With Americans earning more and saving less, an expensive short-term loan geared to checking account holders is gaining popularity-to the alarm of consumer advocates and state regulators.

Payday loans, as they are known, let anyone with a job history and a checking account write a personal check against his or her next paycheck for a fee of 10% to 30%. The borrower is expected to pay back the advance during the next pay period-or swallow another 10% to 30% fee.

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