Sometimes you need cash fast. I know there have been times when I’ve needed quick cash to cover an unexpected expense or get me to the next payday.
We often think of payday loans as the place to turn to for quick cash. However, that’s not always the best option. In fact, payday loans have extremely high-interest rates, and it’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of crushing debt.
What if you could access money quickly without the pain of those loans? Thanks to innovative technology, you can. Here are 13 apps for cash loans that serve as payday loan alternatives.
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Best Cash Advance and Borrow Money Apps
Here are the best borrow money and paycheck cash advance apps you can use right now:
1. Wealthfront Cash Account
Wealthfront is one of the best robo-advisors out there. However, Wealthfront also offers banking products, including a cash account. One of the great features of this account is that you can set up direct deposit and get your money a little earlier.
For example, you can get your money up to two days earlier than normal, depending on your payroll provider. If you’re struggling to pay a bill on time, getting that money faster can make a huge difference down the road.
Plus, Wealthfront now gives you the ability to move money from your Cash account right into the market - within minutes. So if you’re getting paid early, you can immediately invest it if you don’t need that money for something else. In fact, once you get a handle on not needing a short-term loan, you can set up an automatic investment right from your Cash account after you get paid. This way, everything is automated for you, and you never forget to invest.
While it’s not exactly the same as getting a payday advance, Chime does offer you immediate access to your money. You can use Chime for saving and checking products, as well as avoid fees.
With traditional banks, you often have to wait up to two days after your pay is deposited to actually access the money. However, with Chime, you get access to your money immediately. That means you don’t have to wait on the bank, and that can help you smooth your cash flow.
Read our full Chime review.
Chime Disclosure - Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
1Chime cannot guarantee when files are sent by the IRS and funds can be made available.
^Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. We generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.
Empower offers Cash Advances of up to $250^ with no interest or late fees to pay.
When you sign up for an Empower Card, you can use it to get up to 10% cashback* on debit purchases at qualifying merchants or get free unlimited access to over 37,000 ATMs across the country. Plus, if you deposit your paycheck to the Empower Card, you’ll also get your paycheck up to two days early.*
For people who need the flexibility to get quick cash advances, you can also get advances up to $250. There are no late fees, interest payments, or credit checks for the advance. When you get your next paycheck, Empower will deduct the amount it advanced to you to balance your account.
Empower is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.
For more information, read our full Empower review.
4. Axos Bank Direct Deposit Express
When you have the Axos Bank Essential Checking Account, it comes with a feature called Direct Deposit Express. With Direct Deposit Express, you can access your money up to two days early when your paycheck is deposited.
In addition to allowing you access to your own money, you also don’t have to worry about monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements. Plus, there’s no overdraft on this account, so you don’t have to worry about those fees.
Read our full Axos review.
The idea behind Earnin is that you should be able to access your pay whenever you’ve done the work. You give Earnin information about where you work and connect your bank account. When you’re at work, Earnin keeps track of your hours so you can cash out when you need to.
Once you get your actual paycheck, Earnin deducts the money you’ve already taken from the paycheck. The best part about Earnin? It doesn’t have to cost you anything. The app doesn’t charge fees or interest. You can choose to add a tip to help support the company, but there are no fees required.
Read our full Earnin review.
Rather than marketing to consumers, DailyPay starts with marketing to employers. However, the app works similarly to Earnin. Employees build a balance with each hour they work. They can then tap into that balance before payday if they need access to cash.
DailyPay puts the money into the bank, and then, on payday, the amount already cashed out is taken from the paycheck. DailyPay charges a fee to transfer money from your hours-worked balance into your bank, though. However, it’s a low $1.25 per transfer.
In addition to accessing earned wages before payday, PayActiv users also get help with financial counseling. The app has a platform designed to be more than a payday loan alternative, even allowing users to pay their bills and get prescription discounts.
PayActiv even has a debit card attached to the account so you can access your money quickly and easily - with fraud protection. There’s no charge if users set up direct deposit to the card, or users can opt to pay a $1/ per day fee when using the service.
Like the other payday loan alternatives mentioned, FlexWage works to help employees access their earned wages on demand. Part of the reason these apps for cash loans are gaining popularity is that they reduce employee financial stress. Plus, employers don’t have to worry about the administration hassles that come with payroll advances.
FlexWage also offers reloadable payroll debit cards for employees who usually get paper checks. This can be helpful for workers who are unbanked and can’t accept direct deposits. There are some fees, including $5 for on-demand wage transfer, and using the debit card can result in fees, but overall it’s much less costly than payday loans.
If you’re looking for an interesting alternative to regular banking and fast cash, MoneyLion is something new. It’s a membership banking relationship that allows you access to financial services like a bank without some of the hassles.
MoneyLion offers cash back rewards, no-fee checking services, managed investing, and more. You can also get what they call a Credit Builder loan at 5.99% APR. It’s a quick $1000 available for those with poor credit. MoneyLion also offers 0% APR Instacash up to $250 ahead of payday.
You can get a free account, which includes the Instacash advance, or a PLUS account. It costs $29 per month, but you get a dollar added to your investment account each day when you log into the app, so it more than makes up for it.
Just like your friend Dave, who’s always good to spot you a little extra cash, this payday loan alternative can give you a little extra money ahead of payday.
Dave is an app that helps you plan your expenses. The app will analyze your spending, identify bills, and let you know when you have upcoming costs. Alerts let you know that your upcoming bill could mean an overdraft. On top of that, you can get a 0% APR advance of up to $75 until payday--no credit check required. Dave puts the money in your account and then deducts it when you get paid.
It does cost $1 a month for a Dave membership, but if you can avoid overdraft fees and payday loan interest rates, it might be worth it for you.
Related: Dave vs Earnin vs Moneylion
11. Rainy Day Lending
Rainy Day isn’t a lender, and it doesn’t offer wage advances. Instead, this app for cash loans offers you the chance to find a personal loan quickly. All credit types are accepted, and it’s possible to have money deposited directly into your account the next business day.
APRs vary according to the loan that you’re matched up with. However, in many cases, you’re still going to come out ahead when you consider the cost of insufficient fund fees, overdraft charges, and payday loan interest rates.
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Similar to Rainy Day Lending, LoanSolo connects you with lenders willing to work with you. It’s possible to get cash fast, directly into your bank account, without a lot of hassle or expense.
LoanSolo offers up to $1,000 for payday cash advances and up to $3,000 for personal loans. The APRs are variable based on the lender and your credit factors. However, if you need to bridge a gap or get ahead, it can still be cheaper than paying the super-high charges associated with payday lending.
PockBox is another online app that connects you with short-term lenders that offer up to $2,500 in fast cash. You fill out the forms, and in a few minutes, you’re matched with a lender willing to put cash in your account by the next business day.
Again, APRs vary according to your credit situation and the lender, but you’re still probably going to pay less through PockBox than you would with an online or offline payday lender.
Get Quick Cash Other Ways
No matter which cash apps you use as a payday loan alternative, remember you’ll have to repay the amount you borrow. If you want to get quick cash in other ways, consider the following:
- Ask friends or family - If you just need a spot of cash to hold you over, friends or family might be willing to help you out--and it won’t usually cost you anything. Just make sure you repay them and use this method sparingly.
- Sharing economy - Driving for Uber or Lyft can mean a way to earn cash quickly. You can instantly transfer earnings to your bank account for a small fee. Do a little extra driving to get the cash and avoid the need to repay a loan.
- Sell something - Using a local Facebook sales group or apps like Let Go and 5miles, you can get rid of something you don’t need and get cash fast.
Related: Best Small Personal Loans
Find the Best Personal Loan for You
Watch Out for Scams and Loan Sharks
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous folks out there who will take advantage of people when faced with desperate circumstances. While there are legitimate ways to get money, you need to watch out for scams that promise you fast cash when times are tough. Some of the scams popping up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are designed to prey on those hurting financially due to the novel coronavirus.
Some of the things to be on the watch for include:
- Phishing emails - Some phishing emails claim that your bank information is wrong and you need to update it to get your stimulus payment. You click on a link that takes you to a fraudulent website, enter your information, and then you end up giving away your information.
- Loans based on your stimulus - There are loan sharks popping up, claiming to offer you a loan based on your stimulus. These predatory lenders may offer you loans based on a faulty calculation of what you’ll receive. On top of that, the interest rates might be sky-high. When you do get your economic benefit payment, you could very well find yourself sending it all to the loan shark.
- Pay for help getting benefits - Some folks are promising to help you get benefits, such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or unemployment in your state at a faster rate. You pay a small fee and then get help with your paperwork. These scams won’t help you get your money faster, and you could be out of the fee you pay.
- Advances on various programs - Similar to programs that offer loans based on your stimulus, these advances promise fast cash based on what you might get through the PPP or some other type of aid. You pay an exorbitant interest rate on these cash advances. Even worse, what happens if you end up not qualifying for the program and still have to repay the advance?
Right now, many scammers and loan sharks are using the coronavirus as a tactic to get you to divulge information. They’ll use using student loan repayment, confusion over the implementation of government relief programs, and even claiming that you can get access to information about local coronavirus cases by paying a small fee. Anything that offers you something related to COVID-19 for a fee, or promises faster cash, is probably suspect.
How Payday Advance Apps Work
The idea behind payday advance apps is you’re receiving your paycheck early. The app determines how much you should have earned during your current pay period. For example, you might have worked several days, but your payday is still a few days away. Rather than waiting for your paycheck to get all the money at once, a payday advance app might front you between $100 and $500.
Once your payday comes, the money is repaid to the app. In general, these apps don’t charge interest, even though the advance might be considered a loan. However, you might need to pay a small fee or be asked to leave a tip.
To use a payday advance app, you usually have to connect your bank account. The app will use data in your account, including your normal income amounts and when you get paid, to determine how much of an advance you’re eligible for.
Some payday advance apps work through your employer. So, instead of giving you a small loan, you can actually receive a payroll advance through the app, and the money is deducted from your checking account on the next payday.
Finally, some apps charge membership fees and allow you to get a small advance and take as long as you want to repay the amount. However, until you repay the amount borrowed, you won’t be able to get more money.
Pros and Cons of Cash Advance Apps
When using a cash advance app, it’s important to understand that there are advantages and disadvantages associated with them. Before signing up, carefully consider whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
Access to fast cash: Once youre approved, you have access to fast cash. Plus, since the app is connected to your bank account, you can usually get the money added to your account instantly.
Most apps don't charge interest: With a payday loan you could end up paying what amounts to a 400% APR. Many cash advance apps charge a small fee rather than interest, and it can even be cheaper than using a credit card cash advance.
Once approved, you can keep using the app: While you have to go through an approval process, once you go through it, you can keep using the payday advance feature. This is different from a loan, which requires you to reapply each time you need more money.
Need approval: Before you can use one of these apps, you need to get approval and connect your bank account. Depending on the app, you might also need to go through your employer. Some apps work with employers for payroll advances.
Amounts are usually small: In many cases, you'll only be able to get $100, $250, or $500 instantly. While these amounts can be useful to cover small, short-term issues, they wont take care of bigger emergencies.
You could get caught in a cycle: Another issue is that its fairly easy to get caught in a cycle of remaining behind. It can become too easy to get advances and end up constantly using money you dont have quite yet. Carefully consider your situation if you begin using payday advance apps regularly.
How long will it take to get the cash?
Many cash advance apps can get the money into your account almost immediately. However, if you’re using an app or account that offers early direct deposit, you might still need to wait a few days to get your money.
What do I need to qualify for a cash advance on a loan app?
For the most part, you need to show that you receive a steady income. In some cases, the app figures this out by connecting to your bank account and analyzing your transactions, including deposits. Those without a steady income probably won’t be able to get approval for a cash advance app.
What fees are charged for a payday advance?
The fee charged for using a payday advance app depends on the app in question. Some apps charge a flat fee for each usage. Other apps charge a monthly fee. There are also apps that are free to use, but you can leave a tip if you wish. Pay attention to the apps that are free, since some of them set an automatic tip level. You can change the tip — bringing it to zero — but you usually have to take that extra step.
Can a pay advance improve or hurt my credit score?
In general, because most pay advance apps aren’t offering traditional loans, you won’t see a credit score improvement. Most pay advance apps don’t report to the credit bureaus, so it won’t impact your results. However, if you don’t repay the amount you get, and the advance app sends you to collections, that could show up on your credit report and hurt your credit score.
Are there any pay advance apps I can use if I don’t get paid through direct deposit?
Most pay advance apps require you to have a checking account and accept direct deposit. However, FlexWage is an exception. You can get a reloadable payroll debit card through FlexWage and use that to get a payroll advance. However, there are additional fees associated with this arrangement, so be aware of the cost.
How We Came Up With This List
To come up with this list, we looked at a variety of options for accessing money a little bit faster. We looked at different payday advance apps and accounts that allow early access to paycheck direct deposit. We chose a variety of products designed to address different needs. There’s a strong likelihood that you will find at least one app on this list that will fit your situation.
Before you turn to payday loans, whether you look online or offline, consider other ways to get the cash you need. With interest above 200% APR - some even going above 600% APR - payday loans are expensive. And, thanks to the advancement of options, they are also becoming increasingly unnecessary.
Related: Best Buy Now, Pay Later Apps