Cleo app review: Small cash advances for members

Man sitting in his living room, on the floor in front of his couch, looking at a Cleo cash advance on his mobile phoneImage: Man sitting in his living room, on the floor in front of his couch, looking at a Cleo cash advance on his mobile phone

In a Nutshell

Cleo offers cash advances up to $100 with no interest or credit checks. But you will have to pay a monthly fee and wait a few days for the funds.
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Pros

  • No credit check required
  • Interest-free cash advances
  • Built-in money-management tools

Cons

  • Low cash-advance maximum
  • Cash advances require membership
  • Transfers can take a few days
  • Lack of transparency about term

What you need to know about a Cleo cash advance

Cleo is a U.K.-founded finance app that’s available on Apple and Android devices and offers cash advances to eligible paying members without interest, additional fees or a credit check. While this app does seem to offer some useful budgeting and money-management tools, it’s challenging to find clear, detailed information on the Cleo site about fees, benefits and how the app works.

The Cleo site is colorful and trendy but the FAQ section and terms are lacking — especially when compared to traditional banks and more established online lenders.

If you’re considering using the Cleo app, here are a few important things to keep in mind.

Membership required for cash advances

If you want to use Cleo for cash advances, you won’t be able to do so unless Cleo determines that you’re eligible and you’ve already paid for one of its subscription plans — Cleo Plus or Cleo Builder.

The least expensive of the two, Cleo Plus runs $5.99 a month, or about $72 annually. This is pretty steep — especially considering Cleo’s low cash advance cap. Before signing up, it’s a good idea to keep these costs in mind, especially if you’re already having trouble making ends meet between paychecks or aren’t sure if you’ll need to borrow cash.

Small cash advance amounts

While Cleo’s cash advances can help you out in a pinch until your next paycheck, you won’t be able to borrow more than $100 at a time. And if it’s your first time using the Cleo app, you’ll only be eligible for $20–$70. Once you repay the cash advance, you may be able to borrow up $100 — a low cap compared to other cash advance apps.

May take a few days to receive funds

If you don’t want to pay an extra fee, you may have to wait up to four days to receive your Cleo cash advance. If you need the funds right away, you can opt to expedite payment, but you’ll have to shell out another $3.99 — on top of your monthly membership fee — to get paid the same day. Even if you pay to expedite, there’s no guarantee you can use the funds same day, because it’s ultimately up to your bank as to when you can access the funds.

Built-in money-management tools

The Cleo app can help you set up a budget and save, even if you’re not a paid member. While you can’t pay your bills with Cleo unless you pay for its credit builder feature, once you share your income and bills with the app by linking a bank account, you’ll get updates and reminders so that you can stay on track with either your monthly budget or paycheck budget.

The app can also help you put money aside. Using your budget as a guide, it determines a specific amount to autosave into a feature called “Cleo Wallet.” You can turn this feature off any time, but the cash you stash isn’t insured — by either the FDIC or the U.K. equivalent, the Financial Compensation Services Scheme.

The lack of FDIC coverage is significant, and if your goal is really savings, there are much better options out there that can earn you interest on what you put aside — which the Cleo savings feature does not.

Different types of savings accounts: Which is best for me?

A closer look at a Cleo loan

If you’re thinking about signing up for Cleo, here are a few more things you’ll want to consider.

  • Credit-building features — For $14.99 a month, you can sign up for Cleo Builder, which gives you access to cash advances and the ability to apply for the Cleo Credit Builder Card — a secured credit card that can help you build credit and doesn’t require a credit check. This subscription also includes some features that are not included with Cleo Plus, like the ability to track your Equifax credit score.
  • Student discount — If you’re a student, you can access the Cleo Builder membership for just $9.99 a month, a savings of about 33%.
  • No guarantee you’ll get approved — The first time you apply for a Cleo cash advance, you may not get approved and could need to wait a few days and apply again.  
  • Proof of employment isn’t required — You don’t need to show your paystubs or W-2 tax forms to get a cash advance.

Who is a Cleo loan good for?

If you’re in need of a small amount of cash to help cover expenses until your next paycheck, and need to do so without a credit or employment check, a Cleo cash advance may be worth exploring. This could be particularly true if you’re a freelancer or gig worker since you don’t have to verify your employment, which some cash advance apps require. Plus, using an app like Cleo may help you avoid an expensive payday loan.

If you’d prefer not to pay any fees, you may want to compare some other cash advance apps. And if you only want budgeting tools, you may want to try using our free budget calculator.

If you need more cash than Cleo or other cash advance apps offer, you may be better off exploring financing options such as personal loans, no credit check loans or a payday alternative loan from a federal credit union. And depending on your needs, interest-free credit cards may also be a good option.

How to apply with Cleo

To apply for a Cleo cash advance, you’ll need to download the app on your Apple or Android device and sign up for a paid Cleo membership. Then, go to the chat section and type “salary advance” or “spot me.” After you hit the “spot me” button, Cleo will let you know if you’ve been approved.

If you’re approved, you’ll receive an offer from Cleo for a cash advance between $20 and $100, and you’ll choose a repayment term between 3 and 28 days.

Cleo doesn’t run a credit check, so there’s no credit criteria to meet. Plus you don’t have to submit any paystubs or W-2s because it won’t confirm your employment.

Not sure if Cleo is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • Earnin: If you need to borrow a larger amount of money, Earnin may be a better fit. This app offers cash advances up to $500, but you’ll need to give Earnin access to your work timesheets.
  • Dave: With a monthly $1 membership, Dave offers early payday and cash advances of up to $500. And you can get the money instantly on a Dave debit card.

About the author: Anna Baluch is a freelance personal finance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. You can find her work on sites like The Balance, Freedom Debt Relief, LendingTree and RateGenius. Anna has an MBA in marketing from Roosevelt Un… Read more.