Borrowing money has become normalized in the American culture, and we tend to do it pretty recklessly. In 2020, the average American had $25,483 in consumer debt, not including mortgages. Taking on that much debt can have dire repercussions, especially if you borrow from the wrong lender. With the spread of online lending, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate the good from the bad. If you’re currently on the hunt for a new lender, make sure you do thorough research before applying. If you’re considering Bridge Lending Solutions, review this breakdown of their business first. It has everything you need to know to decide whether or not you should borrow from them.
What is Bridge Lending Solutions?
Bridge Lending Solutions is a consumer lending company that specializes in online, small-dollar, installment loans. They have very liberal underwriting processes and are willing to work with borrowers who have bad credit.
Unfortunately, they charge quite a bit for their services. Even they acknowledge that they’re only helpful to people whose backs are against the wall financially. For example, they say they might be a viable solution when someone can’t afford their rent, car repairs, or medical expenses. If that sounds familiar, it’s because payday lenders make the same claims. In fact, the difference between a payday loan and this form of installment loan is negligible.
The only significant variation between the two types of loans is that installment loans have longer repayment terms. Bridge Lending Solutions doubles down on distinguishing its products that way by emphasizing their repayment flexibility. They have several repayment schedules that supposedly encourage borrowers to pay off their loans as quickly as possible (and avoid interest).
Is Bridge Lending Solutions Licensed?
Bridge Lending Solutions’ headquarters are in Wisconsin, but they operate out of a Native American reservation in Lac du Flambeau. As a result, they don’t have (or think they need) a license from the state.
They’re a tribal lender, which means that they’re an extension of a Native American tribe and only respect their rules and regulations. Bridge Lending Solutions belongs to the Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, and their only license is from the tribe.
As an extension of a Federally Recognized Indian Tribe and Sovereign Nation, they have “tribal immunity.” In simple terms, that means it’s almost impossible to sue them. Most tribal lenders use their status to avoid state regulations, especially those that limit the interest rates they can charge.
Like most online tribal lenders, Bridge Lending Solutions only discloses what their tribal status means in the fine print, which notes the following: “We are in full compliance with tribal lending laws and applicable federal lending laws. We are not required to follow state laws and you will be bound by the terms of the agreement with Bridge Lending Services including tribal laws.”
Federal regulations don’t do much to protect consumers from usurious lenders. That responsibility lies with the states, so the fact that Bridge Lending Solutions willfully ignores state laws is dangerous.
Typical Loan Terms
Bridge Lending Solutions is less forthcoming with their terms than many of their competitors. They don’t provide a range of rates on their website or even an example of a typical loan. Borrowers won’t know most of the pertinent details until they get a copy of their loan agreement.
Here’s what they do disclose ahead of time:
- Principal balances between $250 to $2,000
- Maximum principal balances for first-time customers of $600
- An expensive interest rate, likely in the mid to high triple digits
- Flexible repayment schedules, including the ability to prepay at will
- The ability to repay a loan via ACH, cashier’s check, or money order
Most tribal lenders give an example of their average loan, but Bridge Lending Solutions doesn’t seem to want to share their rates. It’s likely because they don’t want to scare people off by revealing how expensive they are. Whatever their reasoning, it’s risky to apply to a lender without knowing what they’re going to charge for their services.
Bridge Lending Solutions has been around since at least 2017, which means that they should have a long enough history to develop a verifiable reputation online. That’s fortunate because it’s always helpful to see what past customers have to say about a lender when assessing them. Here are some highlights from another Bridge Lending Solutions review page.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is one of the best customer review sites. They’re more selective about the reviews they allow to show up on their site than other crowdsourcers. That means that fewer voices get heard, but hopefully, it’s all the right ones.
Bridge Lending Solutions has 15 customer reviews on their profile with an average score of 2 out of 5 stars. The few positive ones reinforce the idea that the company is safe as long as borrowers know what they’re getting into and pay their loan off before the interest accrues.
The rest of the reviews are negative and primarily cite the unreasonable interest rates, but they also reference several other undesirable practices, including:
- Acquiring consumer contact information through a third-party and marketing to them aggressively (including phone calls at work)
- Making it unreasonably difficult for a borrower to pay off their loan in advance like they promised was possible
- Promising a loan, stealing applicant information, then breaking contact
The BBB also accepts formal complaints from customers. They then use the company’s responses to rate their customer service, which provides a second lens into their operations.
Bridge Lending Solutions’ rating is a B-, which is equivalent to what it would be in an academic setting. They’ve had 26 complaints against them over the last three years and have answered all of them. They resolved roughly 20% of them to the satisfaction of the BBB. Of the 26 reviews, 24 of them were over billings and collection problems.
Another great way to get a feel for a business’s track record is to look for any previous or outstanding lawsuits against them. Searching online for lawsuits against Bridge Lending Solutions doesn’t turn up any results, but there are records for one against the Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.
In 2019, Isaiah A. Jones III sued the leaders of the tribe in federal court for their activities under another lending entity, RadiantCash (they have several more businesses, including Loan at Last). Even though he struggled due to their tribal immunity, it’s still not a positive sign for Bridge Lending Solutions.
Borrowing from Bridge Lending Solution should only ever be considered as a last resort. Even in dire circumstances, it’s very likely that taking out one of their loans is going to end up causing more problems than it solves. That said, there are understandable reasons why people work from them, such as:
- Their application process is short, easy to fill out, and entirely online.
- They have minimal qualification requirements, so people with bad credit can still receive a loan.
- They can transfer funds to approved applicants in a single business day.
- Their small principal balances are just what people need when they have minor cash emergencies.
Without knowing the exact cost (which Bridge Lending Solutions is careful not to state explicitly), these loans would appear to be a helpful tool for people who need some fast cash.
Bridge Lending Solutions can seem tempting to their target market at first glance, but it’s a trap. They’re just as dangerous as traditional payday lenders, if not more, due to their larger principal balances and tribal immunity. Here are the most significant reasons that people should do their best to stay away:
- Previous customers report their interest rates to be in the triple digits (far higher than any other form of credit except payday loans).
- They have a history of breaking state laws, including the caps on interest rates and licensing regulations.
- When Bridge Lending Solutions does something against state law, consumers have little to no legal recourse against them.
These are the typical downsides to working with a tribal lender, and Bridge Lending Solutions is virtually identical to many of its peers in the industry.
How to Apply for a Bridge Lending Solutions Loan
Like many tribal installment lenders, Bridge Lending Solutions doesn’t care much about an applicant’s creditworthiness. Their qualification requirements are minimal, and the vast majority of working adults have a good chance of receiving a loan. To apply, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a bank account in your name
- Have a working email address and phone number
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Not be active military or a dependent of someone in the military
- Receive a steady income
Note that they don’t mention credit scores or a lack of other debts. That makes them sound appealing to those already in financial trouble, but it usually backfires for them. Traditional lenders vet borrowers because they want them to be able to pay back their loans. Bridge Lending Solutions isn’t helping consumers by skipping that part of the process.
Filling out their application is also simple, and most people can complete it in just a few minutes. The only three sections are:
- Basic Information: Name, zip code, email, and loan amount
- Personal Information: Income, bank numbers, address, and references
- Disclosures and Privacy: Social Security Number, driver’s license, and consent
Don’t think that just because the application is a breeze that it’s okay to fill it out on a whim. Sharing this data is always risky, even when it’s with a trustworthy party, which may or may not include Bridge Lending Solutions. Remember, a business might not do anything sinister with it, but they could still fail to protect it from someone who will.
Better Alternatives to Bridge Lending Solutions
Many would-be borrowers apply for loans from providers like Bridge Lending Solutions because of their low qualification requirements. People with bad credit still need loans sometimes. If anything, they may need debt more than financially stable people since their net cash flows are naturally lower.
Unfortunately, Bridge Lending Solutions takes advantage of people with limited options and charges them outrageously expensive interest rates. If a borrower takes out a loan and doesn’t pay it off in full immediately, they’ll likely pay double or triple the balance of the loan in interest.
Fortunately, there are other options out there for people with bad credit that are much more affordable. Here are some of our favorites:
- Secured Personal Loan Providers: Lenders don’t like giving money to people with bad credit because they’re less likely to recoup their money. Putting up collateral to secure the loan is a great way to get them to feel safe since they can always seize the asset. People with any kind of valuable asset may be able to qualify for a loan based on its worth.
- Paycheck Advance Apps: These aren’t technically loans, but they do let people access a few hundred dollars when they need it. Apps like Earnin allow users to receive a small advance on the money they’ve earned in a pay period without charging them any interest on the balance.
- Credit Unions: Credit unions only lend to their members, but they come in all shapes and sizes. There’s one out there for everyone, and they provide loans that are much more affordable than Bridge Lending Solutions installment loans, even to people with bad credit.
All of these options are far superior to loans from tribal loans. While they might not be quite as accessible, they’re still viable for people with bad credit.
If you wanted a Bridge Lending Solutions review that cut right to the chase, hopefully, you skipped down to this section. Here’s your recommendation: Stay away from them whenever possible. They’re far too expensive to be an acceptable option in the vast majority of cases. You’d be much better off with virtually any other lender unless it’s another tribal or payday lender. There’s a good reason that states often outlaw the interest rates they charge.
If you’re in so much financial trouble that you’re considering taking out one of these installment loans despite the cost, there’s an unhealthy imbalance in your cash flows somewhere. Take a look at your income and expenses and look for areas that you can improve. If you need some guidance, talk to a local credit counselor. Their services are free, and they’ll be able to help you build a budget and manage your debt. Find one near you today!