If you’ve seen the CFSA seal at the bottom of short-term lender sites, you might’ve wondered what it means and just whom this organization represents.
The Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA) is a national trade organization for payday and short-term lenders that also strives to promote laws and protections for consumers.
What is the Community Financial Services Association of America?
Founded in 1999, the CFSA is a trade organization built to protect short-term lenders by lobbying for the right to provide small-dollar, short-term and payday loans to Americans. Though it exists to protect the interests of the industry, it also holds its members to a series of best practices designed to keep short-term borrowers informed through transparent disclosures, truthful advertising and the dangers of taking on too much debt.
But keep in mind that it’s still run by lenders, meaning some of its policies may conflict with consumers’ financial interests.
Which lenders are members of the CFSA?
Advance America Cash Advance Centers
AT Financial Services
Axcess Financial/Check ‘n Go
Cash 2-U Loans
Cash Depot of MS
Cash Factory USA
Check Into Cash
Check on Hold
Community Choice Financial DBA CheckSmart Financial
Consumer Lending Associates
Curo Financial Technologies Corp.
Dollar Financial Group
EC Holding (EmergiCash)
EMG Acquisition Group
Financial Service Centers of Ohio
Harpeth Financial Services (Advance Financial)
Instant Cash Advance Corp.
Ivy Funding Company
Speedy Cash/Lending Bear
Main Street Personal Finance (ACAC)
National Check Cashers
Northstate Check Exchange
PH Financial Services
Power Finance Texas
Speedee Cash Management Co.
Speedy Cash (Florida)
USA Cash Services
Westrock Financial LTD
That’s a long list. Which lenders should I look at first?
We’ve put together a short list of CFSA members we’ve reviewed below.
Advance America. A founding member of the CFSA, Advance America offers payday loans, installment loans and auto title loans.
Check ‘n Go. Apply for a loan online or in person if you live in an eligible state.
Check City. Offers services that depend on your state of residence, but you can count on it being licensed to operate in every state it conducts business in.
Check Into Cash. Offers payday loans, auto title loans, installment loans and lines of credit for its online and in-store applicants.
What if the lender I’m interested in isn’t a member of the CFSA?
A CFSA membership might mean something to you when comparing lenders, but it’s not a requirement for transparent practices. Plenty of legit lenders out there aren’t members of the CFSA.
If you’re worried, confirm that a lender’s site includes:
Contact information. A legit lender will display their contact information posted clearly online. If you have questions before or after you apply, you shouldn’t hesitate to call or email someone to confirm facts. It can save you time and money in the long run.
Transparent terms. Know how much it will cost to borrow before you apply. Every state has different laws about payday loans that businesses need to abide by, so a lender presenting the potential APR and loan cap is a sign of good practices.
FAQ section. A reputable lender’s site should include a clearly defined section that answers your most general questions. If it doesn’t, look into a lender that does to avoid signing a loan agreement blind to how it works or what it costs.
Reviews and accreditation. Many lenders include reviews on their websites, but a legit lender is also easy to find in an online search, with a good rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Because it’s your financial future on the line, this information can be an important factor when taking out a short-term loan.
These aren’t firm categories, though. Some lenders, like MoneyKey, we review are members of both. Each organization advertises different best practices for its member lenders, which might help you to feel more confident about your decision.
Payday loans can become a source of major debt if you don’t handle them responsibly. When considering a member of the CFSA to service your loan, keep in mind that its best practices listed are in place to protect lenders as well as consumers.
Never rely on one source of information when reviewing a possible lender. Instead, compare costs and repayment terms to make sure you can afford to borrow the loan, and consider the alternatives before you apply.
What are the best practices outlined by the CFSA?
Although many of the best practices listed on CFSA’s site sound like common sense, many disreputable lenders don’t follow the laws or try to skirt them. Because predatory practices can harm consumers and lenders, the CFSA claims to enforce basic ideas about transparency to make it clear what short-term loans should do.
Even if you decide to go with a lender outside the CFSA, keep these best practices in mind when choosing a provider.
An important aspects of finding a lender is making sure they list all costs of the loan as dictated by the Federal Truth in Lending Act. CFSA members participate y outlining the terms of the loan in addition to listing the APR as both a dollar amount and a percentage rate.
CFSA members are required to obey the laws of the states in which they operate, adjusting terms depending on regulations in place.
Whenever a CFSA member makes an advertisement, they do so without engaging in deceptive tactics that encourage irresponsible borrowing practices.
The CFSA’s Customer Notice included on its marketing materials states that payday loans are designed for short-term financial struggles, rather than a long-term solution. This notice should contrast with the rest of the document, not nestled in the fine print, where it can be missed.
Rollovers or refinancing are against the policy of the CFSA. In states where refinancing is legal, the number of rollovers a lender can offer is limited to four or your state’s maximum, whichever is less.
Customer who borrow from a CFSA member has the right to cancel their loan at no cost before the close of the following business day. In practice, this means that if you borrow from a CFSA member on a Monday, you can cancel your loan and return the funds by the end of the business day (usually 5 p.m.) on Tuesday.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines the ways in which a business can collect on consumer debt. The CFSA abides by the FDCPA, requiring its members to collect all debts professionally.
CFSA members can’t make threats to pursue criminal action against a consumer for not paying a loan. Keep in mind that no short-term lender can pursue criminal action against consumers. While you can be sued for damages in civil court, you can’t be jailed for defaulting.
CFSA members are required to maintain and post a toll-free number for consumer complaints. Members are also required to report violations of the CFSA best practices.
Some states ban payday loans outright, but the CFSA hopes to work with states to create a set of standards that all short-term lenders follow — even those that aren’t members. To do this, the CFSA supports increasing consumer protections and requires all members to strictly abide by rules, adapting as the laws change.
While not available in all states, the extended payment plan is designed for people who find themselves unable to pay back the original loan by contract’s deadline. The customer pays the remaining loan balance off in four equal payments, with no charge or fee to enter into this plan.
Every CFSA member that offers online loans is required to be licensed by each state it operates in.
CFSA members must display the membership seal in their stores and on their website. The seal alerts consumers to the lender’s affiliation with the CFSA and best practices the lender should be following.
When you’re looking for a way to prevent financial disaster, it can feel impossible to find a reputable lender with affordable loans in a pinch. Payday loans have a reputation for predatory practices, but the CFSA is working to change that perception.
You’ll still need to research any lender to confirm it abides by the laws of your state. But knowing that it participates in an organization like the Community Financial Services Association of America might help you determine its legitimacy.
Are payday loans available in my state?
Frequently asked questions
A short-term loan is a small amount of money borrowed from a lender that typically comes at a high cost relative to the amount you borrow. You may see terms like “payday loan” or “installment loan,” which are specific types of short-term loans.
Payday loans typically give you access to less than $500, often due in one lump sum by your next payday. They’re meant to be used in emergencies or in a time of crisis, like when your car breaks down and you can’t afford the repairs until the end of the month. Installment loans are similar but usually come in larger amounts and can be paid back in monthly payments.
All types of financing come with risks. But because of high interest rates and multiple fees attached to short-term loans, they are viewed as more risky than other types of credit. If you can’t afford to pay on the loan due date, you’ll face nonsufficient funds fees and could fall into a debt spiral.
One way to combat the risks associated with short-term loans is to borrow with purpose. Make sure you budget and are able to afford whatever you take out, and always repay on time.
Aliyyah Camp is a writer and personal finance blogger who helps readers compare personal, student, car and business loans. Aliyyah earned a BA in communication from the University of Pennsylvania and is based in New York, where she enjoys movies and running outdoors.
How likely would you be to recommend finder to a friend or colleague?
Very UnlikelyExtremely Likely
Thank you for your feedback.
Our goal is to create the best possible product, and your thoughts, ideas and suggestions play a major role in helping us identify opportunities to improve.
finder.com is an independent comparison platform and information service that aims to provide you with the tools you need to make better decisions. While we are independent, the offers that appear on this site are from companies from which finder.com receives compensation. We may receive compensation from our partners for placement of their products or services. We may also receive compensation if you click on certain links posted on our site. While compensation arrangements may affect the order, position or placement of product information, it doesn't influence our assessment of those products. Please don't interpret the order in which products appear on our Site as any endorsement or recommendation from us. finder.com compares a wide range of products, providers and services but we don't provide information on all available products, providers or services. Please appreciate that there may be other options available to you than the products, providers or services covered by our service.