Sara Routhier, Managing Editor of Features and Outreach, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming worl...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Nov 18, 2011

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Former Google executive David Merill is now trying his run at payday lending, according to DailyFinance.com.

 

His new site, Zestcash.com, “uses some fairly high-level Google-esque algorithms to assess its borrowers’ creditworthiness,” according to DailyFinance.

 

From using traditional factors like payment history to exploring new frontiers that Merill feels are revealing, such as a borrower’s cell phone plan, Zestcash hopes to gauge a borrower’s likeliness of paying a loan back.

 

But Merill is receiving a lot of criticism for venturing into what many see as a questionable business.

 

Payday loans have been the recipient a lot of ill-attention in recent years, particularly by politicians looking to pass legislation limiting loans’ high interest rates.

 

“As high unemployment and falling wages continue to push more Americans into poverty, financial innovators like Merrill are on the lookout for new ways to milk profits out of this demographic,” says Huffington Post reporter Catherine New.

 

Merill’s website defends itself by claiming Zestcash loans are not payday loans.The site claims its borrowers set their own payment, can make small payments over time, and offers rates up to 50 percent lower than most payday lenders.

 

But ultimately its loans still have an annual percentage rate (APR) of nearly 400 percent—very similar to that of payday loans.

 

Zestcash loans’ APR then rises if a borrower is late on payment since late fees are administered.

 

Currently, Zestcash loans are only available to those states with no maximum interest rate: Missouri, Utah, Idaho and South Dakota.