Before you apply for that tax-refund advance, dig into the details

Tax-refund loan products are relatively new. Consumers must dig into the details to understand what kind of loan they might expect and exactly what’s being offered.

People who are looking for fast cash to pay holiday bills, unexpected car repairs or skyrocketing heating bills are being bombarded with TV ads, window signs and other pitches for tax-refund advances.

The pitch is tempting, especially when the ads say up to $3,000 could be available in an advance.

The refund loan products are relatively new. Consumers must dig into the details to understand what kind of loan they might expect and exactly what’s being offered.

The advance loans are made by banks — and secured by and repaid directly from a consumer’s tax refund. As a result, the size of the loans will be limited.

Through Feb. 28, a 0 percent interest loan for up to $3,000 is being offered to current and new customers at H&R Block. If approved, H&R Block says, clients will typically have access to money the same day they apply.

Jackson Hewitt has a product that promises up to $3,200 — up from a maximum of $1,300 last year — for a 0 percent interest loan.

Liberty Tax is promoting what it calls “the largest tax-refund advance offer in the industry” with its Easy Advance Loan of up to $3,250 through Feb. 28. No fees or interest are associated with the loan.

If you are interested in a refund advance, here are some points to consider:

Everyone isn’t getting a 0 percent loan of $3,000 or so.

Liberty Tax, for example, notes that to be eligible for the maximum $3,250 loan amount, you’d need an expected federal income-tax refund — minus authorized fees for tax-preparation services — that amounts to at least $5,095.

The available loan amounts at Liberty Tax are $500, $800, $1,300 and $3,250.

The actual loan amount will vary based on the expected refund amount, ID verification, eligibility criteria and underwriting.

The refund advance loans at…

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