Making Ends Meet: Millennials Turning to Pawn Shops, Payday Loans

Millennials are in a tough economic situation: They’re struggling with crippling student loan debt, lackluster job prospects and increasing credit card balances and they’re using any means possible to make ends meet.

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This generation, which includes those ages 18-to-24,  are choosing both traditional and alternative finance services to shore up their budgets, including alternative financial services like prepaid debit cards, payday loans, money transfer services and pawn shops, to supplement their incomes.

A survey released by financial products developer Think Finance finds 92% of Millennials are currently using a bank, but close to half (45%) have also turned to an alternative service for a short-term cash injection.

Eighty-one percent say they have used alternative finances and that emergency credit options are somewhat important to them. Less than half of respondents say they have an emergency savings account of at least $1,000.

The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive of 1,021 Millennials in the U.S.

Personal finance expert of Gerri Detweiler says it’s easy to think of these loans as a few dollars here and there to help cover needs in a pinch, but it’s easy to lose track of how much they can weigh on a budget and cost in the long term.

“This generation is used to paying a couple of bucks for an app, or a music track, or $3 for a cup of coffee,”  Detweiler says. “Small fees don’t seem like that much.”

What’s more, these Millennials are also struggling to establish credit, Detweiler says. Recent research from Lexus Nexus finds these consumers are nearly 2.5 times as likely to have a low credit score, than those aged 25 and up.

Here are tips from Detweiler on how to shore up your finances and what you need to know about alternative sources of credit:

No. 1: Check your credit history. For those with good or existing credit, Detweiler advises seeking out loans with lower rates.

“There may be alternative and cheaper sources of financing for you,” she says.

No. 2: Read the Fine Print.  Payday loans can sometimes come with 100% interest rates, according to Detweiler. “It may look like a small amount, but the fee is significant. There are triple- digit interest rates, not just double, so find that low-cost financing source.”

No. 3: Ask for help. If you have low credit, or no credit history, don’t be afraid to get out and ask for help. “There are free, and low-cost sources of help out there, that are not trying to push a product,” Detweiler says.