Branch app review: A payday loan alternative

Woman sitting outside on some steps, smiling and reading a review of the Branch app on her phone Image: Woman sitting outside on some steps, smiling and reading a review of the Branch app on her phone

In a Nutshell

The Branch app allows you to request an advance on your paycheck through a feature called Pay, which may be a lower-cost alternative to a payday loan. Instead of paying traditional interest on this advance, you can just leave a tip for the service. But not everyone is eligible for Pay, and the maximum advance amount is limited to $150 per day or $500 in a pay period.

Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors' opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about our team.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

Pros Cons

No advance fee — unless you want money “instantly”

Advance amounts limited to $150 day or $500 per pay period

No membership fees

Must have a debit card from a supported bank

 

Not available to remote employees

 

Must download the Branch mobile app to request advances


What you need to know about the Branch app

If you’re facing a financial emergency and need money before you get your next paycheck, the Branch app may be a good alternative to explore instead of a payday loan. Branch allows you to access a portion of your paycheck early if you’re eligible to use Pay. And instead of paying interest or fees, you can tip the service.

If you’re thinking about using Branch, here are some things to keep in mind.

An “instant” option — for a fee

You may be able to get money quickly with the Branch app if you’re willing to pay for quicker access. Branch charges $3.99 for amounts less than $75 or $4.99 for amounts of $75 or more.

But you can always opt for the standard advance — which has no fee — and Branch says you may receive your money within three business days.

Advance amounts are limited

While the Branch app may give you early access to your paycheck, you’re limited in how much money you can advance. You can request only $150 per day or $500 per pay period. So if you have a more expensive emergency — such as a costly car repair — you may want to look for another option, such as a traditional personal loan.

No interest charges

With payday loans, you can expect sky-high APRs that can often reach as high as 400%, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

By contrast, paycheck advances through the Branch app don’t have any interest charges. Instead, you can leave a tip in exchange for the service.

Not available to remote workers

The Branch app is available only to people who work in traditional offices. So remote employees aren’t eligible to use Pay. And if you do work in an office, you’ll also need to meet a number of other requirements to be eligible. Some requirements include …

  • History of two consecutive months of direct deposits into a checking account at a supported bank
  • A debit card that matches your supported checking account
  • Recent spending activity that Branch doesn’t consider to be “high”

A closer look at the Branch app

Here are a few more things you should know about the Branch app.

  • iOS and Android compatibility — You can download the Branch app through Apple’s iOS App Store or the Google Play Store if you’re an Android user.
  • Confidentiality — Paycheck advances are confidential, so you don’t have to worry about your employer knowing about your advance requests.
  • Repaying an advance — Branch will automatically withdraw the advanced amount from your checking account on your next scheduled payday. If your pay date is scheduled for a different date, contact Branch to reschedule to avoid overdraft fees from your bank.
  • Employer features — Branch also partners with certain employers, so they can use Branch to offer workers additional shifts.

Should I get a paycheck advance from Branch?

Taking out a paycheck advance from Branch may be a good idea if you’re an on-site, hourly worker facing an unexpected financial emergency and you don’t have any other way to cover the cost. Using the Branch app is likely less expensive than taking out a payday loan, so it may be a better decision to get you through a short-term crisis.

But borrowing against your future paychecks can be a risky practice, and it may cause you to overdraw your bank account or even lead you into debt. So if you find yourself repeatedly using the Branch app to take out paycheck advances, it may be worth reviewing your finances and creating a budget to identify the root causes of the problem.

You may also want to consider another option such as a payday alternative loan, which are offered by certain federal credit unions.

How to apply with Branch

To apply for a paycheck advance from Branch, you must first download the Branch app from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store to your smartphone. The app will guide you through some prompts to create an account. You’ll have to search for and add your work location as part of the process.

Account verification can take up to 24 hours to complete. Once your bank account has been verified and your account is activated, you can request your first paycheck advance. Keep in mind the eligibility requirements listed above.


Not sure if the Branch app is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • Earnin: If your bank isn’t supported by the Branch app, you may be able to access a portion of your paycheck early with the Earnin app. Earnin also asks for optional tips in exchange for its service.
  • Dave: If you need help budgeting, the Dave app will alert you it thinks you’re at risk of overdrafting your bank account. You can also apply to advance up to $100 with no interest. Keep in mind you’ll have to pay a $1 membership fee each month.