TYLER, Texas (KETK) — Americans are looking for extra cash amid 40-year record-high inflation, and they are rushing to pawn shops to help pay the bills.

Patrece Ward told NewsNation at a Dallas pawn shop, “I’m hoping to just cover the gas that I need for my vehicle, maybe food, or whatever I need to get through until my payday.”

According to the National Pawnbrokers Association, the average customer doesn’t have access to traditional banking or credit for a small loan, and pawn shops are able to offer the short-term help they need.

Scott Benson has been in the business for nearly 40 years. He owns a store in Athens and a new location in Malakoff and said business is booming.

“We’ve had a pretty dramatic uptick in the amount of people that are needing to come in and get short-term loans,” said Benson. “There’s a huge increase in product coming into the store.”

Benson said in his Athens store alone, the number of people seeking loans has increased by 30%.

“Right now, the most common reason we’re alone in making small loans is for people to buy gas to get back and forth to work. Behind that is groceries, and probably the third most common reason we’re hearing about is just to pay their utilities,” said Benson.

He said the growing number of loan seekers does concern him.

“Across the board, all pawn brokers are talking about how their loan balances are, are growing faster than they would like,” said Benson. “We can go down to the bank and borrow money to loan out. But that gets to be a bit of a problem if customers have a hard time paying their loans back, I have to pay my loan back.”

Kelly Community Credit Union’s President and CEO, Michelle Small, said although times are tough, people should think before seeking loans.

“So you need to sit down and [think] how are you going to pay that back,” said Small. “I always say every dollar you earn, you need to tell it where it’s gonna go before you earn it.”

It’s this reason small said loans may not always be the best first option.

“We’ve all gotten a bind at some time or another and use the resources available to you so that you can put it all together it’s a puzzle.”

One of those ways could be through organizations that give back to the community.

“I would tell you to people that have gotten that situation path is a great resource. There’s 903help.org,” said Small. “Using the resources that are here in our community, because we actually have a community that’s very caring, and there’s a lot of resources out there to help somebody when they get in that emergency situation.”

Small said if there is a way to get money without taking a loan, do it. However, that may not always be the case.

“Look into a loan but recognize how much you’re going to pay back. What does that really look like and what’s that going to do to your budget and your situation,” said Small.

As for Benson, he said he is just glad he can provide help to those who need it.

“When somebody comes in here, and needs to borrow a little bit of money to, you know, to buy diapers for their kids, or to put fuel in your vehicle to get back and forth to work. Those times I feel like I’m providing a very valuable service,” said Benson.

A service that seems needed more as East Texans continue to discover.


Small said if someone is searching for a loan, they are looking for something they need or want.

While seeking a loan, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How are you going to pay it back?
  • What is that going to look like?
  • How much is that cutting into how much you make?
  • Where is that money going to come from?

Small also said if you want a loan from an institution, go to where you bank first.

“They know you best they know your situation, what can they help out with.”