State officials have released a consumer guidebook on high-interest, high-cost loans,

The booklet, “The Downeaster Common Sense Guide to High Interest/High Cost Loans,” attempts to explain the implications of obtaining such loans and pointing out alternatives.

“Whenever Maine consumers are tempted to turn to high-interest-rate loan and credit products, they should understand the potential consequences and be aware of less costly alternatives,” said David Leach, an examiner with the state Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection and one of the experts who wrote the booklet.

The booklet explains “buy-here, pay-here” car loans, payday loans, furniture and appliance loans, private student loans and non-bank finance company lending.

“The key approach to any type of loan or credit product is to do your homework first, determine if your budget can afford a new installment payment, then comparison-shop for the lowest annual percentage rate,” Leach said. “It’s also important to check the lower-cost alternatives to that loan type, including delaying the purchase altogether and saving up to pay cash for that item, an often overlooked and money-saving alternative to credit.”

“The publication reinforces the fact that credit costs real money, loans are never free, and the loans highlighted in this new booklet, if not carefully comparison-shopped for, can have a very negative effect on a family’s budget,” said Kyrie Johnson, a summer intern with the bureau and another co-author of the guidebook.

The booklet also has information on credit cards, casino loans, debt consolidation plans and how to avoid common debt traps that can affect moderate to low-income Maine families.

Copies can be ordered by calling the bureau at 1-800-332-8529 (toll-free in Maine) or 624-8527.

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