4 apps like MoneyLion for small cash advances

Two smiling women compare cash advance apps like MoneyLion on their phones.Image: Two smiling women compare cash advance apps like MoneyLion on their phones.

In a Nutshell

If you’re looking for a small cash advance, apps like MoneyLion can help tide you over until the next payday rolls around. Some also offer features such as budgeting, credit building and overdraft protection. And while you might be able to get a cash advance loan interest free, you may have to pay a membership fee or give a tip to use an app’s service.
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The MoneyLion app may be a good choice if you’re looking for a cash advance app that can help you get paid up to two days early.

You can get up to $250 without a credit check and you won’t have to pay interest on the loan. (But keep in mind you may face a fee depending on your membership level.)

But MoneyLion isn’t the only paycheck advance app that can help you make ends meet between paychecks or cover an unexpected expense. You might also want to consider other cash advance apps such as Chime, Dave, Earnin or Branch.

We’ve rounded up our top picks for apps like MoneyLion to help you compare features and benefits so that you can find the best app for your financial needs.

Good for overdraft protection: Chime

Why Chime stands out: Even if your Chime account balance is low, the app’s SpotMe program can help you out by covering up to $200 on debit card purchases or cash withdrawals without charging you an overdraft fee. But to qualify, you’ll need to have a solid account history with Chime — and the amount SpotMe advances starts at just $20.

  • Savings tools: With Chime, you can choose to set aside a percentage of your paycheck and save automatically. And each time you use your Chime debit card, your transaction will be rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the difference being deposited into your savings.
  • Get paid early: Chime offers a feature that allows you to get your paycheck at least two days early. To be eligible, you’ll need to set up direct deposit with your Chime account.
  • Banking platform: Chime offers a checking account with no overdraft fees, monthly maintenance fees or in-network ATM fees.

Good for establishing credit: Dave

Why Dave stands out: If you’re a Dave banking customer and set up direct deposits, you can take advantage of Dave’s partnership with LevelCredit to help build your credit. Through the partnership, both your utility and rent payments will get reported to the major credit bureaus. If you don’t sign up for Dave’s banking, you can still take advantage of the program, but it will cost you $100 a year.

  • Up to $250 cash advance: If you’re in a cash crunch, you can get up to a $250 cash advance if you’re a qualifying member.
  • Monthly fee: To use Dave, you’ll have to pay a membership fee of $1 a month. You can cancel your membership at any time. But if you change your mind and want to rejoin, you’ll have to wait 60 days.
  • Budgeting features: By linking to your bank account, Dave can help you keep an eye on your spending and let you know about upcoming bills. And if an upcoming recurring expense might put you in danger of overdrafting, Dave will give you a heads-up.

Read our Dave app review to learn more.

Good for quick access to larger amounts of cash: Earnin

Why Earnin stands out: When you start out with Earnin, you’ll only be able to get a cash advance of up to $100 per pay period using its Cash Out feature. But this amount could get bumped up to $500 as you establish positive financial behaviors such as continuing to use the app and paying back Earnin regularly. And if you meet the right conditions, you can get your cash in just minutes.

The app also offers an Earnin Express feature that may let you borrow up to $1,000 in advance against your paycheck. But you’ll have to route your paycheck through Earnin to qualify.

  • Overdraft protection: You can opt into Earnin’s Balance Shield alerts, which enable you to receive balance alerts when your bank balance is starting to get low. Then, you can set up automatic transfers up to $100 into your account before payday to prevent an overdraft.
  • No interest or fees: Earnin doesn’t charge its users a fee to use the service, and it doesn’t charge interest either. But you can “tip” a contribution during cash out to help support the service.
  • Need to have a steady paycheck: To use Earnin, you’ll need to be on a regular pay cycle that’s weekly, biweekly, semimonthly or monthly. You’ll also need to have a fixed work location and keep track of your time either online or on printed paper. And you’ll need to have at least 50% of your paycheck direct deposited into a checking account.

Read our Earnin app review to learn more.

Good for budgeting tools: Branch

Why Branch stands out: Through Branch’s budgeting tools, you can receive alerts of upcoming bills and low balances, track your spending and get insights on where you’re spending your money.

  • Instant transfer available: If you sign up for a Branch wallet and debit card, you can tap into your cash advance right away. Otherwise, it takes up to three days for the money to drop into your debit card or external bank. There’s an instant transfer option to an external bank, but it will cost you a fee: $2.99 to $4.99, depending on the amount you transfer.
  • Not for remote workers: Currently, Branch doesn’t support employees who work remotely. Your location on the Branch app needs to match the location where you show up for work.
  • Need to meet certain criteria: If you want to get a cash advance through Branch, you’ll have to show that you have at least two consecutive months’ pay from the same employer and that your paychecks are deposited into a bank that’s supported by Branch. Otherwise, it’s a no go.

Read our Branch app review to learn more.

What you should know about apps like MoneyLion

Apps like MoneyLion might be able to help tide you over until your next payday. And since they don’t come with the high costs of payday loans, they could seem like an appealing option if you need cash quickly.

But even though you may be able to borrow small amounts of money in between paychecks without having to pay interest, you could be on the hook for a monthly membership fee to use the app.

If you’re self-employed or don’t have a traditional job with a paycheck, you may not be able to qualify for an app like MoneyLion. A payday alternative loan from a federal credit union may be a good alternative. The fees on these loans are generally capped, and you usually have more time to pay them off.

How we picked these apps

We looked at 10 apps like MoneyLion, comparing features such as eligibility requirements, fee structures, interest rates, loan amounts and the ability to build credit. We also researched and compared their benefits, including financial education resources and overdraft protection.

About the author: Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based money writer who is passionate about helping creatives with their finances and cultivating community among entrepreneurs. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and FinTech startups, and… Read more.