An often-cited survey by the Federal Reserve in 2017 showed that up to 40% of Americans would be unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense. Whether that’s due to a lack of self-discipline or factors outside of their control, it often leads people to resort to short-term loans like the ones Inbox Loan provides. Before doing business with any of them, though, you need to do your due diligence. If you’re looking for an Inbox Loan review that will tell you whether or not you should work with them, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what you need to know about the installment lender.
What is Inbox Loan?
Inbox Loan is a short-term, small-balance, high-interest installment lender that operates online. They work with borrowers who have bad credit and position themselves as an alternative to payday loans, which they claim are too difficult to repay due to their single payoff requirement. Their website states: “Unlike traditional payday loans that expect you to pay everything back plus finance charges and interest in one lump sum payment, our fast cash installment loans let you pay back what you owe with fixed payments over time.”
Ironically, they also claim that the best way to afford their loans is to pay them off as soon as possible, ideally in a single payment, which would make them virtually indistinguishable from payday loans. “To minimize the total cost of your loan, we strongly recommend taking steps to either pay off your loan off in-full or to pay as much as possible in order to reduce the principal (original debt incurred) as quickly as possible.”
Unfortunately, though they market themselves as a superior option for affording surprise emergencies, there’s no upside to working with Inbox Loan over any other payday lender. The difference between the two is negligible. If anything, Inbox Loan is more dangerous. Failure to pay off the loan quickly will give its excessive interest rates enough time to balloon into an even more overwhelming amount of debt.
Is Inbox Loan Licensed?
Inbox Loan’s address is in California, but they don’t have a license from the state. They’re a tribal lender, which means that they follow the laws set forth by a Native American tribe over state regulations. They do obey applicable federal laws, but those don’t do much to reign in lending institutions.
Inbox Loan is an extension of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria. As a tribal lender, they benefit from tribal immunity, which means that they’re essentially immune to lawsuits. They use that privilege primarily to charge interest rates that are far higher than the legal limits.
Inbox Loan only points out their tribal status in the fine print of their website. Their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page used to explain what it means to work with a tribal business, but the answer is no longer visible.
Typical Loan Terms
Tribal lenders are becoming increasingly withholding of their loan terms. Many of them now wait to share the details until they get applicants to hand over their information, but Inbox Loan still provides a sample loan. Using that as a reference, here’s what borrowers can expect from them:
- Principal balances between $200 and $5,000 ($1,500 maximum for first-time customers)
- An APR of approximately 780%
- Bi-weekly repayment schedules with no penalty for prepayment
- A repayment term somewhere between six months and a year, depending on the principal balance and customer preference
- Non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee of $30 and a late fee of $30 after two days late
Inbox Loan’s sample loan drives home just how expensive their installment loans can be for those who can’t pay them off early. A $500 loan from them would end up costing a borrower a whopping $3,404.55 in interest over a 48-week repayment term. That’s almost seven times the initial loan amount in interest!
When considering working with a lender, it’s always a good idea to see what their previous customers have to say about them. Inbox Loan has been around since at least 2017, so they should have some level of verifiable history. Here are some of the highlights from other Inbox Loan review pages and across the internet.
Better Business Bureau
One of the best places to start looking for customer reviews is the Better Business Bureau (BBB). They put more effort into filtering out fake reviews than most crowdsourced sites, so their ratings are usually more accurate. Also, they take the time to review customer complaints (and the business’s replies) to issue their own judgments.
Inbox Loan’s BBB profile has 99 reviews with an average score of 1.17 out of 5 stars. The customer reviews reveal several issues that people run into when borrowing from the company. Some of the most significant are:
- Unhelpful customer service representatives who don’t assist with complaints
- Overly aggressive marketing (including incessant phone calls) to potential customers
- The use of two websites (Inbox Loan and Inbox Credit), neither of which work properly
That last one is particularly problematic for a lender who operates online. The Inbox Loan website claims that the business isn’t generating loans anymore. They may be doing business as Inbox Credit now, but the Inbox Credit site doesn’t work at all.
The issue that customers mention the most, though, is the staggering price of the loans. Many customers sign up for loans without understanding the true meaning of the interest rates involved and are astounded when they end up paying thousands of dollars of interest to repay a $300 loan.
It’s always a good idea to look for any lawsuits against a lender before working with them, too. It’s a red flag that consumers should never ignore. There’s been at least one lawsuit against Inbox Loan, despite their tribal status.
Shannon Gonzalez and Bronal Gary brought a class-action suit against the company on behalf of the people of North Carolina for their usurious interest rates. The court dismissed the case because of Inbox Loan’s tribal immunity.
Borrowing from a lender like Inbox Loan is almost always a costly mistake, but it’s an understandable one. For borrowers who don’t know or understand the price tag (which is, unfortunately, a lot of them), the loans look like the perfect solution to their problems.
They can offer:
- Minimal qualification requirements that allow just about any working adult to apply
- A short and easy application process that people can go through in minutes
- Principal balances as low as $200, which is perfect for covering minor emergencies
- Funding in as little as a single business day
If these loans were even somewhat affordable, they’d be tremendously beneficial to people going through financial hardship. As it is, they’re more likely to be the first step into a cycle of debt.
There are plenty of strong reasons not to borrow from a tribal lender, and Inbox Loan doesn’t do anything to separate themselves from their peers. These are the most significant problems that they present:
- Their loans have interest rates that are several times higher than just about any other form of borrowing (even payday loans)
- Their longer repayment terms combined with their excessive interest rates actually make their loans more difficult to afford than payday loans
- Tribal immunity means that not only are they likely to break the law, but it’s almost impossible to hold them accountable for doing so
It’s always smart to avoid taking out a loan from Inbox Loan, or any other tribal lender, for that matter. For those who already have (or have absolutely no other choice), it’s best to take their advice and pay off the balance as soon as possible to prevent the full finance charges from accruing.
How to Apply to Inbox Loan
Previously, applying for an Inbox Loan would have been a simple process. The requirements are minimal, and the application itself would have taken only a few minutes to complete.
However, as of early 2021, Inbox Loan’s primary website states that they’re no longer originating loans. They may intend to receive applications on their newer website (Inbox Credit), but that domain is currently inoperable. With them being a completely online lender and having no storefront, it seems that applying for one of their loans is impossible for now.
Better Alternatives to Inbox Loan
People usually turn to lenders like Inbox Loan because they don’t think they have any alternative or don’t know the risks involved. At this point in the Inbox Loan review, everyone should be well aware of the problems they pose. What might not be as clear is what other options are available to people who need cash but struggle with credit.
Here are some options that are much more affordable:
- Paycheck Advance Apps: These apps aren’t technically loans, but that means that there’s no interest! They allow users to access their earnings in a pay period before the check comes through. For example, someone who won’t get their $2,000 paycheck until the 15th could access $200 of the amount she’d already earned by the 8th using one of these apps.
- Peer-to-Peer Loans: Another great way to get funding in today’s market is by working with an individual lender from an app like Peerform, Prosper, or Lending Club. They connect private borrowers and lenders and let them negotiate terms. While the rates will still be expensive for people with bad credit, they shouldn’t be anywhere near 700%.
- Secured Loans: Lenders don’t want to take a chance on someone who might not pay them back, but secured loans allow borrowers with bad credit to get around that problem. Lenders can always seize the collateral to recoup their losses.
Any of these would be better options than Inbox Loan for someone struggling with bad credit who needs cash. The paycheck advance apps are probably the best place to start, but they’re the least sustainable over the long term. For those who need to fund larger bills, secured or peer-to-peer loans would be better.
If you were looking for an Inbox Loan review that would simply tell you whether or not to bother with the business, here’s your answer: Don’t waste your time or your money on Inbox Loan. Their interest rates are on the high end, even for tribal lenders, and that’s saying something. They’re no better than payday loans and will almost certainly trap you in a cycle of debt if you use them too often.
If you need to take on debt to cover yourself in an emergency, try one of the options that we mentioned above. Once the crisis has passed, do your best to adjust your finances so that you don’t need to take on debt again. Borrowing money from others is rarely a sustainable plan. Reduce your expenses or increase your earning power so you don’t need to do it anymore. If you need help getting your finances in order, talk to a credit counselor. Their services are free, and there’s almost certainly a helpful one near you. Find one today!