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Cash advance apps like Earnin, Dave and Brigit let you borrow a small amount from your next paycheck before you receive it. This quick fix may help if you need cash in an emergency, but it’s smart to consider cheaper options before you borrow from an app.
Unlike with other borrowing options such as credit cards or personal loans, the cost of borrowing from an app isn't expressed as an interest rate. Instead, the apps may charge subscription or fast-funding fees, and many suggest you tip them.
Lenders and credit card issuers describe the cost of using their products as an annual percentage rate, which accounts for interest and other fees they may charge. Loan apps and other small-dollar lenders argue that APR isn’t a fair way to represent the cost of their products, but we’ve included an example with the apps.
Here are six apps that let you borrow against future earnings and some less expensive options to consider.
1. Earnin: Best for low fees
Earnin is a paycheck advance app that tracks your hours worked — using a timesheet or by tracking your work location — and lets you borrow money you’ve earned. The app also has a feature that notifies you when your bank account balance is low and a feature that will top it off for a fee.
» MORE: NerdWallet’s Earnin app review
Amount: Maximums from $100 to $500 per pay period. The maximum per day is $100.
Fees: Earnin asks for a voluntary tip, which is capped at $14. You can opt into the overdraft protection feature automatically by setting a recurring tip.
Speed: You can sign up for Earnin’s Lightning Speed feature, which costs $1.99 to $3.99, depending on the amount borrowed, and gets you the money instantly. Otherwise, it typically takes one to three business days.
Repayment: Earnin withdraws the cash you borrowed from your bank account on your next payday.
APR example: If you borrow $100 seven days before payday, tip $2 and pay the $3.99 fast-funding fee, your loan’s APR is 312.3%.
2. Dave: Best for repayment flexibility
The Dave app lets you borrow a small amount of money to cover expenses while you wait for your next paycheck or to avoid overdrawing your bank account. To be eligible for an advance, Dave users must open an ExtraCash account. The app also has a “Side Hustle” feature that helps users find side gigs to earn more money.
» MORE: NerdWallet’s Dave app review
Amount: Up to $500.
Fees: Dave has three fees for its advance.
$1 monthly membership fee.
$1.99 to $9.99 express fee for Dave checking account holders to get the advance faster. The fee is $2.99 to $13.99 if the money is being transferred to a non-Dave bank account.
Speed: It takes one to three days to get your money from Dave. If you pay the express fee to get your money faster, the company says, you’ll get your funds within an hour.
Repayment: Your payment date is usually set to your next payday by default, but you can request an extension.
APR example: If you borrow $100 seven days before you get your next paycheck, pay a $6.99 express fee and the monthly $1 subscription fee and add a $1 tip, it’ll cost $8.99 to borrow the $100. The APR on that loan would be 468.8%.
3. Brigit: Best for budgeting tools
Brigit is a budgeting app that can get you up to $250 whenever you need it. You can use the app’s free plan, which offers financial advice and budgeting help. To get the cash advance, you have to use the paid plan, which includes all the features of the free plan plus cash advances, overdraft coverage and credit monitoring.
» MORE: NerdWallet’s Brigit app review
Amount: $50 to $250.
Fees: The paid plan is $9.99 per month.
Speed: Brigit says it can get you an advance the same day if you request it before 10 a.m. Eastern time; otherwise, the advance will arrive the following business day.
Repayment: Brigit automatically sets your next payment according to your income schedule. You can extend your repayment date in the app — but only one time for every two advances you pay back on time.
APR example: If you get a $9.99 Brigit membership and use the app only to get a one-time, $100 advance that you’ll repay in seven days, your loan has an APR of over 500%.
4. Empower: Best for fast cash
Empower offers cash advances, budgeting tools and bank accounts. Typical funding time for an Empower advance is one day — faster than that of most competitors — but users can pay an instant delivery fee to get the funds within an hour. The app includes an automatic savings feature, which allows users to select an amount for the app to transfer from your checking to savings account or ask the app to save for you using artificial intelligence.
» MORE: NerdWallet’s Empower app review
Amount: $10 to $250.
Fees: Empower charges a mandatory subscription fee after a 14-day free trial as well as two optional fees.
$8 monthly subscription fee.
$1 to $8 instant delivery fee.
Tips up to 20% of the advance amount.
Speed: If you don’t pay the instant delivery fee, it’ll take about a day to receive the advance.
Repayment: Empower withdraws the advance repayment, plus any fees and tips, on your next payday. You can email customer service to change your repayment date.
APR example: If you pay $8 to subscribe to Empower, use the app for a one-time, $150 advance that you’ll repay in seven days and pay the $6 instant delivery fee, your loan has an APR of 486.7%.
5. Chime: Best for overdraft protection
Chime, a mobile company that offers checking and savings accounts as well as credit-builder loans, lets customers overdraw their checking account by a small, predetermined amount without fees via its SpotMe feature. SpotMe is more of an overdraft protection feature than a cash advance, but it still asks whether you want to tip for the service. Chime says your account can go negative up to your approved amount, and purchases that put you below that extra cushion will be declined. You need at least $200 in qualifying direct deposits to your Chime account every month to qualify for SpotMe.
Amount: $20 to $200. Limits start at $20 and increase based on your account activity.
Fees: There are no fees. The company asks if you want to tip.
Speed: Instant. You set up SpotMe before you overdraw, and then it’s built into your account moving forward.
Repayment: Your next direct deposit — typically on your next payday — will repay the amount Chime spotted you.
APR example: If Chime gives you $50 to overdraw and you repay the balance in seven days and add a $1 tip, you’re basically getting a $50 loan with a 104.3% APR.
6. MoneyLion: Best for existing customers
The MoneyLion app offers mobile bank and investment accounts, financial tracking, a credit-builder loan and cash advances up to $250. The Instacash advance is available to anyone with a qualifying checking account. However, you’ll have to pay a fee if you need your funds quickly. MoneyLion says it charges no interest or fees with the cash advance, but you're asked to provide an optional tip if you get an advance.
Amount: $25 to $250, but only MoneyLion checking account customers get access to the largest amounts.
Fees: MoneyLion has an optional tip plus a fee for instant delivery that varies by the amount borrowed.
MoneyLion checking account users: $0.49 to $5.99 for instant delivery.
Users with non-MoneyLion checking accounts: $1.99 to $8.99 for instant delivery.
Speed: If you don’t pay the instant delivery fee, it takes 24 to 48 hours for MoneyLion checking account users and two to five business days for non-MoneyLion checking account users.
With instant delivery, MoneyLion account holders will get their advance within minutes, while others will receive it within four hours, according to the company.
Repayment: The funds are automatically withdrawn from your account on the day you’re expected to receive your next deposit — typically your next payday. If your account doesn’t have enough money, the app will repeatedly try to withdraw the funds.
APR example: If you get a $100 advance deposited instantly into an external account for $7.99, add a tip of $1 and repay the loan in seven days, you’ll be charged an APR of 468.8%.
Summary of cash advance apps
Speed without paying a fee
1 to 3 days.
Up to $500.
1 to 3 days.
$1 monthly membership fee.
1 to 2 days.
$9.99 monthly subscription fee.
$8 monthly subscription fee.
24 to 48 hours.
Pros and cons of loan apps
Though loan app fees seem small, they can add up quickly, and NerdWallet doesn’t recommend paying for early access to money you’ve earned. These apps can help in emergencies, like a car repair or unexpected travel, but financial experts say they aren’t sustainable, long-term solutions.
Consider the pros and cons before using a cash advance app.
Fast cash in an emergency: Some apps can immediately deposit money into your checking account — but they may charge an extra fee for that service.
May be cheaper than an overdraft fee: If your choice is between a paycheck advance and paying an overdraft fee, the advance is likely cheaper. Most app fees are under $10, while bank overdraft fees can be up to $35.
May cause an overdraft fee: Some apps require access to your bank account to withdraw money when it’s due. Though apps say they try to avoid triggering an overdraft, they don’t guarantee it. The exception is Empower, which will refund, upon your request, overdraft fees it causes.
May lead to repeat borrowing: Because apps make borrowing from your next paycheck easy, they could lead to a cycle of debt if you rely on advances to cover regular expenses.
» MORE: Loan app pros and cons
Are cash advance apps payday lenders?
Cash advance apps are not considered payday lenders, and payday lending regulations don’t apply to them.
But some consumer advocates consider them thinly veiled payday lenders — and they share some traits. These apps offer small-dollar loans that are due on your next payday with potentially high fees. Like payday lenders, apps that offer advances don’t report payments to the major credit bureaus, so it can’t help or hurt your credit score.
Alternatives to cash advance apps
Compare all your options before you go with a loan from an app. You may have cheaper alternatives that can help you improve your finances, credit or both.
Small personal loans: You may qualify for a small personal loan from an online lender. These loans can be as small as $1,000, and APRs are below 36%, which many financial experts say is the highest rate an affordable loan can have. Some online lenders tailor their loans to bad-credit borrowers.
» MORE: Find a small personal loan
Credit union loans: If you’re a member of a credit union, you may qualify for a small personal loan with a rate of 18% or lower. Some credit unions offer personal loans of $500, and though they review your credit score to qualify you, they’ll consider your standing as a credit union member in a loan decision. Some credit unions offer payday alternative loans, which are small-dollar loans with low interest rates that you repay over a few months to a year.
» MORE: Learn about credit union loans
Buy now, pay later: “Buy now, pay later” apps like Affirm and Afterpay split a large purchase, like a mattress or laptop, into smaller payments. The most common structure is the pay-in-four plan, where you pay 25% of the expense upfront and then make three more biweekly payments.
» MORE: What is buy now, pay later?
Other ways to make money: Instead of borrowing, you may find a way to earn extra money. You can become a rideshare driver, take online surveys or babysit. You can choose a temporary side gig to cover an emergency expense or find one you enjoy enough to keep as an extra income stream.
Friend and family loans: It can be difficult to ask for money, but it may be your best option if you’re in a bind. Borrowing from someone you trust, like a friend or family member, can get you the money you need without red tape or risk to your finances. You can even draw up a contract that details repayment terms and interest.
» MORE: Learn about family loans