Researchers discovered one way to predict if someone will pay you back

South Korean Economy Boosted As Won Jumps To New High
Getty Images | Chung Sung-Jun

For the most part, we rely on credit score ratings to determine someone’s creditworthiness. But when a friend, family member or co-worker asks to borrow some cash, we generally don’t run their credit or request a Transunion report.

What you can do is pay attention to the words they’re using in their loan request.

According to researchers from Columbia Business School and the University of Delaware, if they bring up God, or their plea is laced with the word “promise,” you might want to think twice. On the other hand, if the potential borrower is using phrases like “lower interest rate” and “debt-free,” your chances of getting paid back are higher.

The researchers—Oded Netzer and Alain Lemaire from Columbia Business School, as well as Michal Herzenstein from the University of Delaware—conducted a study to show that borrowers reveal glimpses of their intentions and personality traits when they’re applying for loans.

For their paper, the researchers mined data and analyzed the raw text in more than 18,000 loan requests from, which is an online crowdfunding platform. They found that defaulting loan requests are often written in a way that’s consistent with the writing style of liars and extroverts.

Words And Phrases Used By Those More Likely To Default

  • God
  • Promise
  • Will pay
  • Thank you
  • Hospital

Words And Phrases Used By Those More Likely To Pay You Back

  • Debt-free
  • Lower interest rate
  • After-tax
  • Minimum payment
  • Graduate

We can read between the lines here. It seems that those who you use terms that hint at financial literacy are more likely to pay back loans.

The authors, in their research, say that crowdsourcing platforms have become a substantial financial market, with more than 1,250 sites out there, and $34.4 billion in raised funds in 2015.

So, all you would-be bankers, are you ready for a test?

Which borrower would you loan your hard-earned money to, after reading their loan requests?

Borrower 1, who writes: “I am a hard-working person, married for 25 years, and have two wonderful boys. Please let me explain why I need help. I would use the $2,000 loan to fix our roof. Thank you, God bless you, and I promise to pay you back.”


Borrower 2, who writes: “While the past year in our new place has been more than great, the roof is now leaking and I need to borrow $2,000 to cover the cost of the repair. I pay all bills (e.g., car loans, cable, utilities) on time.”

If you answered Borrower 2, you’re more likely to get your money back. According to the researchers, Borrower 2 is eight times more likely to pay back the loan.

The lesson here? When it comes to loaning money, be aware of all those extraneous “promises” and “thank-yous.” While they may sound polite, they could dupe you.

[h/t: NY Mag]

About the Author

Brittany Anas

Brittany has contributed to publications including Men's Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, American Way, TripSavvy, Eat This, Not That!, Apartment Therapy, Denver Life Magazine, 5280, Livability, The Denver Post, Simplemost, USA Today Travel Tips, Make it Better, AAA publications, Reader's Digest, Discover Life and more. More.

More to explore