Earnin App Review - Is it a Better Alternative to Payday Loans?

(Editor Rating)



Move over payday loans, a new app is giving borrowers a far more affordable option. While the Earnin app limits borrowing to small amounts, this is a good move to keep your debt from getting out of control.





Mobile App




Ease of Use




  • No ongoing interest and fees
  • Pay what you think is fair with the tip feature

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, and this content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser.
I live in a fairly low-income urban neighborhood, and payday loan places abound. They’re everywhere because these types of loans target themselves towards the millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck. They’re just getting by, and a single disaster can make it impossible to pay that month’s rent.

Payday loans are a problem for many reasons. For instance, a study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau showed that most payday loan borrowers end up paying more in fees than they originally borrowed. You might borrow $375 to get your car fixed so you can get to work. But you could wind up paying more than double that by the time you get the loan paid back.

And, of course, these loans create a dangerous cycle of borrowing to get out of trouble. But then you have to pay them back quickly, making your next payday even tighter. So they keep squeezing your paychecks until you can’t pay your bills and your payday loans.

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Of course, the long-term solution here is to get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. And believe me, I know that’s harder than it sounds. And while you work towards the goal of building an emergency fund, emergencies can still happen. And they can leave you in immediate need of cash.

What is Earnin?

That’s why companies like Earnin (formerly called Activehours) are coming up with creative alternatives to the payday loan. With this app, you can cash in on your hours worked before payday. But unlike a payday loan, which charges exorbitant fees every time you use one, Earnin doesn’t charge any fees.

Sound crazy? It kind of is. But it seems to be working for some people. Here’s how it works, caveats you should know about, and whether or not it’s right for you.

How Does Earnin Work?

Basically, Earnin works on a pay-as-you-can model and is available for Android and iOS devices. You make a withdrawal of up to $100 per day based on the hours you actually worked. Then you pay a “tip” on top of the withdrawal–usually just a few bucks or up to about $15. That’s a steal compared to the fees and interest you’ll be charged on a traditional payday loan.

The catch is that you can only use Earnin if you’re a salaried, hourly, or on-demand employee. Freelancers, remote workers, and those with several jobs won’t find what they need here. You also have to receive your paycheck via direct deposit to use Earnin.

Earnin has to be able to track the hours you work. For hourly workers, you can upload a photo of your daily timesheet or connect the app to your company’s online timesheet system. If you’re salaried, you can turn on location tracking so that Earnin can verify you went to work that day. If you’re an on-demand worker, you can upload photos of your task receipts, or the app automatically uploads Uber ride receipts if you’re a driver.

When you need money, Earnin verifies the number of hours you’ve worked for that paycheck. You’ll get the money the next day if you request on a weekday or the second business day if you request on a weekend. A few banks even support immediate fulfillment from Earnin deposits.

On payday, Earnin deducts the amount from your paycheck. You can also add a tip, typically between $0 and $14, to that withdrawal.

What Are the Limits?

Of course, no one is going to let you borrow a whole paycheck’s worth of money before payday. And Earnin has its limits. All users can withdraw up to $100 in a single day. But individual users will have varying per-pay-period limits–between $100 and $500.

Your pay period withdrawal limit depends on your financial behavior, earning, and other factors. If you use the app well and earn good money, you can borrow more over time.

Balance Shield

If you struggle with keeping track of your bank accounts, you might accidentally overdraw them. This can lead to hefty fees. Earnin offers a Balance Shield feature meant to protect you from this. It can link up to your checking account. When the balance dips below $100, it will automatically send you a $100 Earnin loan.

The Balance Shield does operate based on your daily and pay period maximum borrowing levels and the available earnings you’ve added by tracking your hours. So if your pay period limit is $100 and you’ve already taken it, you might be out of luck. But this could be a useful feature if you don’t have money in savings or your bank doesn’t offer a similar feature.

Things You Should Know About Earnin

As with any financial product, Earnin does have is drawbacks. Here are some things to consider before you sign up for the app:

  • Borrowing Limits: The borrowing limits for Earnin are lower than with payday apps and some other fast borrowing options. This can be a problem if you’re in a pinch and need more than a couple hundred bucks to float you until payday.
  • Not Everyone Can Use It: Depending on the type of work you do and the way you get paid, you may not be able to use Earnin at all. That’s definitely something to consider before you sign up.
  • It Links to Your Account: Although Earnin uses hefty encryption to keep user data safe, it does store a lot of your data and connect to your bank account. That can be a little scary for some users, so be sure you understand what data they’re collecting and how they store it before you sign up.
  • Could Still Get Expensive: Even if you don’t tip every time you use Earnin, you’re still paying for access to your money when you do tip. And those dollars can add up more quickly than you’d think.

Earnin App Pros and Cons


  • No ongoing interest and fees
  • Pay what you think is fair with the tip feature


  • The borrowing limits for Earnin are lower than with payday apps
  • Not available for freelancers, remote workers
  • "Tips" could add up to a big expense

Still Better Than a PayDay Loan

Even with these caveats, if you can use Earnin, it’s probably going to work out better than a payday loan. That’s because there are no ongoing interest and fees, and you can pay what you deem reasonable when you take a withdrawal.

The only situation where this may not be true is if you need more than your maximum borrowing limits. In this case, you may need to look into a payday loan or another form of personal loan.

Need More Cash?

Do yourself a favor: Do your best to avoid having to rely on a service like this. They’re really a last resort. We want you to get into the habit of only spending what you can afford. Using a service like this is essentially borrowing against your next paycheck. It’s even worse than living paycheck to paycheck. Become financially healthy and break this cycle.

Related: 9 Apps That Loan You Money Now – Payday Loan Alternatives

If you’re really in a pinch and you need even more than Earnin can provide, consider a personal loan. One of our favorite partners is Lending Tree, which aggregates all the available loans that meet your financial requirements and gives you the best offers available.

When To Use Earnin

So when should you consider using Earnin? If you’re just starting to work towards a goal of building up an emergency fund, Earnin can help you get there without decimating your fund when a minor emergency arises. It can help you if you forgot a bill that’s about to go past due–causing you fees and a ding on your credit score. Or if you’re close to overdrafting your checking account and have an automatic payment coming out, paying a $10 tip to Earnin looks a lot better than a $34 overdraft fee.

However, if you find yourself getting into the habit of using Earnin most pay periods, it’s time to reconsider your finances. You might want to look into where to get a side gig so you can earn more money. Or maybe look at our articles on paying down debt so you aren’t drowning in minimum payments. Or your situation might be simple enough to be solved by budgeting your money better.

Whatever steps you need to take, though, take them before you start using Earnin or any payday lending type solution on the regular.

Author Bio

Total Articles: 317
Abby is a freelance journalist who writes on everything from personal finance to health and wellness. She spends her spare time bargain hunting and meal planning for her family of three. She has a B.A. in English Literature from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, and lives with her husband and children in Indianapolis.
Article comments
Karen says:

This article is great and “in theory” the Earnin Ap is a wonderful concept. Having used it personally after going from being paid weekly to bi-weekly I was almost relieved. I’m someone who supports myself and have no roommate or other income to fall back on. I was elated to use it. I used it twice and am not here to bash it, however when Earnin took the money out automatically (as I knew it would and agreed to) it came out before my direct deposit did and I ended up over-drafted. I knew this was something new and contacted support, not even asking for my overdraft fee back but just to let them know so it wouldn’t happen again, I was asked to give proof of the transaction and supplied it, I was bereft when the email was passed to yet another rep who told me to send screenshots again. I was trying to see their point of view as I always try to, and know some people look for a free lunch which I wasn’t trying to do, just to make them aware and was told to contact my bank and have them provide the exact time my direct deposit came in. The screen shots showed them taking the money before the direct deposit (a full day) and showed the red overdraft fee and it was still not enough. I emailed them back and said I’d take the hit on the fees but would no longer be using Earnin. I still don’t think it’s a bad AP but they need to get the kinks worked out so consumers aren’t left in a worse place than they originally started.

Rosella says:

Thanks to all of you for your posts. I was just about to open up an earn account but decided to read reviews first. SO GLAD I DID!! Totally lost interest. You all may very well have saved me from a lot of terrible heartache and overwhelming stress!!!!

Ashia Nowlin says:

I signed up for this app and one of the first things I noticed was that although I sent Earnin my pay stub and I verified my pay date on the app, they still had me down as getting paid 2 days prior to my pay date. I really need to borrow some funds but I’m not willing to go into more debt in the process. Thanks so much for posting this. I really believe you’ve saved me some heart ache.

Justin says:

I’ve used the Earnin app a couple of times (including today, which is payday). I will say that even though I do agree with this article in that Earnin is a much better alternative than a traditional payday loan which can AND will most likely keep you in an ongoing cycle of paying back and returning, I don’t care that Earnin adjusts the amount that you’re able to borrow. For instance: up until my last paycheck, I was able to borrow up to $150/paycheck, but then I received a notification from Earnin that my limit was decreasing to $100/paycheck, even though I didn’t make any less money, added a tip roughly 99% of the time when using the app and never went into the negative on my bank account (something else that determines the amount you’re limited to borrow which this article does NOT mention). In theory, this is a good resource to use if you just need $50-$100 to float you until your next check for say maybe groceries or a cheaper car fix AND you can afford to have that amount taken out of your next check, but that’s it. Don’t make it a habit because you may end up being able to get less money from the app as I mentioned it did to me and you’re somewhat screwed.

Darin says:

How can it possibly be a good thing to live beyond your means? If you make $400 a week and spend $500, you are lousy managing money.
If you advance $100 out of that weekly paycheck, you are automatically shorting yourself for the next paycheck. And the cycle continues.

Clifton Taylor says:

“If you make $400 a week and spend $500, you are lousy managing money.” Or you just had a unexpected expense. Things happen. This concept is great, you just have to know how to use it.

Lauren says:

I have been using the App for quite sometime now and it has really really really help me to get back on track. Recently I have been maxing out but I also have been making more money in order to pay it back and be OK. I appreciate this app because a lot of us aren’t able to ask someone to help us out when we are in a bind. Hope the information I’m giving is helpful to someone In need of some financial help.

Michelle says:

I like this app a lot and it has helped me out a great deal

Willie Stubbs says:

This is very helpful, Thanks! I’m using Earnin and a positive review like yours eases my mind😄

Holly Hopkin says:


Gabi says:

They are awful!! They randomly draft your payments a day early and cause you overdrafts they also don’t fix issues because everything is by email and they get back to you one to two days later and it’s like starting everything all over again every email awful

Jeannie says:

I can’t even get onto the app, it says that there is a problem with the connection to my bank..which there is no problem at all…I dont trust it!!

Bobby says:

The idea of Earnin is great. However, I DO NOT recommend using this app. The customer service is atrocious. You can only speak with someone through the app’s chat function. And the “reps” are less than knowledgeable. Also, they can erroneously withdraw funds before your payday. Happened to me. It was like pulling teeth to get them to cover my overdraft fees when they paid themselves back 12 days early.

Janet bartley says:

The same thing happened to me! Debited my account 2 days early and caused overdraft fees which they won’t reimburse.

Kenya says:

I have been with Earnin since 2018. I have never had a bad experience with them. The money that I have gotten before a pay period was always paid back on my payday. They have never not once taken anything early or more than what they were supposed too. Really, you only use them if it’s necessary which happens from time to time. I like them and will continue to use them when I need too.

Marilyn says:

I used to like this app a lot… back when they were known as “active hours.” I would rave it about to friends. It was super easy. You have to tip on each advance but it was cheaper than paying interest on a credit card. I really did like it… However, after a year or so it all went downhill horribly.
1. The app and my bank continuously disconnect from each other. That’s actually been happening from the beginning, but it’s now more difficult to get it fixed again. It takes longer and quite a few attempts. I already didn’t feel comfortable giving my banking info. Having to re-enter it every few weeks didn’t make me feel any better about it.
2. Poor service: You could always email them, but the people who use this app are usually in too much of a pinch to hurry up and wait for an email to be returned with troubleshooting instructions.
They did recently come out with a chat feature, but the reps appear clueless, and use mostly auto responses assuming your problem is just like everyone else.
3. Location services: For example, they have this new feature where they track your location to track your work hours. The idea behind it is that they will know when you’re working by watching you come and go from work. The rep assumed that I must have entered my work address wrong. She asked me for my home address, and my work address, and then home address again. They obviously didn’t consider folks such as myself who work remotely. My work and my home are the same place, and I told her that from the beginning. She asked me at least 3 times until I think it finally registered that they are one in the same. Her instruction was to just shut the location services off after 11 hours every day. For an app I use maybe 1-2 x a month if any… that’s a bit much. It used to be that you could just take a picture of your time sheet and you had an advance in your account within an hour. Now they want to watch where you’re going?
4. Invasive: In order to use their “lightning speed” feature where money is in your account nearly instant, you must now give them your debit card number on top of the fact that they already have your routing and account #. Why in the world would that be necessary? That would mean that they have my workplace info, my debit card, my bank account info and my location at all times. That’s just scary and wholly unnecessary. It makes me lose all trust in an app I’ve been using for a long time now.
So today I opened the app for the last time. It said it can’t connect to my bank and wants me to enter my banking info again, and reminded me to give them my debit card # too. That’s enough for me. I’d rather use my credit cards.

Stephanie says:

Does the connection issue ever resolve? They took the 400 out of my account but now can’t connect to my bank for me to cash out. I really can’t afford going without the 400.

robson says:

from what it seems, they’re not an alternative to a payday loan, they ARE the payday loan, dressed differently and wearing glasses, so you can’t recognize them, its the devil in your phone and now you’ve given them access to your bank account!

Darren GalbraithI says:

I personally thought I liked this app but I don’t work at the same location or have digital time sheets so they don’t track my hours and won’t let me borrow after they got they’re money back witch really screws me. They don’t explain this up front. I think they should be sewed for false advertising

Nina Tofsrud says:

I was interested in this app. Should I go ahead and utilize it or not? Or does anyone know of a place better? I’m in texas..

Amanda Bennett says:

Don’t do it!!!! I’ve never had NSF fees and they are horrible!!! If you owe them they charge two transactions instead of one. #earninsucks!!!!

Michael says:

Wow! I am so glad that I took the time to read these comments. I definitely changed my mind in opening the app and set up an account. Commercials are awesome but that’s their intention. Thanks 😊

Walter B DICKEY says:

The absence of live knowledgeable customer service personnel is an obvious fault. How is the average worker drone to get hold of a digital time sheet?

Chris says:

Are loans given to people that receive social security?

Mel says:

I have used the earnin app twice and I think it’s a scam. I borrowed $100 and when my check went in the bank, earnin took out $109! Now I thought this was supposed to be a free service and you could pay them a tip if you wanted to? Well that is not true. They TOOK more from me than I even borrowed!

laina lundstrum says:

The tip wheel starts at $9. U tipped by mistake. I did this once and they credited me back

John says:

I absolutely loved this app. It’s very straightforward and they’re not trying to rip you off, like the payday loan idiots.

Michael Lathrop says:

I would be teaching my children about budgeting and saving. But…hey… instant gratification will be what this generation is known for and sadly it wont be their fault.

Jason says:

I don’t know what some of these other commenters have encountered and if even which ones, if any at all have even used this app. I’ve been using this app since the beginning of this year. I’ve had to use the app inbetween every other pay period. I have yet to encounter any issues or even have a need to contact customer service. I always tip $4 for every $100 I have to pay back. I am able to withdraw $100 each day and up to $500 inbetween paydays (although I havent done more than $200 inbetween pay days). The more you use this app, to include just using my gps so the app can track my work hours, the better your experience with this app. I would suggest to make sure you enter CORRECT information when you first sign up (saves from future headaches). Just keep in mind that this is the internet and because of its anonymity, people sometimes with be negative just to be negative or just are people who “regularly” encounter issues all the time (means some people are just a pain in the neck).

Kevin says:

Just a heads up, they give you an option to “tip” them. I have found out that if you don’t put a tip on there, they will essentially punish you by dropping you max cash out amount. I was actually told this by customer support. This should be included in the terms of service.

Mika says:

but then why would you NOT tip at least some thing..! this is how we all get the money, right?

K253 says:

If you’ve ever personally had a payday loan, you’d know they expect you to pay that amount back plus at least 25%, Or a fixed amount based off the dollar amount. . I’ll gladly pay somebody back a tip for borrowing money I DID NOT HAVE. It’s like having interest at your control. I love this app. I only did it just to see the hype, and have a back up plan rather than asking a friend or family for money.

K253 says:

I agree with you

Rusty says:

So your OK with them advertising “no fees” and that being a lie?

Jayden says:

I have had a serious issue with the earnin app and their customer service team for about 2 months now. I keep getting one of two messages when I try and use the app which I have used multiple times in the past. I either get told they can’t log me in or to enter the 4 digit code sent to me by my bank. I have been emailing back and forth with the same lady regarding the issue and keep getting told it’s fixed when it’s not. This is a horrible app to use. They have my banking info yet I can’t use the app. I have done EVERYTHING they’ve asked me to do and I’ve gotten no where.

Julie says:

Just signed up for this App and it connects to my bank, goes through verification and it’s complete! So I go to use the app and it says my bank account is -134 but it’s not. I sent a screen shot of the actual balance but it didn’t matter…. my account never has been -134 since I signed up so I don’t know where they get there info but it’s wrong. The chat person says they don’t get the “live” balance but it wasn’t negative at all since I signed up…ugh this is frustrating!

Danielle says:

Does not allow you to link bank account. This app is a joke. Do not use

Stephanie says:

It’s a pretty invasive app when you think about it. This app is not for people who have mobile jobs or work remotely. It relies on the location of the mobile device in which the app is installed to determine if you are working each day. So if you are a salaried teacher who gets paid over the Summer unless you take the mobile device to the school each day to “clock in” for a few hours, you cannot use this app.
I do not bring my mobile device to work – it’s a tablet that does not have a data connection and there is no WiFi at work. I tried to explain this to customer services 3 times before they finally understood what I was trying to say. Then they told me I could not use this app.
This app is a joke. It will never be able to help the most vulnerable and needy people who work non traditional job. This app is part of the problem that the company claims it’s trying to solve.

Jay says:

I would like to know how many people had their Earnin App placed on hold for some erroneous reason over a holiday weekend? The app will deduct money owed then not allow u to borrow it pack if there’s a projected funding shortage. If u owe a deduction near a holiday, do not allow the app payment if u really are in need of the funds.

Brandy says:

I have had nothing but problems with this company. I rarely use it but when I have its been issue after issue. I have provided my info for my personal bank account. I have sent multiple screen shots of my pay stubs. I have sent multiple screen shots of my bank account after all that. I give the app permission to track my location at all times. THEN every time I was opening the app it was asking for more screen shots. I found out that my app needed to be deleted and reinstalled. I did that, I was able to cash out, hadnt used it in 6 months or so? Then what happens…they take the money back the day before I got paid, fortunately my husbands paycheck was in there to cover it. I chat with support, they ask me to send MORE screen shots to which I replied you have ENOUGH. I just told Marnelli, the agent I chatted with, who was VERY VERY UNHELPFUL to delete my account, I am so over it. I also asked for my “tip” back because their service wasnt performed correctly. Marnelli then deleted all the previous support messages, (I have screen shots). This company is a JOKE.

Brianna says:

The earnin app works fine for me and it functions well and exactly as advertised no bank issues or what. Idk why y’all are having issues. They’ll ask you to tip but you don’t have to or you can just give 0.50 cents to $1.00 and that’s pretty much the part that’s considered a scam but really it’s more like the fee. It’s a great app that helps if you need emergency money for whatever life event you have. I only would recommend it if you have a stable job with stable income, and use direct deposit through a checking account and that’s all you need really to use earnin. I love it it’s honestly been a lifesaver regardless of negative reviews I went ahead and gave it a try and it works 100% it’s honestly better than most payday loan apps because it’s legitimate and I trust them. Sorry for everyone else who had a bad experience I wish you better luck and for those thinking about trying it I think you really should. But use it as an emergency payday loan. Be responsible and be safe!