Empower App 2024 Review: Cash Advances

Empower’s advances are small but funded quickly. The app may approve gig workers or freelancers with unpredictable income.
Annie Millerbernd
By
Last updated on February 21, 2024
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed
Kim Lowe
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed

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Our Take

4.0

NerdWallet rating
The Nerdy headline:

Empower provides small advances quickly, which may be ideal for covering small emergencies or income gaps.

Jump to:Full Review
Empower
Empower

Loan amount
$10 - $250
Min. credit score
None
on Empower's website
on NerdWallet

Pros

  • Refunds users if the app causes an overdraft fee.
  • Won't accept both a tip and fast funding fee.
  • Gig workers and freelancers may qualify.
  • Advances are funded within one day.
  • Budgeting and credit-building features.

Cons

  • Advances are smaller than some other apps.
  • Optional fees are high.
  • Doesn't notify users before withdrawing repayment.
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Full Review

Empower is a mobile app offering cash advances to eligible users, which may include gig workers or freelancers. The app provides smaller advances than some competitors, but it funds them more quickly.

Fees are high with this app, but the company says they’re optional — including the $8 subscription fee, which users can cancel by emailing customer support.

Empower’s thin borrowing requirements mean the advances may be accessible to more users, but it also means the company may not scrutinize borrowers’ spending behaviors as much as other apps to ensure they can repay.

» MORE: Compare cash advance apps

Table of contents

Empower advance amounts, fees and repayment terms

Advance amounts

$10 to $250.

Fees

  • Subscription fee: $8 per month, or $0 if you opt out.

  • Optional fast-funding fee: $1 to $8.

  • Optional tip: Up to 20% per advance, capped each calendar year at your eligible advance amount.

Repayment

Withdrawn from your bank account on your predetermined due date.

Time to fund without express fee

One business day.

Time to fund with express fee

Within one hour.

  • Regulators like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau don’t classify tips as interest, but some consumer advocates argue they should because asking a user to decide how much to tip doesn’t give them a fair chance to compare the cost with other borrowing options. NerdWallet recommends not volunteering a tip for a cash advance.

Should you use the Empower app for cash advances?

When used occasionally, Empower 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 who is paid consistently.

Empower might not be a good solution if you:

  • Regularly spend more than you earn.

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

🤓

Nerdy Tip

Though cash advances from an app are generally cheaper than payday loans, they may encourage users to rely on borrowed money to bridge income gaps, which can lead to a cycle of borrowing. In 2021, the Financial Health Network released a study that included multiple years of usage data and found that app users frequently take advances consecutively — behavior that is consistent with payday loan borrowing.

Is the Empower app legit?

Empower is a real company based in San Francisco. It has offered cash advances since 2020. The app has 4.7 stars across more than 140,000 reviews on Google Play and 4.8 stars across more than 150,000 ratings on the Apple App Store.

Recent customer complaints with the Better Business Bureau focus on unexpected fees and difficulties opting out of the subscription.

How to qualify for an Empower advance

Like most cash advance apps, Empower doesn’t check users’ credit to determine eligibility. Instead, the app requires users to connect a bank account (or use an existing Empower bank account) so it can review your income, banking 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 of age or older.

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

The company doesn’t disclose additional borrower requirements, but it says users don’t need a long history of bank account transactions to get an advance. Though tighter requirements may make it harder to get an advance, they help ensure that users can repay.

How Empower cash advances work

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

  1. 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. Users who are eligible for advances of $100 or more are given three borrowing amount options. For example, if you’re approved for a $200 advance, you can get $200, $150 or $100. Those approved for $75 or less can only borrow the approved amount.

  4. Decide whether you want to pay an instant delivery fee to get your money within an hour instead of a business day.

  5. If you don’t pay the express fee, decide if you want to add a tip.

  6. Empower withdraws the advance amount, plus any fees, from your bank account on the due date.

Can I change my Empower advance due date?

Yes. Empower says users can contact customer support to reschedule their due date, as long as they reach out by 12 p.m. Pacific time one business day before the scheduled payment date.

Will Empower’s advance cause an overdraft fee?

If you don’t have enough money in your account when Empower takes repayment, your bank may charge an overdraft fee. However, Empower will reimburse users who send proof of the fee to customer support.

Still, if you don't have sufficient funds on the due date, the app may withdraw small amounts from your bank account until the advance is repaid.

How do I contact Empower’s customer service?

You can contact Empower’s customer service by phone, email or in the app.

Other Empower app features

Credit score monitoring

Empower says it lets subscribers view their credit scores through the app. Users can also see a monthly breakdown of their score factors and get personalized recommendations to build it.

Budgeting assistance

Empower uses bank account transactions to create a monthly income and expenses report from which users can assess their cash flow. 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 bank accounts.

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.

Line of credit

Empower offers a small line of credit called Thrive. Amounts start at $200, $250 or $400, depending on your cash flow information, and can go as high as $1,000 when you show a history of on-time payments. The app doesn't do a hard credit check, but your credit history is an eligibility factor.

The APR is 35.99%, or the highest allowable APR in each state, but borrowers who repay the full borrowed amount from their next paycheck don't have to pay interest. The app also charges a 5% late fee, capped at $20, and an instant withdrawal fee up to $8 for a $299 draw. It costs the lesser of 3% or $20 to instantly withdraw $300 or more.

Credit line payments are reported to the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The credit line is an expensive way to borrow a small amount of money, especially considering you can get an interest-free cash advance with comparable instant withdrawal fees. Though on-time payments can build credit, consider other ways to build credit if that's your goal.

Compare Empower to other cash advance apps

Empower offers a solid cash advance option. Though the app charges high fees, they’re all optional. The fast funding fee is high for the amount you can borrow, but users may not need to pay it because advances are sent in one day — faster than most other apps.

The app’s competitors say they try to avoid causing an overdraft fee, but Empower is the only app that provides a refund if it does.

The biggest drawbacks may be the borrowing amounts — which are limited compared to other apps that let users borrow in increments of $10 to $50 — and the app’s thin borrowing criteria.

Empower vs. other cash advance apps

Loan app

Loan amount

Speed without paying a fee

Fast-funding fee

Other fees

4.0
NerdWallet rating

$50-$250.

1 to 3 days.

$0.99 to $3.99.

$9.99 or $14.99 monthly subscription fee.

Up to $100 per day, $750 per pay period.

1 to 3 days.

$1.99 to $4.99.

None.

$10-$250.

1 day.

$1-$8.

$8 monthly subscription fee unless you opt out.

Up to $500.

Up to 3 days.

$3 to $25.

$1 monthly membership fee.

Up to $500.

1 to 5 days.

$0.49-$8.99.

None.

$20-$575.

Approval takes up to 3 days.

Funding takes minutes.

1.75%.

None.

$5-$200.

3 business days.

$1.49-$20.78.

None.

3.5
NerdWallet rating

$20-$500.

Instant.

None.

$1.60-$40 flat fee.

Chime

$20-$200.

Instant.

None.

None.

on Empower's website

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Methodology

NerdWallet reviews and rates cash advance products from financial companies that provide cash advance apps. We collect over 24 data points from each company, verify the information with company representatives and compare the app with others that seek the same customer or offer a similar cash advance product. NerdWallet writers and editors conduct a full fact check and update annually, but also make updates throughout the year as necessary.

The maximum allowable rating for cash advance apps that we review is four stars. Our star ratings award points to cash advance apps that offer consumer-friendly features, including: caps on voluntary tips, protections from overdraft fees caused by app withdrawals, low cost of borrowing and an assessment of the user’s finances before providing an advance. The system also rewards points for features that a consumer seeking an advance would find useful, such as: fast funding without a fee, allowing users to borrow less than they were approved for and customer ratings. Additional points are awarded to apps that provide pathways to budgeting and saving, which are features that can help prevent a user from habitually reborrowing. We weigh these factors based on our assessment of which are the most important for consumers and how they impact consumers’ experiences.

NerdWallet does not receive compensation for our star ratings. Read more about our ratings methodologies for personal loans and our editorial guidelines.

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