This is very interesting.
I read a story in today’s edition of Salon about a website called Prosper, than enables person-to-person lending to circumvent banks and credit card companies (click the link to read the story — if you’re not a Salon subscriber, you’ll have to sit through a brief sponsor ad. Ironically enough, today’s sponsor is VISA).
There’s more info, how-to’s, etc. on the Prosper site itself.
You put up a request for how much you need, and the interest rate you’d prefer. Lenders (individuals, for the most part) bid with how much they’re willing to lend you, and the interest rate they are comfortable with. The site then combines the lenders with the lowest rates into a single 3-year loan. You get the money, and every month, your payment is automatically deducted from your bank account, and sent to Prosper, who splits it, and sends it to each of your lenders. You could, conceivable, have a 5K loan made up of folks who each lent you 100 bucks, for example.
It’s a very cool idea, and another way of using the internet to circumvent the corporate bullshit that has pretty much screwed our everyday lives.