When Kendra Beasley and her husband separated last spring, her bank account was empty and she needed cash for a deposit on a new rental home. Instead of going to a payday lender as she had done once before, Beasley got a $500 loan through her employer, a Sonic Drive-In in Globe, Ariz. When her next paycheck came, the money, plus a $24 fee, was deducted. “If something comes up and I need it, I know it’s there,” she says of the program.
The Sonic franchisee offers the service through Symbius Financial, one of several startups trying to capture a piece of the $40 billion Americans borrow each year from payday lenders. These companies deliver small loans directly through employers with lots of low-wage workers, such as fast-food chains, big-box stores, and hospitals. The hard part is recruiting businesses, which often are reluctant to get involved in employees’ money troubles.