Empower App Review: Cash Advances in 2022

The Empower app is an inexpensive way to borrow a small amount of cash, but fees may only be worth it if you’ll use the app for budgeting or banking, too.
Sep 1, 2022

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Our Take

The bottom line:

Empower is a subscription-based app that offers cash advances, in addition to bank accounts and budgeting tools. It’s best used infrequently for emergencies.

Empower
Loan amount
$10-$250
Min. credit score
None
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Pros & Cons

Pros

  • May be cheaper than an overdraft fee.
  • Offers budgeting tools.
  • Can be an inexpensive way to borrow money.

Cons

  • Requires bank account access.
  • May promote a habit of borrowing against future earnings.
  • Users can’t customize the amount borrowed.

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Full Review of Empower

The Empower app offers cash advances to users who link their bank account or open one with the app. Though Empower offers bank accounts and budgeting tools, cash advances are the app’s main product.

The company says its mission is to improve the financial and credit health of everyday Americans and alleviate financial stress between paychecks. Empower charges a subscription fee, which is somewhat rare for cash advance apps. It may only be worth the cost if you’ll use the budgeting or banking features.

Is the Empower App right for you?

When used occasionally, Empower’s paycheck advance feature can be useful if you:

  • Need to cover an emergency expense.

  • Have a plan to repay the advance and cover other expenses.

  • Are a gig worker or freelancer.

  • Will get enough value from the budgeting and banking features to make it worth the subscription fee.

Empower may not be for you if you:

  • Regularly spend more than you earn.

  • Don’t want to use the banking or budgeting features.

Cash advances from an app like Empower may lead to a cycle of reborrowing. A 2021 study from the Financial Health Network found that most consumers who use this type of app get cash advances consecutively over time.

Most financial advisors say repeated borrowing from a paycheck advance app isn’t a sustainable habit. Even if you choose to borrow with Empower now, take steps to build an emergency fund that can cover unexpected expenses without added fees or interest. NerdWallet recommends setting a savings goal of $500.

Empower App details

Fees and repayment terms

The app’s fees include:

  • A monthly $8 subscription fee after a 14-day free trial.

  • An optional instant delivery fee from $2 to $8, depending on your advance amount.

  • Optional tips up to 20% of your cash advance amount. A user’s total tips in a calendar year can’t surpass the amount they’re approved to borrow. The company says users aren’t asked to tip if they pay an instant delivery fee.

Repayment: Empower withdraws the advance repayment, plus any fees and tips you agreed to pay, on your next payday. If you need to change your repayment date, you can email customer service for help.

Unlike many other apps, Empower will reimburse you if any cash advance repayment causes an overdraft fee. It’ll also reimburse you the first time a subscription fee withdrawal causes an overdraft fee.

What to know about tips

Many cash advance apps ask users for voluntary tips for their service. Usually they justify the request by claiming that tips help the company offer its services to more users. But most apps, including Empower, say the tip isn’t mandatory.

According to Empower, the app’s tipping screen says, “Your optional tip keeps us in business and allows others like you to enjoy Cash Advances too.” Empower says it doesn’t preselect a tip amount for you.

Some consumer advocates say asking the user to decide how much to pay for the advance doesn’t give them a chance to evaluate the full cost of the product, unlike seeing a credit card or loan APR before signing. NerdWallet recommends not tipping.

How to qualify for Empower’s cash advance

The app requires users to connect an external bank account (or use an existing Empower bank account) so it can see your income, history, balances and transactions.

Unlike some of its competitors, Empower says gig workers and freelancers can qualify for a cash advance.

To use the Empower app, you must:

  • Be 18 years or older.

  • Have a bank account that’s more than 30 days old.

  • Have two deposits in your bank account over $200 in the last three months.

Customers only need to provide a Social Security number and U.S. address to open a bank account with the app.

How to get an Empower advance

Once you’ve downloaded the Empower app from an app store, here are the steps to get an advance:

  1. To join, enter your phone number and the verification code Empower sends to you. Then, input your first and last name, email and birth date and create a passcode.

  2. Connect a checking account where you receive regular deposits.

  3. Request a cash advance to see what you’re approved for. Then, decide whether you want to borrow the approved amount. Unlike some competitors, Empower doesn’t allow you to choose a lower amount.

  4. Decide whether you want to pay an instant delivery fee to get your money faster and choose a tip amount, if you want to add one.

  5. If you don’t choose to receive your funds instantly, Empower says it can take up to two business days.

  6. Make a plan to repay the app on your next payday and cover your bills with a slightly smaller paycheck.

Other Empower app features

The cash advance is Empower’s core offering, but here are the other features included with a subscription.

Empower Card: The app’s checking account comes with a debit card, no overdraft fees, up to 10% cash back and allows users to get their paycheck up to two days earlier. If you have the Empower card, you don’t have to pay a fee to get a cash advance instantly delivered.

Automatic savings: The app’s automatic savings feature helps users save money manually or with Empower’s artificial intelligence.

  • Manually: For the manual option, a user decides how much of each paycheck Empower should automatically put into savings. This feature is often available at banks and may be offered through your employer’s direct deposit system.

  • AI savings: To have Empower save for you, set a weekly savings goal for the app to meet. The app will move money from your checking account to savings as often as it thinks you can afford without coming up short on any regular expenses.

Budgeting: Empower creates a monthly income and expenses report that users can use to assess their cashflow. The app also lets users set budgets for all types of expenses and get alerts about paychecks, bills and purchases. This feature is available to all users who connect a bank account — not just those with Empower accounts.

How the Empower app compares

Earnin and Dave are two popular loan apps. Here’s how they compare to Empower.

Empower vs. Earnin

Earnin lets users borrow up to $100 and $500 per pay period. The app takes one to three business days to provide an advance — a little longer than Empower’s typical one-day funding time.

Earnin’s advances can technically be free if you don’t tip or pay for instant delivery. The app allows salaried and hourly employees to get an advance, but unlike Empower, gig workers and freelancers who don’t receive direct deposit may not qualify.

Empower vs. Dave

Dave provides advances up to $250. The app takes three days to deliver funds, which is longer than Empower.

The app charges a $1 per month membership fee, fast funding fees and an optional tip.

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Methodology

NerdWallet’s review process evaluates and rates personal loan products from more than 35 financial institutions. We collect over 45 data points from each lender, interview company representatives and compare the lender with others that seek the same customer or offer a similar personal loan product. NerdWallet writers and editors conduct a full fact check and update annually, but also make updates throughout the year as necessary.

Our star ratings award points to lenders that offer consumer-friendly features, including: soft credit checks to pre-qualify, competitive interest rates and no fees, transparency of rates and terms, flexible payment options, fast funding times, accessible customer service, reporting of payments to credit bureaus and financial education. We also consider regulatory actions filed by agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We weigh these factors based on our assessment of which are the most important to consumers and how meaningfully they impact consumers’ experiences.

This methodology applies only to lenders that cap interest rates at 36%, the maximum rate most financial experts and consumer advocates agree is the acceptable limit for a loan to be affordable. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for our star ratings. Read more about our ratings methodologies for personal loans and our editorial guidelines.