In 2020, a study showed that your odds of having a $2,000 emergency in any given month is approximately 31.8%. For those who have a cash cushion to fall back on, that’s not so big a deal. For anyone without the savings to cover it, though, short-term loans become tempting really quickly. If you’re struggling to make ends meet and considering Golden Valley Lending, this review will help you decide whether they deserve your business. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Golden Valley Lending?
Golden Valley Lending provides short-term installment loans to people with poor credit. They’re supposedly for those who are struggling with a surprise expense and need a relatively small amount of money to afford things like: “car repair, medical care for you or your family, travel expenses in connection with your job, or anything that requires cash quickly.”
Truthfully, Golden Valley Lending’s installment loans are glorified payday loans. The terms are slightly different, but the effect of both products is the same: Borrowers often end up in a vicious cycle of debt.
They have similarly flexible underwriting, approve applications quickly, and fund approved loans just as fast. Their principal balances are slightly larger on average, and their repayment terms are longer, but that usually just makes them more expensive since the interest has more time to accrue.
Is Golden Valley Lending Licensed?
Golden Valley Lending is in California, which usually necessitates having a license with the state’s Division of Corporations and Financial Institutions. Golden Valley Lending doesn’t have a license from the Division, though, because they’re a tribal lender.
Tribal lenders are affiliates or extensions of Native American tribes, which grants them “tribal immunity.” Essentially, that means that they’re immune to lawsuits. Tribes are sovereign nations that reside within the United States, and they have the authority to regulate themselves.
Golden Valley Lending is a subsidiary of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake. They disclose that readily, but they don’t discuss what it truly means. The most significant thing that consumers need to know about their tribal status is that it means they can charge interest rates far above state-mandated limits.
Typical Loan Terms
Golden Valley Lending has become a lot less forthcoming with their loan terms in recent years. Most notably, they no longer make their interest rates or fee structures known until they send a loan agreement.
Fortunately, they were online previously, and the Wayback Machine can dredge up former versions of their website. In combination with their current disclosures and customer reviews, borrowers can get a good idea of what to expect from them.
Golden Valley Lending’s typical loan terms are:
- Principal balances between $300 and $1,500 ($1,000 maximum for first-time customers)
- A $30 fee every two weeks per $100 of principal borrowed
- An APR that ranges from roughly 200% to 800%
- Bi-weekly repayment schedules
- A repayment term of 40 weeks with a 5% principal reduction in each payment
- No prepayment fees
- $20 fee for non-sufficient funds and other charges for late payments
Golden Valley Lending never actually shared their prices as an interest rate publicly, but you can still easily calculate how quickly their fees would add up.
A $30 bi-weekly fee per $100 on a $500 loan would cost $300 a month in interest. If it went for a 40-week repayment term, it would total $3,000. That’s roughly a 782% APR.
Before doing business with a lender, it’s always best to research the experiences of prior customers and check out various opinions online. A review like this one is a good place to start, but it’s also helpful to check out other sources. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Better Business Bureau
Crowdsourced reviews have become a mainstay of shopping for anything these days. They’re not all going to be entirely accurate, but there are often enough voices to provide a decent expectation for a product or service.
One of the best places to start when looking for crowdsourced reviews of a lender like Golden Valley Lending is the Better Business Bureau. They don’t always have extensive profiles, but they filter reviews for spam and fake profiles more heavily than most sites. They also use the company’s responses to judge their customer service.
Golden Valley Lending BBB profile shows an average score of 1.43 out of 5 stars. The reviews cite the following for their low scores:
- Telling borrowers that they signed up for a loan when they didn’t
- Interest rates well into the mid-to-high triple digits
- Pressuring customers to take out bigger loans than they need
In addition to the traditional reviews, the BBB allows customers to file complaints. Golden Valley Lending received 23 complaints over the past three years, many of which mention similar issues as those in the reviews.
Golden Valley Lending does a reasonably good job of addressing these complaints, and there are relatively few. The BBB gives them a B+ rating for their customer service overall.
Other Crowdsourced Review Sites
The BBB isn’t the only place to get crowdsourced reviews. Golden Valley Lending also has profiles on the following sites:
- Yelp: The reviews on Yelp echo those on the BBB site. Most of them are negative, citing the usurious interest rates and other underhanded business practices that tribal and payday lenders frequently employ.
- Trustpilot: Trustpilot is a favorite review site of tribal lenders. Even when they have overwhelmingly negative reviews elsewhere, their Trustpilot pages seem to accrue positive comments, likely due to manipulation.
- Google: Unexpectedly, Google reviews are also among the most susceptible to manipulation. Their Google profile shows a similarly positive track record as that on Trustpilot, likely for the same reasons.
Remember to take all crowdsourced reviews with a grain of salt. Don’t just look at the average scores, but dive into the complaints people have made and try to spot anything that seems fake. For example, profiles with only a single review are often throwaway accounts.
Checking for lawsuits against a lender is always another great way to establish expectations for a business. Unfortunately, Golden Valley Lending has a history of legal troubles, despite its tribal immunity.
In 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued four lenders, including Golden Valley Lending and Silver Cloud Financial. They claimed that the lenders were attempting to collect falsified debts. They had to drop the suit, though, likely because of their tribal immunity.
There was also a class-action suit against that same group of lenders for their interest rates, which break state laws. These plaintiffs are taking the most effective approach: attempting to disprove the lenders’ connection to the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
Borrowing from a tribal lender like Golden Valley Lending is rarely a smart financial move, but it’s an understandable one. Tribal lenders are great at tricking vulnerable people into using them.
For example, they offer the following advantages:
- An online application process that takes minutes to finish
- Little in the way of qualification requirements, making them viable for people with bad credit
- Loans with principal balances as low as $300, which prevents the need to overborrow
- The ability to transfer loan funds into a borrower’s bank account in a single business day
To those who don’t know that these loans will cost many times their principal balance in fees and interest, they look like a great deal. But even those who manage to pay off the loan before the interest has time to accrue have essentially just completed a traditional payday loan transaction.
Golden Valley Lending is a classic example of a tribal lender, and they pose all the same problems as the rest of their peers. These are the most dangerous aspects of working with them:
- Their loan costs are so high that they almost always make any given financial situation worse
- They’ve shown a willingness to employ all manner of underhanded business tactics, including tricking consumers into paying fictitious debts
- Their tribal immunity means that taking legal action against them for these practices is almost impossible for the average consumer
The promise of fast and easy cash is always tempting, but there’s almost always a catch. With Golden Valley Lending, there’s more than just one, and they almost always outweigh any short-term benefits.
How to Apply to Golden Valley Lending
Previously, it would have been a simple matter to apply for a loan from Golden Valley Lending. Their underwriting requirements are minimal, and the application process took only a few minutes from start to finish.
As of 2021, though, Golden Valley Lending’s website states that they’re no longer funding new loans. It’s likely a response to the bad press that the CFPB lawsuit generated. Their affiliates and co-defendants in the suit have also paused their operations.
To receive a loan from the owners of Golden Valley Lending, borrowers need to visit their rebranded website over at Uprova. The application process is the same. Borrowers only need to demonstrate that they live in an acceptable state and meet their minimal banking and income requirements.
Keep in mind, though, that applying for one of these loans is risky, even for those who end up declining to sign the loan agreement. When these companies get a hold of a person’s information, they have a history of using it to pressure them into paying falsified loans. Don’t hand it over lightly.
Better Alternatives to Golden Valley Lending
Golden Valley Lending lures in people struggling to make ends meet with the promise of fast cash, usually when they can’t qualify for traditional forms of funding. However, even with bad credit, they’re not the only option available.
There are several better alternatives out there for people who need some short-term cash flow, such as:
- Paycheck Advance Apps: For working adults who need less than $300, paycheck advance apps should almost always be the first stop. They let people who have accrued earnings access them before they would usually receive their paycheck. Best of all, there’s no interest on the balance. Brigit lets users access up to $250 at a time and only costs $10 a month. Some of their competitors make payment entirely optional and only request tips.
- Payday Alternative Loans (PALs): Short-term lending for people with bad credit is a legitimate societal need. Payday and tribal lenders abuse this need, but federal credit unions offer a similar service that doesn’t have the same price tag. Their PALs have similar principal balances, slightly longer repayment terms, and much lower interest rates. Legally, they can only be as high as 28% APR.
- Peer-to-peer Lending: Those who can’t get a loan from a traditional bank can turn to their peers and get a loan online that matches their creditworthiness. Sites like Prosper connect individual borrowers and lenders and lets them negotiate the loan terms themselves. These will probably be more expensive than a bank loan, but nowhere near the prices of Golden Valley Lending.
Make sure to try these options before resorting to Golden Valley Lending or any other tribal lender. They’re much more affordable and almost as accessible to people who struggle with getting traditional funding.
The Bottom Line
By this point, you probably already know what our recommendation is when it comes to doing business with this lender, particularly because it isn’t funding new loans. In a word: don’t. It might give you a couple of weeks of breathing room, but it will almost always make your next cash shortage even worse.
Try all of the options we suggested above before resorting to a tribal lender. If possible, you’d be better off trying to improve your credit score before applying for a loan.
Better yet, do your best to avoid needing debt in the first place. Talk to a credit counselor to help get your financial situation back on track with some positive cash flow. Their services are free, so find one near you today!