Best Paycheck Advance Apps of 2021: What You Need to Know

Nearly 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck[1]. That means that a single unexpected expense of even a few hundred dollars can wipe out the average person’s bank account. The free market has created dozens of products to help with (and capitalize on) this issue. Some of them, like paycheck advance apps, can be helpful when you use them correctly. Others, like payday loans, are almost always destructive.

If you need a small amount of financial support, knowing how to get safe funding can save you years of trouble, not to mention quite a bit of money. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, cash advance apps are an option that you can’t afford to ignore. Here’s what you need to know about them, including what they are, how they work, and which ones are best to use.

What Are Paycheck Advance Apps?

Paycheck advance apps are a recent development in financial technology that lets people access the money they earn before they would typically receive it. Because most Americans receive their paychecks bi-weekly or semi-monthly, they go weeks at a time without any income. Workers can use these apps to access their earnings during those periods to avoid debt and overdraft fees.

The apps aren’t without their issues, but they’re usually much safer than other types of cash advances and short-term loans. Unlike payday loans, tribal installment loans, and credit card advances, paycheck advances usually don’t accrue any interest. As a result, these apps are infinitely cheaper than other short-term lending options.

How Do Paycheck Advance Apps Work?

Paycheck advances apps let borrowers tap into money that they’ve earned (but not collected) when they need it. Instead of failing to pay a bill and losing money to late or overdraft fees, they can take the advance.

For example, imagine someone who expects a $2,000 paycheck on the 15th of each month. On the 10th, they find that their credit card bill is coming due. They’re out of cash, but they’ve already earned 2/3rds of their paycheck (about $1,300). One of these apps could let them tap into those earnings to pay their bill.

There’s usually a limit to how much a user can borrow against their paycheck during each pay period. It’s typically somewhere between $100 and $500. The worker from the example above might not be able to access all $1,300, but they should still be able to cover their bill.

Paycheck advance apps are usually superior to other short-term financing options because the price tag is much lower. Borrowing $500 from a payday or tribal lender will almost always end up costing thousands of dollars in fees and interest. 

Meanwhile, most paycheck advance apps don’t charge any interest at all. Instead, they’ll ask that users “tip” the apps when they have the spare cash. Some of them charge a monthly fee, but they’re usually no more than a few dollars.

How to Get a Paycheck Advance

Most paycheck advance apps have few qualification requirements. To get a paycheck advance, users typically only need to have the following:

  • Stable income with regular (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) paychecks
  • Checking account with direct deposit set up
  • Means of verifying that they’ve worked (location services or timesheet)

Paycheck advance apps don’t usually check anyone’s credit or make them jump through hoops to access their services. Just download the app and follow their instructions. Most should be available on both Google Play and the iOS App Store.

How Fast Can I Get a Paycheck Advance?

Paycheck advances are all about timing. Their whole purpose is to shorten the time people wait before they see the profits from their labor. They’re not even really loans in the traditional sense, but rather a tool for people to smooth out their cash flows.

By definition, the designers of these apps know that people use them because they need cash now. As a result, most of them allow users to get their funding pretty quickly. Downloading the app and getting set up should only take a few minutes, and getting the funds usually only takes a day or two, at most.

Should You Use Paycheck Advance Apps?

There are a lot of benefits to paycheck advance apps. They’re accessible and affordable, which is a lot more than most lenders can say about their products. Paycheck advances can save people from overdraft fees, unnecessary loans, and late fees.

Also, if a borrower fails to pay back their paycheck advance, there won’t be any significant repercussions. It might cause the app to block the account holder until they pay off the balance, but there will be no interest, penalties, or damage to credit scores. Best of all, they won’t pursue the user or send debt collectors after them.

Take a look at what Earnin (one of our favorite paycheck advance apps) has to say in their terms and conditions:

“We will have no legal or contractual claim or remedy against you based on your failure to repay any Cash Out, Max Boost, Balance Shield Cash Out, or Cash Out via Earnin Express you take[…] Earnin will not engage in any debt collection activities if the amount of the Cash Out is not repaid on the scheduled date, place the amount of the Cash Out as a debt with, or sell it to, a third party, or report to a consumer reporting agency concerning the amount of the payout.”

That’s a far cry from the aggressive tactics that most lenders use to get their money back. The stakes are far lower with paycheck advance apps, which can take a lot of pressure off the transaction.

So, while paycheck advance apps aren’t something to use frivolously, they are a far better option than most. If the only other choices are expensive loans or paying extra fees, most people should go with the paycheck advance.

The Long-Term Risks of Using Paycheck Advance Apps

Paycheck advance apps are safer than short-term loans, but it’s still not the best idea to use them continually. Most of them have minor costs in the grand scheme of things, but they are a sign that something is deeply wrong with a person’s financial health.

The implication of someone having to use a paycheck advance is that their financial margins are far too thin. They keep such a small amount of money after their expenses that they can’t afford to make it to their next payday.

Now, some people come from much better financial situations than others. It’s understandable for this to happen occasionally to those who are at a financial disadvantage or dealing with extended unemployment. In the early days of adulthood, it can be difficult for some to build up a financial buffer.

That said, it’s still dangerous and a warning sign that something needs to change. Remember, living paycheck to paycheck is common in America, but it’s not healthy. It’s like obesity: Rampant in America, but not something people should be content to accept in their own lives.

What to Look for in Paycheck Advance Apps

While paycheck advance apps are generally superior to other short-term financing options like payday loans, they’re not all equal to each other. When sorting between the options out there, pay attention to the following qualities in particular:

  • Cost: Paycheck advance apps don’t traditionally charge interest on their balances, but some do. They may also have a monthly fee to access their services, somewhere between $1 and $10. The best apps skip this, though, and just allow users to leave a tip when they can afford it. Do consider leaving a tip when possible because it helps keep the service free.
  • Borrowing Limits: Some apps let people access more money than others. The low end is usually $100, while the high end is somewhere around $500. Don’t make the mistake of signing up for one, thinking they’ll cover an entire expense, and then not being able to get the necessary amount. Note that some of them advertise an upper limit that not everyone will qualify for. Read the fine print!
  • Accessibility and User Interface: Some apps will do more than just give an advance. Many also have ways to help people with their budgets, earn extra income, or learn to manage their finances more efficiently. Don’t forget to consider these. The advance is only a temporary solution, and improving cash flow is far better.
  • Customer Service: It’s always a good idea to work with a lender that has a solid system in place to support their customers. Check out each app’s review scores and general online reputation before doing business with them.

We kept each of these in mind while looking for the best paycheck advance apps. Here are the results of our search.

Best Paycheck Advance Apps (Updated 2021)

More and more paycheck advance apps are entering the market each day. Not all of them are going to be worth using. Based on the criteria above, these are the best ones available in 2021.

1. Earnin

  • Estimated APR: N/A
  • Minimum Credit Score: N/A
  • Loan Amount: Up to $100 per pay period
  • Pros
    • No costs to borrow (tips optional)
    • Overdraft prevention tools
  • Cons
    • Fairly low borrowing limit
    • Only counts income from one employer; no side income
    • Potentially invasive to your privacy
  • Best For: Paying as little as possible
  • Credit check: No
  • BBB Rating: A

2. Possible

  • Estimated APR: 150% to 200% APR
  • Minimum Credit Score: N/A
  • Loan Amount: Up to $500 per pay period
  • Pros:
    • Potential to build up your credit score
    • Higher borrowing limit than other options
  • Cons:
    • More expensive than other options
  • Best For: Taking out a large advance
  • Credit check: No
  • BBB Rating: A-

3. Dave

  • Estimated APR: N/A
  • Minimum Credit Score: N/A
  • Loan Amount: Up to $100 per pay period
  • Pros:
    • No interest on cash advance
    • Helps users with budgeting and side hustles
  • Cons:
    • $1 monthly membership fee
    • Lower borrowing limit than other options
  • Best For: Improving other financial areas
  • Credit Check: No
  • BBB Rating: B

4. Even

  • Estimated APR: N/A
  • Minimum Credit Score: N/A
  • Loan Amount: 50% of earned income to date in a pay period
  • Pros
    • High borrowing limit
    • No interest on cash advances
    • Free-to-access budget and saving tools
  • Cons
    • $6 monthly fee to access advances
  • Best For: People with higher earning power
  • Credit check: No
  • BBB Rating: A+

5. Brigit

  • Estimated APR: N/A
  • Minimum Credit Score: N/A
  • Loan Amount: $250 per pay period
  • Pros:
    • Decent borrowing limit
    • Side income and budgeting help
  • Cons:
    • $10 monthly fee 
  • Best For: Borrowing limit and financial tools
  • Credit check: No
  • BBB Rating: C+

Final Verdict

Paycheck advance apps can be a helpful way to fund an occasional short-term emergency, but they’re not a sustainable strategy. If you find yourself resorting to them multiple times or needing them to get through each month, take a look at your finances: There’s an imbalance in the equation of your cash flows.

You need to find a way to increase your income or reduce your expenses. That’s easier said than done, but it is possible for most people. If you continue living paycheck to paycheck, you’ll inevitably find yourself in a situation where the cash advance is unavailable to cover your latest emergency. That leads people down all sorts of dark roads.

If you’re struggling with debt and need help getting your finances under control, consider reaching out to a credit counselor. They’re experts in personal money management and can help you get back on your feet. Best of all, their services are free of charge. Contact a local service provider today!