Inspiration

Shylock is a moneylender in Shakespeare's play, The Merchant of Venice. He is accused of practicing usury, i.e lending money with extremely high fees. Payday loans are the modern version of Shylock, with interest rates ranging from 36% or lower to over 600% (Center for Responsible Lending, 2021).

Payday Loans. While they might be convenient, payday loans are generally expensive and should only be seen as a last resort. Many lenders charge late fees if you cannot pay out the loan in time. This starts a vicious circle of borrowing and debt.

People have no choice but to pay this once they have taken out the loan, with many not knowing what exactly they are getting themselves into. As well as these extortionate interest rates, payday loans can have numerous other, and equally damaging, consequences such repeat borrowing and increases in the chances of overdrafts, losing a bank account, bankruptcy and difficulty paying bills.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that nearly 1 in 4 payday loans are reborrowed nine times or more, with most borrowers taking five months to pay off the loans, resulting in an average of $520 in finance charges in ADDITION to the original loan amount (The Pew Charitable Trust, 2012).

We wanted to create an application which would allow people to rate their payday loan providers. Not only will this mean that people can anonymously review the hidden charges and interest rates given by that lender, but this application will also act as an incentive for these companies to be more transparent and adopt fairer practices in order to increase their ranking and attract new customers.

Fun Fact: There are 23,000 payday lenders in the US, that's almost twice the number of McDonald's restaurants!! Payday loans being taken out have tripled with the pandemic, and consumers continue to do so with triple-digit interest rates!

What it does

This web application allows users to input data about their loan provider into several different fields: the average interest rate, the collection practices, general satisfaction score, and more! After submitting this information about their loan provider, they can then see how this compares to other loan providers on a list view page of all the data which has been submitted into the application.

If a user simply wants to browse the practices of different companies, they can do this from the home page of the application.

The entire purpose of making this application was to allow people to take control of their finances and not be caught by hidden fees or sneaky malpractice. By having a platform to express your experiences with lenders, people can feel comfortable and confident in their choice of payday loan provider, and reduce their risk of getting into serious financial difficulty.

How we built it

This web application was created in Django, where users would be taken to a screen to input their information and review of the lender. The information would then populated on the next page (URL), and the user could see their review, in addition to other users.

Challenges we ran into

Django! Being new to Django, we had a HUGE learning curve. We learned about brew and setting up our VS code to connect with Github (shoutout to Mentor Victoria!). Learning Django with the help of Mentors Vicki, Jasmine, David, and Dan, figuring out how urls, views, models, and templates work together. Very interesting to work at it from the back-end to the front-end.

TIMEZONES! As ever with a global Hackathon, timezones were a slight issue since our team is located all over the world. The making of this project included early mornings, very late nights, and LOTS of coffee! But, we had enough time zone overlap to collaborate and produce this incredible application.

Working with Django was quite a challenge since lots of the syntax is very different to what we were used to. The especially hard part was creating the data visualizations and using SQL.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We think that this application has the potential to be a global platform which can help millions of people avoid unknowingly placing themselves in financial struggles by taking risky payday loans. We are proud of coming up with, and delivering, such an impactful application.

As well as this, we are proud of how we crafted the code into a streamlined and easy to use application with a pleasing user interface. We are very pleased with the way that the styling of the application came out!

What we learned

We learned that mentors are SOOO important in helping with the learning curve. We were completely new to Django, and with help from Mentors Vicki, Jasmine, David, and Dan, we were able to build a working prototype. Thank you for your patience, guidance, and support!!!

What's next for Shylock

We hope to develop this web application into a mobile app, perhaps packing it using Kivy. We think that, in doing this, the app would be able to reach more people and have an even bigger impact. We would also like to add a user authentication feature so people can log into their account and see all the reviews they have posted, and see recommended companies based on their own reviews, and the reviews of others.

Another thing which we would love to do to develop this application is add an ability for payday loan companies to login to the app and see their rankings and reviews, thereby allowing them to see what practices are working, and which they should change to be less predatory.

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