Payday loans: How one woman got caught in a vicious cycle

Payday advance check storefront
Payday advance check storefront

Payday loans can wreak havoc on a person's financial life. These loans carry sky-high APRs and the penalties for late or missed payments can be extreme. Many consumers, who turned to payday lenders in a time of need, later find themselves worse off than when they started. In this series, WalletPop takes a look at the payday lending industry and some of its players: those who dole out the loans, the regulators who try to rein them in and the people who desperately take out these loans hoping for a fresh start. This is the first installment of our payday lending series.

When you're broke, as in really broke, the reasons for taking out a payday loan seem logical. But payday loans can be a gateway to a serious problem; a vicious cycle that can seem impossible to escape. I should know. Two years ago, when the recession started to rear its ugly head, I took out my first payday loan.

I'd like to say that I turned to these loans -- which typically offer rates of as high as 390% APR and sometimes double that -- just once or twice, but throughout the recession, as magazines I worked for folded, they became the one place I could turn to if we really needed money in my bank account. And there were times when I really did need to inject some income into our checking account -- or run out of grocery money or have our utilities turned off.