COLUMBUS, Ohio (3/24/08)--The number of payday lenders in Ohio increased to 1,638 in 2007 from 107 in 1996, indicated a study released Wednesday. The study, conducted by Housing Research and Advocacy Center, and Policy Matters Ohio, also sent testers to visit 36 payday lenders in Cleveland and Columbus. They found that the lenders charged maximum interest rates and fees under Ohio law. Payday lending staffers also were not always able to explain percentage rates (Dayton Daily News March 19). On average, fees were $15 for each $100 borrowed--391% annually, the newspaper stated. The article noted that credit unions in the state continue to offer payday loan alternative StretchPay--including Wright-Patt CU, Fairborn; Day Air CU, Kettering; and First Day Financial FCU, Dayton. StretchPay charges 18% interest on 30-day loans of $250 or $500. The program started in Dayton in 2006. It now has 27 locations in Ohio and five in other states. The program saved has members $3 million in interest so far, Patrick Harris, director of media relations at the Ohio Credit Union League, told the Daily News. The article also cited hearings held by the Ohio House Financial Institutions and the Real Estate Securities Committee regarding three payday lending bills. Two of the bills would allow check-cashing lenders to charge 36% per year on loans, and the other would allow lenders to charge 25% annually (News Now Dec. 21).