How Title Lenders Trap Poor Americans in Debt With Triple-Digit Interest Rates

ProPublica | by Margaret Coker, The Current, and Joel Jacobs, ProPublica, with research by Mollie Simon, ProPublica |

A TitleMax location in Savannah, Georgia Credit: Malcolm Jackson for ProPublica

TMX Finance, TitleMax’s parent company, calls itself a community resource to its 293,000 customers, people written off as credit risks by traditional lending institutions but who need financing to pay for life’s basic needs. As the nation’s largest title lender, TitleMax thrives on an innovative business model that lends money to risky clients in exchange for collateral: the title to the vehicle in which the customers drove to the store. In 2019, TMX Finance reported $910 million in revenue, primarily from its TitleMax brand.

Rather than seeing the company as a force for good, a growing consortium of lawmakers, religious leaders and consumer advocates believe TitleMax, and its industry writ large, to be predatory leeches on the growing ranks of working-class Americans. More than 30 states prohibit title lending or have laws inimical to the industry. In 2016, TMX Finance paid a $9 million fine, approximately 1% of the company’s revenue that year, to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which ruled that the company misled customers about the full costs of its loans in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Since then, at least five states have passed laws capping interest rates that title lenders can charge at 36% per year.


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