Tools

7 Payday Loan Alternatives: Apps That Loan You Money Now

What’s the fastest way to get money and go broke all at once? A payday loan. But now there are great alternatives to getting quick cash, and they’re only a few taps away on your phone.

Editor's Note

You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone. This content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser, unless otherwise noted below.

Sometimes you need cash fast. There have been times when you need quick cash to cover an unexpected expense or get you 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.

The companies on this list will front you some quick cash, often for free!

Payday Loan Alternatives

Dave

With an Extra Cash account from Dave you can get up to $500 transferred to your checking account in 1-3 days for no charge.

If you need the money instantly you can get a Dave Mastercard where you can instantly access the cash advance. This instant access costs between $0.99 and $6.99 depending on the amount of money you want to access.

The money will have to be paid back in full on your next payday, or the Friday following the loan if your payday can’t be determined. Partial settlements are allowed and Dave doesn’t charge late fees.

To get started, download the Dave app and link it to your bank account.

Check out our full review of Dave here.

Brigit

With Brigit you can get up to $250 instantly delivered to your checking account. There is a monthly fee of $9.99 to be a member of Brigit but there are no additional fees or interest for the advance.

To qualify you have to have your checking account for at least 60 days and have received three direct deposits to the account from the same employer. You also must keep the balance in your account above zero.

Exactly how much of an advance you can qualify for depends on your income, your spending patterns, and the average balance in your checking account. These factors are used to determine you “Brigit Score”. You can qualify for between $50 and $250.

Included in your monthly membership fee of $9.99 Brigit offers other services such as credit building tools, identity theft protection, and opportunities to help increase your income.

MoneyLion

MoneyLion’s Instacash feature lets you borrow up to $250 which is paid back when your direct deposit hits your checking account. There are no fees or interest.

If you use an external checking account (as in not a MoneyLion account) the money will be available in 1-3 business days. If you have a MoneyLion checking account, called a RoarMoney account you’ll have your funds in 12 to 48 hours.

Exactly how much extra money you can get access to depends on a few things. One, MoneyLion can detect a qualifying direct deposit to an external checking account you can qualify for up to $250.

If you have a MoneyLion checking account with direct deposit, called a Roar Account, you can qualify for up to $300 in Instacash.

Also, with a RoarMoney account your direct deposit will arrive up to two days early. Which might also be pretty handy.

Here’s our full MoneyLion review.

Empower

Empower* offers Cash Advances of up to $250 with no interest. Empower will monitor your checking account and alert you if you are in danger of overdrafting the account. It will then offer you a cash advance to help you avoid the overdraft.

You can also request an advance at any time on the app.

There is a small fee associated with each advance which will be between $1 and $8 depending on the amount of the transfer that applies to Instant Delivery. 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. Plus, if you deposit your paycheck to the Empower Card, instead of your personal checking account, you’ll also get your paycheck up to two days early.

For more information, read our full Empower review.

Earnin

Earnin works a bit differently than the above companies. Earnin allows you to access wages you’ve earned but have not yet been paid for. They call this feature Cash Out.

You can let Earnin know how much you’ve earned in a few ways. One is to upload your timesheet to show what you’ve worked so far but haven’t been paid for yet. Another is to give Earnin access to your work email, which is monitored to determine how many hours you’ve worked. And lastly, you can verify your work address, which then uses your phone GPS to determine when you are at work.

You can have the money you’ve earned, but not yet been paid for, deposited into your account as an advance from Earnin. The money is then paid back when you receive your paycheck.

The app is free to use and advances have no interest or fees, but Earnin does ask for an optional “tip” when you request an advance. The amount that you choose it tip is completely up to you.

To get started, download the app and connect your bank account.

Read our full Earnin review.

Chime®

Chime® has two features that can help you out in a pinch. First, Chime gives you access to your direct deposit two days early.^ Second, it has a feature called “Chime Spot Me®” which will automatically over any overdrafts up to $200 without any fees.²

To use these features, you will need your direct deposit to into a Chime Checking Account. For early direct deposit your deposit will post to your account as soon as the money is available which could be up to two days early.^

With the Spot Me feature you can overdraft your account up to $200 with no fees. The advance is paid back with your next deposit. You can also give and receive “boosts” from friends where your friends can increase your Spot Me limit by $5 (and you can do the same for them) which is paid back with your next deposit. You can send and receive up to four boosts per month.

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, N.A. 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.

²Chime SpotMe® Disclosure - Chime SpotMe is an optional, no fee service that requires a single deposit of $200 or more in qualifying direct deposits to the Chime Checking Account each month. All qualifying members will be allowed to overdraw their account up to $20 on debit card purchases and cash withdrawals initially, but may be later eligible for a higher limit of up to $200 or more based on member's Chime Account history, direct deposit frequency and amount, spending activity and other risk-based factors. Your limit will be displayed to you within the Chime mobile app. You will receive notice of any changes to your limit. Your limit may change at any time, at Chime's discretion. Although there are no overdraft fees, there may be out-of-network or third party fees associated with ATM transactions. SpotMe won't cover non-debit card transactions, including ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, or Chime Checkbook transactions. See terms and conditions.

Current

Not only does Current bank allow you to access your direct deposit early, but it also will allow you to overdraft your checking account up to $200 without any fees.

You do need to have a Current checking account and your fee-free overdraft limit will start at $25 but your account will be reviewed periodically for an increase up to $200.

You will also have to have direct deposit of at least $500 per month and any overdraft will be paid back with your next deposit.

The Current checking account is free and has no minimum balance requirements.

Learn more with our Current review.

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.
  • Earn some quick cash - There are lots of ways to earn some quick cash, such as dog walking, babysitting, or even driving for apps such as Uber or Doordash. What’s great about this is that you don’t have to pay the money back. You’ve earned it.
  • 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: How to Find Odd Jobs Near Me

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.

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.

Personal Loans

There may be times when a cash advance is just a bandaid and you actually need a longer-term fix. If so, you may consider a personal loan. Here are some options.

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 when you have an emergency: Once approved, you have access to extra cash quickly.

  • 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, which can even be cheaper than 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 differs from a loan, which requires you to reapply each time you need more money.


  • Need approval: Before using 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 and you can’t use the program if your company isn’t enrolled.

  • Amounts are usually small: In many cases, you'll only be able to get $100, $250, or $500 instantly. While these amounts can be helpful to cover minor, short-term issues, they won't take care of more significant emergencies.

  • You could get caught in a cycle: Another issue is that it's relatively easy to get caught in a cycle of remaining behind. It can become too easy to get advances and constantly use the money you don't have yet. While these easy payday loan alternatives could be helpful, they could also enable your poor spending habits.

FAQs

chat bubble

How long will it take to get the cash?

Many cash advance apps can get 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. Look into the fine print when choosing one of the aforementioned payday loan alternatives.

chat bubble

What do I need to qualify for a cash advance on a loan app?

Sort of. Typically, you only need to show that you receive a steady income. The app sometimes 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.

chat bubble

What fees are charged for a payday advance?

The fee charged for using a payday advance app depends on the app in question. There are apps that charge a flat fee for each usage. Other apps charge a monthly fee to access the services and account features. Some apps are free to use, but you can leave a tip if you wish.

Please pay attention to the free apps since some set an automatic tip level. You can change the tip to zero, but you usually have to take that extra step.

chat bubble

Can a pay advance improve or hurt my credit score?

In general, you won’t see a credit score improvement because most pay advance apps don't offer traditional loans. 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.

chat bubble

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 have direct deposit to increase their chances of being paid back. If you have direct deposit set up they know exactly when your next deposit will occur.

Bottom Line

Before you turn to payday loans, whether you look online or offline, consider other ways to get the cash you need to handle an emergency. With interest above 200% APR - some even going above 600% APR - payday loans are extremely expensive.

The alternatives on this list are often free or extremely inexpensive, often times only a few dollars. If you just need an occasional float these payday loan alternatives can save you a lot of money.

Related: Best Buy Now, Pay Later Apps

*Empower Disclosures: Eligibility requirements apply. Empower is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.

Early access to paycheck deposit funds depends on the timing of the employer’s submission of deposits. Empower generally posts such deposits on the day they are received which may be up to 2 days earlier than the employer’s scheduled payment date. Cashback deals on Empower Card purchases, including categories, merchants, and percentages, will vary and must be selected in the app. Cashback will be applied automatically when the final transaction posts, which may be up to a week after the qualifying purchase.

Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit

Miranda is a nationally-recognized financial writer and money expert. She has contributed to NPR, Marketwatch, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report, FOX Business, The Hill and numerous other publications. Miranda is an avid podcaster and writes about money and freelancing at her website, MirandaMarquit.com.


Recommended Stories