ACE Cash Express personal loan review: A lender to avoid at almost all costs

Woman sitting on her kitchen counter, reading a review of ACE Cash express loans on her tabletImage: Woman sitting on her kitchen counter, reading a review of ACE Cash express loans on her tablet

In a Nutshell

ACE Cash Express offers a variety of lending options to people who may not qualify for loans from a bank or credit union. But this lender specializes in payday and installment loans, with high borrowing costs that could keep you in debt longer.

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Pros Cons
Short-term loan options Payday and installment loans generally come with very high borrowing fees
Apply online or in-store in an eligible state ACE’s confusing website makes for a frustrating user experience 
72 hours to change your mind CFPB took action against ACE in 2014

What you need to know before applying for an ACE Cash Express personal loan

ACE Cash Express provides a variety of financial services — primarily short-term loans — to people who may not qualify for traditional banking options. Lenders like ACE capitalize on the fact that these “underbanked” people generally may feel like they don’t have many other places to turn to, and many of the services they provide come with very high fees and interest rates.

It doesn’t help that ACE talks about the hardships of being underbanked disingenuously:

“If you’re someone who does not use traditional banking services on a regular basis, you are considered part of the ‘underbanked’ population,” the company’s website says. “Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. Traditional banking services aren’t the only way to manage your finances.”

What it doesn’t say is that the payday and installment loans ACE offers should generally be considered a last resort, and that being underbanked can feel challenging.

Pressuring consumers into a debt trap?

ACE’s confusing website could be a deal breaker for some potential customers. In 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took action against the company.

The CFPB found that ACE lured its customers into payday debt traps by using illegal debt collection tactics, highlighting the fact that ACE was training its new employees on how to carry out those practices.

A closer look at ACE Cash Express personal loans

Before considering a loan from a lender like ACE, it’s important to understand the risks involved with short-term loans, as well as other options you may have. But let’s take a closer look at what ACE offers in particular so that you can decide for yourself whether to consider it if you’re in dire need of cash.

Payday loans

Payday loans are often offered in small increments, such as $500 or less, and are due on your next pay cycle.

While payday loans are designed to provide you with emergency cash, they come with a hefty price tag — sometimes to the tune of triple-digit interest rates — and an added risk of falling further into debt.

But if a payday loan is truly the only solution you have, ACE may be an option.

ACE offers payday loans in 13 states. The amount you may be able to borrow varies by state. But you may be able to qualify for $500 or less. Like other payday loans, you have to repay your loan in full along with borrowing fees by your next payday. For example, if you borrow $100 in California, you’ll be charged $17.64 in interest and repay the loan within 14 days. That borrowing cost of $17.64 equates to an APR of 459.90%.

Installment loans

If you’ve decided to apply with ACE but you need more flexibility to pay back your loan over time, an installment loan may be a better option.

One benefit of installment loans is the predictable payments. Having predictable monthly payments may help with budgeting.

But — and this is a big but — it’s important to know that the repayment terms of an installment loan largely depend on your credit and financial history. And if you have poor or bad credit, you’ll likely wind up paying higher interest rates.

That’s the case when it comes to ACE.

Despite the predictable monthly payments, the interest rates ACE charges are still high compared to other lenders. If you’re repaying an installment loan with ACE, your starting APR may be at least four to 10 times the amount you’ll pay with an online or traditional bank.

Before accepting an installment loan from any lender, shop around for the best interest rates and terms available for you.

Other financial products and services

On top of its loan products, ACE capitalizes on the unbanked industry to offer a variety of other financial services including …

  • Check cashing, including tax refunds
  • Prepaid debit accounts
  • Bill payments
  • Title loans

Keep in mind that in many cases, you’re better off looking for alternatives to these services. Learn more about the risks and alternatives to title loans before considering them as a financing option. And take the time to read up on payday alternative loans before making a decision.

If you’re considering one of these products, remember to read the terms and conditions carefully and to do some additional research before applying. To its credit, ACE provides a fair amount of educational FAQ resources on its site. The problem is that these FAQs generally don’t tell the full story and may gloss over important explanations about the risks and trade-offs involved with some of its loan products.

How to apply with ACE Cash Express

If you live in a state serviced by ACE Cash Express, you can apply online, in person or by speaking directly with a loan representative.

To apply online, you’ll need to provide the following:

  • Full name and address
  • Valid email address
  • Social Security number or taxpayer identification number
  • Phone number
  • Checking or savings account number (must be open for at least one month)

If you’re approved, you may have the option to either pick up your funds at a local ACE Cash Express store or have them deposited into your bank account.

Restrictions apply

In order to borrow money from ACE, you must meet certain criteria.

  • You must have a steady source of income.
  • You have to live in an eligible state.
  • You need to be at least 18 years old.
  • You can’t be in the process of bankruptcy or intend to file bankruptcy.
  • You have 72 hours to reject the loan and return your principal amount without being on the hook.

And if you’re a reserve member of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard or a dependent of a member of the armed forces on active duty, you’re not eligible for short-term loans through ACE Cash Express.

Remember: You’ll want to exhaust all other lending options before going through ACE.

Not sure if ACE Cash Express is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

As we mentioned, you’ll want to avoid this type of lender if at all possible. But if a short-term loan product is your last solution and you’d rather not go with ACE Cash Express, here are some other options to consider.

  • OppLoansOppLoans may be an option for someone who wants a larger installment loan.
  • LendingPoint: LendingPoint could be an option for people who reside in states where ACE isn’t available (excluding West Virginia) and who want a larger loan amount.

About the author: Ashley Chorpenning is a personal finance writer and content creator. In addition to being a contributing writer at Credit Karma, she writes for solo entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 compani… Read more.