the Madison lobbying corps, as more than two dozen influence-peddlers fight a proposed 36% cap on interest rates. At stake is the future of the much-maligned industry that provides small short-term loans with double-digit interest rates. Those rates can skyrocket - quickly hitting 400% or more yearly - as borrowers unable to pay off their debts repeatedly roll over the loans. Click here to read more...

Green Bay Press Gazette Editorial: Regulation needed on payday loans (7/31/09) The state of Wisconsin has virtually no laws regulating payday loan operations. It's time these establishments were brought under control. State Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, says he has 43 co-sponsors in the Assembly, and 15 in the state Senate, for his bill that would set a 36 percent ceiling on the interest that payday lenders can charge. That's the ceiling that Congress set on loans for U.S. military personnel in 2007 after many servicemen and women got caught in the debt trap set by lenders near their bases. Click here to read more...

Conexión Latina Sol Carbonell, founder of WRL, visits Conexión Latina. Hosted by Peter Muñoz, Executive Director of Centro Hispano of Dane County, and produced by Chris Lang, Conexión Latina explores issues relevant to the growing Latino community. (Courtesy of the City of Madison - Spanish Language Show)

Wisconsin Artist Speaks Up

"To me, payday loans are a lot like the spider luring in the prey with easy money as the bait. Not long after, one finds oneself caught in a tangled web of debt and bills."

Brian Defferding, Deftoons Comics, Appleton, Wisconsin

"Loan sharks?" "We call them 'payday lenders' nowadays"

More Information

Want to be involved and need more information?

Read Wisconsinites for Responsible Lending - FAQ

Want to know where payday lenders are in Wisconsin?

See Payday Lenders by Senate District and Payday Lenders by Assembly District

The following maps provided by the Center for Responsible Lending illustrate payday shops in Madison and Milwaukee in relation to median income level, unemployment and poverty rate.

Lead Organization

Wisconsinites for Responsible Lending

Other Organizations

State Groups

  • AARP of Wisconsin
  • AFT - Wisconsin
  • Centro Hispano of Dane County
  • Citizen Action of Wisconsin
  • Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups
  • Comite Festival Mexicano (COFEMEX)
  • Common Wealth Development
  • Communities United
  • Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc.
  • Community Action Inc. of Rock and Walworth Counties
  • Cooperative Network
  • Dane County Housing Authority
  • Empowerment Solidarity Truth Hope Equality Reform (ESTHER)
  • First Presbyterian Church of Omro
  • Fox Cities Housing Coalition
  • IndependenceFirst
  • Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin
  • La Casa de Esperanza
  • Latino Service Providers Coalition
  • Latinos United for Change and Advancement (LUCHA)
  • League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Fund
  • Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee
  • Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW)
  • Madison Area Urban Ministry
  • Make A Difference ‐ Wisconsin, Inc.
  • Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council
  • Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations
  • Movin’ Out, Inc.
  • National Association of Social Workers, Wisconsin Chapter
  • SEIU Wisconsin
  • United Community Center (UCC)
  • United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS)
  • Urban Economic Development Association of WI (UEDA)
  • Urban League of Greater Madison
  • Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans
  • Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP)
  • Wisconsin Consumers’ League
  • Wisconsin Council on Children & Families
  • Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA)
  • Wisconsin Saves
  • Wisconsin State AFL-CIO
  • Wisconsin Women Business Initiative Corporation
  • Worker Rights Center
  • YWCA of Madison
  • YWCA of Rock County
National Partners
  • Americans for Fairness in Lending
  • Center for Family Policy and Practice
  • Center for Responsible Lending
  • Consumer Action
  • Consumer Federation of America
  • Consumers Union

More Information

Click here to email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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