Best Cash Advance Apps – Low Cost Payday Loan Alternatives

If you’re a user of payday loans, you may be relieved to learn there’s a viable alternative – and one that costs a lot less.

Cash advance apps have sprung up in recent years to provide short-term funding for consumers with bad credit who need an advance on their next paycheck. They provide both greater flexibility and lower cost than payday loans.

Table of Contents
  1. What is a Cash Advance App?
  2. The Best Cash Advance Apps
    1. Albert
    2. GO2bank
    3. Brigit
    4. Empower
    5. Cash App
    6. Earnin
    7. Kora Money
    8. Money Lion
    9. Dave
  3. Cash Advance App Alternatives
  4. Bottom Line

What is a Cash Advance App?

Much like a payday loan, a cash advance forwards you money against your next payroll deposit. The amounts available are relatively small, ranging from $25 to as much as $500, but that may be enough to get you through until your next paycheck comes in.

You will typically be required to have an active checking account – or set one up through the cash advance app – and receive regular direct deposits of either payroll checks or benefit checks. In most cases, no credit check will be performed but the loan company will automatically withdraw their payment from your checking account.

The service will advance you the amount needed, with full repayment to take place upon receipt of your direct deposit. Some apps charge a fee for the advance, while others will provide it free of charge under certain circumstances. The funds advanced can generally be used for any purpose.

Many apps also offer banking services, including debit cards with free ATM access, interest-bearing savings, budgeting tools, and other features.

They are much more accommodating than payday loans, where you will find effective interest rates in the 300%-400% range, and which carry a prescribed list of intimidating retaliation tactics if you’re unable to pay.

But one thing a cash advance app has in common with a payday loan is that it reduces the amount of your next direct deposit.

Like payday loans, cash advance apps don’t remove the need to properly manage your finances. For that reason, they are best used only infrequently. But if the need arises, it’s good to know they’re available.

The Best Cash Advance Apps

Albert

Albert is a personal finance app that looks to help you better manage your money. To that end, they offer banking services through Sutton Bank, Member FDIC, and a slew of banking services like a checking and savings account, investing account, and even a cash advance with no fees.

Albert has essentially two tiers of service – the standard and the Genius account. The Genius account is a “pay what is fair” fee model where you decide how much their service is worth and pay what you believe is fair.

If you do need a cash advance, they will front $250 from your next paycheck directly to your bank account and you repay them when your paycheck comes in. You can pay a small fee to get it instantly or free within 2-3 days.

💰 For a limited time, there’s also a $150 cash bonus when you set up a new account and receive a qualifying direct deposit of at least $200 and spend at least $100 on goods and services every 30 days for 90 consecutive days with your Albert debit card.

👉 Learn more about Albert

GO2bank

GO2bank describes itself as “the ultimate mobile bank account.” They offer an overdraft protection provision, rather than a cash advance. But there are plenty of other features with this service, including the ability to earn up to 1% on your savings. You can also earn up to 7% instant cash back when you buy eGift Cards (from nearly 100 popular brands/merchants) in the app.

To purchase the eGift Cards, an activated chip-enabled GO2bank card is required, as is an active GO2bank account for receiving eGift Cards. GO2bank advises that merchants are subject to change (see GO2bank’s Deposit Account Agreement for more details.)

The account will give you the ability to cash a check using the mobile deposit feature and pay bills. Meanwhile, they offer a secured credit card, complete with automatic reporting to all three major credit bureaus, to help you build your credit1.

GO2bank provides overdraft protection up to $2002. That automatically covers purchases that exceed your available balance.

You can get Overdraft Protection up to $200, which is based on the count and value of direct deposits in a given time-frame. That will affect the overdraft amount available to you. Opt-in is required. Fees and eligibility requirements apply. For more information, check out GO2bank’s Overdraft Protection Disclosure.

The coverage amounts available are as follows:

  • Basic: $10 coverage when you receive a single direct deposit of any amount
  • Premium 100: $100 coverage when you receive at least 2 direct deposits totaling $200+ in a 35 day period
  • Premium 200: $200 coverage when you receive at least 2 direct deposits totaling $400+ in a 35 day period

GO2bank also offers a high-yield savings account, based on a system they refer to as “vaults.” These are subaccounts where you allocate money for specific saving purposes. You can earn up to 1% APY on up to $5,000 in funds deposited into vaults, though unallocated balances earn no interest.

  • Amount of cash advance: Up to $200 overdraft protection
  • Time from request to receipt: Instant
  • Credit check: No
  • Repayment terms: 24 hours
  • Fees: $5 monthly fee for the app, waived if you receive a direct deposit (payroll or government benefits) in the previous monthly statement period.

Learn more about GO2bank

1 Available only to GO2bank accountholders with direct deposits totaling at least $100 in the past 30 days. Eligibility criteria applies. Other fees apply.

2 Activated, chip-enabled debit card and opt-in required. $15 fee may apply to each eligible purchase transaction that brings your account negative. Balance must be brought to at least $0 within 24 hours of authorization of the first transaction that overdraws your account to avoid the fee. We require immediate payment of each overdraft and overdraft fee. Overdrafts paid at our discretion, and we do not guarantee that we will authorize and pay any transaction. Learn more about Overdraft Protection (PDF).

Brigit

Brigit continuously analyzes your account balance then it lets you know when you won’t be able to cover upcoming expenses. When that happens, it offers Auto Advances. The cash advance can then be sent automatically to avoid overdraft fees.

Brigit also gives you access to your credit report, to help you improve your credit. If you ever experience a data breach, they provide up to $1 million in identity theft protection insurance.

And like Dave, the app will help you find side gigs, and even full- or part-time jobs to increase your income.

Brigit offers two plans, Free and Plus. The Free helps you to find a side hustle to increase your income, and also provides a financial helper service to give you practical information on your past, current, and future financial outcomes, as well as personalized content and tips to help you improve your finances. However, the Free version does not provide cash advances.

The Plus plan is a premium service, with a $9.99 per month subscription fee. It comes with both instant deposit of cash advances, as well as the auto-advance feature if your budget is running low. This is the service that also provides credit monitoring and identity theft protection, along with all the services offered with the Free plan.

  • Amount of cash advance: Up to $250 
  • Time from request to receipt: Within 20 minutes
  • Credit check: No
  • Repayment terms: Upon receipt of your next direct deposit, which will be automatically deducted
  • Fees: No direct fee for cash advances, but requires a monthly subscription fee of $9.99 to access the service

Learn more about Brigit

Empower

Empower is a financial app that provides cash advances of $250. It’s a subscription service, though there is no fee for cash advances. 

The cash advance feature will work best if you open an Empower Checking Account because the transfer of funds will be instant. The account also features a Visa debit card, access to more than 37,000 ATMs, no account minimums, unlimited transfers, and no overdraft fees. 

But you can also earn interest on the balance in your account, currently at 0.05% APY on all balances. Debit card purchases earn up to 10% cash-back rewards on select categories and merchants. 

The only fees are an $8 per month subscription fee, and a 1% foreign transaction fee.

The account also comes with automatic savings, budget tracking, and smart recommendations to show you how to save more money.

  • Amount of cash advance: $250
  • Time from request to receipt: Instantly into an Empower Checking Account, but there is a small fee if the advance is transferred to an external account
  • Credit check: No
  • Repayment terms: Upon receipt of your next direct deposit, which will be automatically deducted
  • Fees: No fee for an individual cash advance, but $8 per month after a 14-day free trial

Learn more about Empower

Cash App

Cash App is a payments platform owned by Square, which is itself a payment processing platform. Cash App is very popular for a variety of reasons (you can get free money for joining Cash App).

They also offer the ability to borrow money, called Cash App Borrow, if you make regular deposits. You can borrow up to $200 if you make $1,000 in regular deposits. The service was in beta for a short time but now appears available to people who make regular deposits. In this regard, it’s a bit like a secured loan (but not quite) in that they have your deposit history as an indication of your ability to pay. There is still a potential credit check.

The Cash App limits you to one loan at a time, so you must pay off your first loan before you are permitted to request another advance.

  • Amount of cash advance: $20 to $200
  • Time from request to receipt: Instant
  • Credit check: Yes
  • Repayment terms: Four weeks, then after a 1 week grace period, 1.25% interest is added to each payment
  • Fees: 5% of the loan amount

Learn more about Cash App

Earnin

Earnin is another banking app providing cash advances – known as Cash Outs. While you will initially be limited to no more than $100, that limit can eventually be increased to $500 from your paycheck per pay period. It appears to be the cash advance app that most closely resembles traditional payday loans. (Earnin has many alternatives, several of which are in this post)

To qualify for an account, you must be employed and have a bank account into which your paycheck is direct deposited. As a member, you can access up to $100 of your accrued earnings per day, up to $500 per pay period.

The service is completely free to use, but you can leave tips of up to $14. This is the revenue the service earns for what it provides.

Earnin is designed to help you better manage your account and avoid overdraft fees. For example, they will message you when your bank balance falls below $200, and even send automatic Cash Outs when needed.

  • Amount of cash advance: $100 to $500
  • Time from request to receipt: Instant
  • Credit check: No
  • Repayment terms: Upon receipt of your next direct deposit, which will be automatically deducted
  • Fees: Free, but they accept tips up to $14

Learn more about Earnin

Kora Money

Kora Money, formerly Boro, is a money-tracking and micro-lending app designed specifically for college students. But they offer what is perhaps the most generous cash advance limit in the industry – up to $2,000.

Called KoraCash, it works differently from other cash advance services in that it’s more like a line of credit. Once the line has been established, in whatever amount you’ve been approved for, you can access funds when needed, repay them, then borrow them again at a future date.

The advantage of the line of credit arrangement is that it will help you build credit. Since most college students don’t have much credit, this feature will be one of the major benefits of the service.

At the time you access your credit line, you can choose a repayment term of one-, three-, six- or 12-months. A one-month repayment term is provided interest-free.

The app is currently available in 21 states, with four more states coming soon.

  • Amount of cash advance: Up to $2,000
  • Time from request to receipt: Instant
  • Credit check: No
  • Repayment terms: One-, three-, six- and 12-months
  • Fees: Interest (none on a repayment term of one month, but up to 19.9% APR for longer terms) 

Learn more about Kora Money

Money Lion

Money Lion is a financial app that provides an all-in-one mobile banking experience. The cash advance feature is provided through Instacash, which gives you access to up to $250 at any time, with no interest and no monthly fees. The amount of your cash advance limit will be determined by your recurring deposits. Those can include direct deposit of payroll checks, government benefits, or other sources. The higher and more consistent the deposits are, the higher your cash advance limit will be.

You’ll start with immediate access to $25; this will increase to between $50 and $250 once the app detects recurring deposits. But if you switch your direct deposits to their RoarMoney (get direct deposit funds two days early) feature, or become a member of Credit Builder Plus, your cash advance limit can increase to as much as $300.

The company reports you’ll be able to receive cash advances equal to 30% of your direct deposit amount per pay period or benefit check. That means a $500 deposit will give you access to as much as $150.

  • Amount of cash advance: $50 to $300
  • Time from request to receipt: Instant to 5 business days
  • Credit check: No
  • Repayment terms: Upon receipt of your next direct deposit, which will be automatically deducted
  • Fees: None for delivery within 12 hours to five business days; $3.99 for instant delivery to your RoarMoney account; $4.99 for instant delivery to an external checking account or debit card

Learn more about Money Lion

Dave

Dave is a banking app that describes itself as “banking for humans.” The app is used by more than 10 million members, and will provide up to $200 in cash advances, free of charge. To be eligible for the cash advance, you must have two qualifying direct deposits totaling at least $1,000 into your Dave Banking Account. 

The account has no minimum balance requirement and no overdraft fees. The debit card can be used fee-free at more than 32,000 ATMs. The app also provides budgeting capabilities, and even a unique feature to help you find a side hustle to earn extra money.

Along with your Dave account, a partner firm known as LevelCredit will report your rent payments to the major credit bureaus, giving you a chance to build your credit history.

  • Amount of cash advance: $200 with a Dave spending account, up to $100 without
  • Time from request to receipt: Up to three days, but instantly with an express fee
  • Credit check: No
  • Repayment terms: Upon receipt of your next direct deposit, which will be automatically deducted
  • Fees: $1 per month subscription fee; 3% foreign transaction fee

Learn more about Dave

Cash Advance App Alternatives

Consumers who need specific cash advance apps or payday loans often do so because they have poor credit. Given that payday loans have astronomical fees and cash advances provided by cash advance apps are no more than a few hundred dollars, you may want to consider other alternatives. And fortunately, they do exist.

If you’re looking for a larger amount of money, and a longer repayment term, you can consider personal loans for bad or poor credit.

These are loans in amounts ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, with terms ranging from 36 months to 60 months. Interest rates can be as high as 36%, but still with some lenders and certain credit profiles. But they do offer larger loan amounts than either payday loans or cash advances, and the funds can be used for any purpose.

Still another option is Payday Loan Alternatives (PALs) offered by credit unions. These are small, short-term loans designed specifically to provide an alternative to high-cost payday loans for consumers with bad credit.

To qualify, you must be a member of a participating credit union for at least one month. Loan limits are between $200 and $1,000, with terms ranging from one month to six months.

There is a $20 loan application fee, but you may be eligible for as many as three PALs during a six-month timeframe as long as there are no loan overlaps.

Also consider earning some quick cash instead of taking out a loan. Here are several ways to find quick cash.

Bottom Line

Even if you have bad credit, you don’t need to turn to high-cost payday loans to cover short-term needs. There are plenty of alternatives available in the form of cash advances, small personal loans, and credit union payday alternative loans.

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About Kevin Mercadante

Since 2009, Kevin Mercadante has been sharing his journey from a washed-up mortgage loan officer emerging from the Financial Meltdown as a contract/self-employed "slash worker" – accountant/blogger/freelance blog writer – on OutofYourRut.com. He offers career strategies, from dealing with under-employment to transitioning into self-employment, and provides "Alt-retirement strategies" for the vast majority who won’t retire to the beach as millionaires.

He also frequently discusses the big-picture trends that are putting the squeeze on the bottom 90%, offering workarounds and expense cutting tips to help readers carve out more money to save in their budgets – a.k.a., breaking the "savings barrier" and transitioning from debtor to saver.

Kevin has a B.S. in Accounting and Finance from Montclair State University.

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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