5 best apps that loan money

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In a Nutshell

With apps that loan money, you may be able to get a cash advance if you need to pay a bill or cover an unplanned expense before your next paycheck. We’ve rounded up our top picks, ranking them by features such as low fees, loan amounts, the ability to build credit and tools that make banking easier.

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If you find yourself strapped for cash before your next paycheck, it might be worth researching apps that loan money to find one that can provide the funds you need.

Here’s our take on the best apps currently available to help you decide which one — if any — is right for your situation. Note that we only included apps where you can apply for loans directly through the app and not just manage payments.

Best for low fees: Earnin

Why Earnin stands out: When you borrow money through the Earnin app, the company doesn’t charge interest or fees on your paycheck advance. Instead, it asks customers to consider providing an optional tip in an amount they think is appropriate. (But you don’t have to tip to use the app.)

  • Eligibility requirements — To use Earnin, you must have a consistent pay schedule — weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly or monthly. More than 50% of your paycheck must be sent to a single checking account by direct deposit each pay period. And you’ll need to either work at the same location every day or use electronic timesheets to track your hours.
  • Earnings — Your net pay rate — after taxes and other deductions — must be at least $4 an hour to use the app. Earnin calculates your pay rate based only on money that’s directly deposited into your checking account from a single employer. Earnin’s calculation won’t include income earned from tips or commissions that don’t get paid through direct deposit.
  • Withdrawal limits — You may borrow up to $100 per pay period when you begin using the app. As you continue using the app and paying Earnin back successfully, that limit may increase to up to $500.
  • Funding timeline — If you have Earnin’s “Lightning Speed” feature, the lender says you may be able to receive your money immediately. But if your bank doesn’t support this option, you won’t be able to use it. Without Lightning Speed, Earnin says you’ll typically receive your money in one to two business days.
  • Overdraft protection — If you sign up for Balance Shield alerts, Earnin will notify you when your bank balance is getting low, which can help you avoid overdraft fees. If your checking account balance falls below $100, you can sign up for Balance Shield Cash Outs, which automatically cashes out up to $100 of your earnings, which could help you avoid incurring a negative balance on your account.

Read our Earnin app review to learn more.

Best for small loan amounts: Dave

Why Dave stands out: If you need extra cash to cover an expense before your next payday, Dave offers cash advances of up to $100.

  • Eligibility — There’s no credit check required to use the Dave app. But you must have a steady paycheck that’s set up with direct deposit into your checking account, and you need to show that you have enough money in your account to pay the advance back once you receive your next paycheck.
  • Membership fee — Dave charges a monthly membership fee of $1.
  • Low balance alerts — Dave sends alerts when your checking account balance is getting low or when you have a bill due, so you can decide whether to request a payday advance to help prevent overdraft fees.
  • No interest — Dave doesn’t charge interest on cash advances, but it asks for optional tips to help support the app.
  • Funding timeline — You can choose from two funding options: standard or express.  Standard funding is included with your monthly membership fee, but it takes up to three business days to receive your money. You may be able to get your money the same day you request it with the express option, but it costs a small fee (Dave doesn’t specify how much the fee is).

Read our Dave app review to learn more.

Best for building credit: MoneyLion

Why MoneyLion stands out: Unlike some other loan apps on this list, MoneyLion gives you a chance to build credit. When you get a credit-builder loan, MoneyLion reports your payments to the three major consumer credit bureaus. So by paying the loan back as agreed, you can establish a solid credit history with consistent, on-time payments.

  • Membership fee — To get a credit-builder loan through the MoneyLion app, you must have a Credit Builder Plus membership, which costs $19.99 a month.
  • No credit check required — MoneyLion doesn’t check your credit to determine your eligibility for its credit-builder loans. Instead, you’ll link your primary checking account, and the company will review your account activity to decide whether you qualify.
  • Interest rate — The interest rates on MoneyLion’s credit-builder loans range from competitive to high. But you can pay the loan off at any time without paying a prepayment penalty.
  • Access to funds — Credit-builder loans are available in amounts of up to $1,000. MoneyLoan will pay you a portion of the loan and deposit the rest of the money into an account, which you’ll receive after you pay off the loan.

Read our MoneyLion loan review to learn more.

Best for access to banking services: Branch

Why Branch stands out: Not only does Branch allow you to request cash advances for hours you’ve already worked, the company offers fee-free checking accounts, debit cards and ATM withdrawals at more than 40,000 locations.

  • Eligibility requirements — To use Branch Pay to get a cash advance, you must have at least two months of direct deposits from the same employer. Each deposit must be more than $40 and deposited into the same bank account with a participating bank.
  • Cash advance limits — The amount of money you can request for a cash advance is based on two things: your bank account direct deposit history and how much you spend compared to what you earn. When you first start using the app, Branch says your cash advance limit will be low. But as you use the app over time and repay your advances, your limit may increase.
  • Fees and interest — Branch doesn’t charge interest on cash advances, and its fees vary based on how you choose to receive the money. You can get “instant” access for free when the money is sent to your Branch debit card. Standard delivery to an external bank account or debit card, which should take three days, is also free. But if you want your money sent to an external bank account or debit card right away, Branch will charge you a fee of $2.99 – $4.99, depending on the amount you transfer.
  • Bill pay — You can set up autopay by linking either your Branch debit card or checking account to your merchant account. If you don’t have enough money in your Branch Wallet to cover a bill, Branch won’t pay it, and you won’t be charged an overdraft fee. But you’ll need to quickly find another way to pay the bill instead — you’ll want to try to avoid paying your bill late.

Read our Branch app review to learn more.

Best for helping you track your finances: Brigit

Why Brigit stands out: Brigit may advance you between $50 and $250, but you’ll have to pay $9.99 a month for its Brigit Plus plan to qualify for “instant transfers” and other features. The app, which is available on Android and Apple devices, stands out for its budgeting tools that help you track your spending and its “Brigit score” model. Your Brigit score ranges from 0 to 100 and measures three financial wellness metrics: bank account health, spending behavior and earnings profile. You’ll need a Brigit score of at least 70 to be approved for Brigit Instant Cash.

  • No interest or tips — Unlike Earnin and Dave, Brigit doesn’t ask for tips when you borrow money. The company also won’t perform a credit check. But keep in mind that if you’re paying for a Brigit Plus membership, the money isn’t free of fees.
  • Eligibility requirements — Brigit requires you to have at least three recurring deposits from the same employer to qualify.
  • Not compatible with all banks — Brigit says it works with more than 6,000 banks and credit unions, but that doesn’t guarantee it will work with yours. The company notes that it isn’t yet compatible with Chime Bank, Capital One, Net Spend or Varo.
  • Auto advances available — Brigit will analyze your spending habits in your checking account to predict if your balances are low and you’re in danger of overdrafting. Its “Auto Advances” feature will transfer money to your bank account automatically to prevent an overdraft from occurring.

Read our Brigit app review to learn more.

What you should know about apps that loan money

A number of apps that loan money allow you to borrow small amounts against your next paycheck. Since these apps typically charge lower fees than payday lenders, one of these apps may be a good choice if you’re in a pinch and need some extra cash to bridge the gap until you get paid.

But before you borrow money from an app or a traditional lender, it’s important to compare interest rates, fees and terms and calculate what you can afford to pay back. If you’re struggling to pay your bills, taking out a high-interest loan or a cash advance app with a monthly fee is not a long-term solution. Instead, try negotiating with lenders, utilities and other companies to get a lower interest rate or work out a payment plan.

How we picked these apps

We reviewed 10 apps to come up with our picks. The criteria we used to make our choices included eligibility requirements, fee structures, interest rates, loan amounts and the ability to build credit. We also considered what benefits each app offers, such as financial education resources, overdraft protection, and the availability of additional products and services.

About the author: Jennifer Brozic is a freelance financial services writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in communication management from Tow… Read more.