Pay your bills. Forget the payday loan.

Payment due marked on calendar

A growing number of utility companies are allowing customers to pay their bills at payday loan stores.

Utilities do that because it's a cheap way to collect payments. Payday lenders see it as a chance to push high-cost loans on consumers at a time they need money to pay essential bills.

"Utilities shouldn't direct customers to pay bills where predatory loans are pitched," says Rick Jurgens, a consumer advocate at the National Consumer Law Center.

But until gas and electric companies find a more responsible way for customers to pay their bills in person, you may have to use a payday loan store.

Just don't borrow any money.

Payday lenders make short-term loans at outrageous annual interest rates of 300% and more.

When the loans come due, consumers are frequently forced to repay by taking out another loan, putting themselves more deeply into debt.