The short-term, high-interest loan industry is alive and well in America, despite the ongoing efforts to get it under control. America’s state governments have the power to regulate lenders within their borders, but some of them don’t play by the rules. As they transition out of storefronts and onto the internet, it’s becoming even harder to tell which are legitimate. If you’re looking for a Blue Trust Loans review to tell you whether they’re one of the businesses you can trust, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything you need to know about the online lender.
What is Blue Trust Loans?
Blue Trust Loans is an online lender that offers short-term installment loans as an alternative to traditional payday loans. They have similarly simplistic application processes, low qualification requirements, and transfer funds rapidly. The primary difference between these installment loans and payday loans is that borrowers have more than just a couple of weeks to pay back their debts.
Unfortunately, the repayment term is only one part of the problem with payday loans. The other (significantly more dangerous) issue is that their interest rates are through the roof. Blue Trust Loans does nothing to resolve this and charges rates just as high as any payday lender.
With such high-interest rates, these installment loans are almost indistinguishable from payday loans. If anything, installment loans are more dangerous, given their higher principal balances. Payday loans tend to top out at roughly $1,000, while Blue Trust Loans can be for as much as $3,000.
Is Blue Trust Loans Licensed?
Blue Trust Loans’ headquarters are in Wisconsin, but the company doesn’t have a license there. They’re a tribal lender, which means that they operate only under the laws and regulations put forth by a sovereign Native American tribe. In this case, that’s the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.
Because of their affiliation with the tribe, they qualify for “tribal immunity,” which essentially means that they’re immune to lawsuits. They take advantage of that rule to charge interest rates far higher than the maximum state limits. For reference, the states that institute an interest rate cap usually use 36% APR, while Blue Trust Loan’s rates start at 472% APR.
Blue Trust Loans, otherwise known as Hummingbird Funds, LLC, discloses their tribal status in small print at the bottom of their home page: “Hummingbird Funds, LLC is […] wholly-owned and controlled by, the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (the “Tribe”), a federally-recognized sovereign American Indian Tribe[…] This also means that Hummingbird Funds is not subject to suit or service of process. Rather, Hummingbird Funds is regulated by the Tribe.”
The state and federal lending laws only exist to protect consumers, so it’s dangerous to work with a tribal lender who doesn’t necessarily have to obey them.
Typical Loan Terms
Blue Trust Loans’ terms are pretty typical of their industry. Like most tribal lenders, they have interest rates well into the triple digits, principal balances of a few thousand dollars, and repayment terms over several months. Here are the specifics:
- Principal balances between $100 and $3,000 ($1,500 maximum for first-time customers)
- An APR between 472% to 841%
- Loan origination fees (details in the loan agreement)
- Weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, and monthly payment schedules available
- A repayment term of 9 months for most customers
- No fees for paying loan balances off early
- Additional fees for non-sufficient funds or late payments
Blue Trust Loans likes to present their rates as a fee rather than an interest percentage, much like payday lenders. They charge up to $14.75 per week for each $100 of principal. For example, a loan of $500 would cost up to $73.75 per week in fees. There are discounts for returning customers and those who pay by ACH.
It’s always wise to take a look at multiple perspectives on a lender before working with them. Blue Trust Loans has been in business since 2016, so there’s a significant amount of information on them online. Here’s a quick overview of some of the other Blue Trust Loans review pages on the internet.
Better Business Bureau
One of the best sites to visit when researching a lender is the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Instead of simply hosting reviews of the businesses on their site, they serve as a middle man between customer and business. They gauge the interactions and use them to rate the company’s customer service.
Blue Trust Loans gets an A from the BBB for their customer service. That’s one of the best possible scores, and the company does seem to do a great job of responding to customer complaints on the site. There have been 53 complaints against the company in the last three years, and they’ve responded to all but three of them.
Unfortunately, the complaints themselves are problematic. All 53 complaints fall into two categories. 34 of them are about billing and collections problems, and 19 of them are due to problems with the product or service.
Customer reviews are a separate category from complaints. There are 38 of them, with an average score of 1.5 out of 5. The only reason that their score is not a 1 out of 5 (the worst score) is that one customer-rated them three stars even though the details of their review states: “DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH THEM. I took out a $400 loan, not realizing the interest rate was over 712%!!!! In three months, they have taken over $750!”
Crowdsourced Review Sites
The BBB is great for getting a feel for Blue Trust Loans’ customer service, but traditional crowdsourced review sites are better for understanding the total customer experience. There are usually more reviews elsewhere, which can provide greater insight.
For example, the Blue Trust Loans review page on Best Company includes 82 customer reviews. The average score is 1.4 out of 5, and 88% of customers gave them the lowest possible rating. Most of the stories are about the unexpectedly high cost of borrowing, but there are also complaints about their general business practices, such as:
- Promising people loans, collecting their sensitive data, and then denying their application
- Failing to disclose or uphold the agreed-upon loan terms
- Denying or delaying receipt of payments and continuing to charge additional fees and interest
In contrast, the Blue Trust Loans review page on Trustpilot is almost universally positive. However, all of the positive reviews are from people that Blue Trust Loans invited to review directly. The only organically sourced review is also the only negative one. Once again, the customer cites deceptive practices and gives them the lowest score possible.
It’s worth noting that there has been at least one lawsuit against Blue Trust Loans. Underwood & Riemer, P.C. and the Gregory Law Firm, P.C. went after them in 2019 for blatantly violating lending laws while hiding behind the tribal immunity excuse. They believe that the relationship between Blue Trust Loans and the Chippewa Indian tribe is not sufficient for the lender to operate under the tribe’s immunity.
Taking a loan from a tribal lender like Blue Trust Loans is always risky, but it’s not surprising that so many people decide to do so. At first glance, they look like the perfect solution for anyone who needs a few hundred dollars to cover an emergency.
Some of the things that people like about them are:
- Small principal balances that are perfect for covering short-term needs
- Loose qualification requirements that allow people with bad credit to get funding
- An online application that only takes a few minutes to complete
- A quick turnaround time that can get people funding in as little as a day
Unfortunately, the downsides to Blue Trust Loans’ products far outweigh these advantages.
There are a lot of reasons to stay away from tribal lenders in general, and Blue Trust Loans has all of the drawbacks typical of the industry. These are the most significant downsides:
- Their loans are often over ten times more expensive than other forms of borrowing
- The excessive interest makes the loan incredibly difficult to pay back, which increases the likelihood of triggering additional fees
- Their tribal immunity makes it much more difficult to fight back legally or sue them should they do something illegal
It’s best to avoid taking out a loan from Blue Trust Loans whenever possible. At their highest interest rate of 871% APR, borrowing $500 from them would end up costing $2,230.19 in total interest over a 9-month repayment term.
If taking one of their loans is completely unavoidable, the safest way to do so would be to pay off the loan within the first payment period. That would prevent the majority of interest from accruing, which might mean the difference between $2,000 in interest and $200 in fees. Blue Trust Loans requires borrowers to contact them a few days in advance to pay extra principal toward their loan, though, so don’t get tripped up by that.
How to Apply to Blue Trust Loans
Blue Trust Loans knows how to make borrowing from them tempting to people who need some fast cash. A big part of that is their application process, which is short and easy to fill out. These are the only qualifications people need to meet to apply:
- Provide a verifiable source of direct deposit income into a checking account
- Have an open checking account that meets their “bank account minimum opened duration” requirements
- Be at least 18 years old and a United States resident
- Meet Blue Trust Loans’ minimum income requirements
- Not currently be a debtor in a bankruptcy case or presently intend to voluntarily file for bankruptcy relief
It’s not very difficult to meet these requirements. Most people in the workforce who aren’t already knee-deep in debt should be able to qualify. The application itself is also pretty easy to fill out and takes no more than a few minutes. They’ll ask for personal information (identification and contact info), income and employment details, and bank account numbers.
Better Alternatives to Blue Trust Loans
Tribal lenders like Blue Trust Loans are usually only an option for people who are struggling with creditworthiness. Many people with low credit scores give up on traditional lenders, especially after a bank rejects their application once or twice.
They often assume that they have no other option than lenders like Blue Trust Loans, who don’t check applicants’ credit scores but charge extremely high prices in return.
Fortunately, that’s not the case. There are plenty of ways out there for people with bad credit to get cash at much more reasonable rates than those of tribal and payday loans.
Here are some of the best alternatives to Blue Trust Loans:
- Paycheck Advance Apps: These aren’t technically loans, but they allow people to access a few hundred dollars from their paycheck before they could otherwise. For example, Brigit lets people take an advance of up to $250 per pay period. Best of all, there’s no interest on the advance. They charge only a monthly membership fee of $10.
- Payday Alternative Loans (PALs): As part of the fight against payday lenders, federal credit unions offer PALs to their members (anyone can join). Their principal balances are very similar to those of payday loans, but their terms are much more favorable. Their rates can be no higher than 28% and their repayment terms have to be between two and six months.
- Secured Credit: The reason that lenders are unwilling to provide loans to people with bad credit is that there’s an increased risk that they won’t get their money back. Secured credit accounts reduce the risk to the lender because they can always seize the collateral to recoup their losses. That can allow people with bad credit to get funding when they wouldn’t qualify otherwise.
All of these options would be a better choice for someone in need of cash than borrowing from Blue Trust Loans. They’re almost if not equally as accessible to people with bad credit, and they’re much more affordable.
If you want a short and sweet Blue Trust Loans review, here it is: Take your business elsewhere whenever possible. Their rates are so much higher than other lenders that it’s almost always a mistake to accept one, and because they’re a tribal lender, there are additional legal risks.
If you can avoid taking on debt in the first place, that’s always the better option. Try to find new ways to make some extra money, spend less of it, or both, so you don’t need to resort to short-term loans. If you need assistance managing your money, consider talking to a credit counselor. They’re a helpful and affordable resource for people who need guidance with their finances. Find a credit counselor near you today!