Empower app review: An app with early paycheck access and cash advances

A couple seated on a sofa smile while using a cellphone to look at the Empower app together.Image: A couple seated on a sofa smile while using a cellphone to look at the Empower app together.

In a Nutshell

The Empower app may allow you to get cash advances and use its debit card to earn cash back rewards. It also offers early paycheck access.
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Pros

  • Access to interest-free cash advances
  • Cash back on eligible debit card purchases
  • Early paycheck access

Cons

  • Information on the website can be hard to find
  • There's a monthly fee
  • Missed cash advance repayments may accrue interest

What you need to know about the Empower app

Empower is a financial technology company offering an app and a debit card for cash advances and early paycheck access. Here’s what you need to know about the Empower app and card to determine if it’s right for you.

Interest-free cash advances with some strings attached

The Empower app may allow you to get cash advances up to $250. The advances are interest-free — if you repay on your next payday. If you meet the requirements, free “instant” delivery into your bank account is available. You’re expected to pay back the money when you receive your next paycheck.

You may be able to get a cash advance up to $250. But if you want “instant” delivery of your cash advance funds that total more than $50, you’ll need to set up a minimum direct deposit to an Empower card account.

Cash back rewards and early paychecks

If the cash advance feature was the only reason to consider using Empower, it might not be worth it. But the Empower app also comes with some other benefits.

For starters, when you use your Empower debit card, you can earn up to 10% cash back with select retailers. Empower doesn’t provide a list of participating merchants, though, so you’ll need to sign up to view your options.

Empower also says that you can apply to get paid up to two days in advance. In other words, you could receive access to funds on the day your employer sends the money rather than needing to wait up to two days for it to post in your account.

A subscription fee

The app is free to use for the first 14 days. After that, there’s an $8 monthly fee, which comes to $96 annually. The monthly subscription includes the app’s full suite of financial management features, including up automatic savings, budgeting and spending tools.

One crucial aspect about downloading the app and paying the monthly fee? Your fee is not automatically canceled if you choose to delete the app.

A closer look at the Empower app 

If you’re still trying to decide if the Empower app and card are right for you, here are some other details to keep in mind:

  • There are no insufficient funds fees.
  • You can try the premium features for free for 14 days.
  • The debit card has a 1% foreign transaction fee if you use it abroad.
  • Empower’s banking services are provided by NBKC bank.
  • The debit card offers a 0.01% APY on balances.
  • There’s no minimum balance requirement.

Who is the Empower app good for?

The Empower app may be a good fit for people who receive regular paychecks but sometimes fall short on their expenses. Having the ability to get an advance on your paycheck with no interest could help you avoid credit card debt.

It’s worth considering if you want to work on your credit and avoid payday loans, which have astronomical APRs and can throw you into a vicious cycle of high-interest debt.

The app could be a good fit for someone who wants to have their banking and money management tools all in one place. You can take advantage of the 14-day trial to determine if it’s worth the cost.

That said, it may be difficult to take advantage of the app’s features if you get paid in cash or by check since Empower does not yet support those options. According to 2019 American Payroll Association survey, more 93% of U.S. employees receive their pay by direct deposit.

How to sign up with Empower

The Empower site doesn’t list any credit requirements for signing up, but does require that you link your bank account once you’ve downloaded the app from the App Store or Play Store.

You may also need to provide a valid government-issued ID and proof of your current address, which can come in the form of a utility bill, pay stub, lease agreement, bank statement or car registration.

Depending on the situation, you may need to wait up to three business days for a manual review. Once your account has been opened, you’ll need to meet the requirements outlined above to qualify for cash advances. You’ll apply for them directly in the app.

Before you apply for a cash advance loan, though, make sure that you have the means to pay it back with your next paycheck.

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

If you’re not certain the Empower app is the best solution for you or you want to shop around before you commit, here are some alternatives to consider.

  • Earnin app: Consider this option if you want the chance for higher advance amounts.
  • MoneyLion app: This alternative can be worth it if you want to take advantage of cash advances and build your credit history.

About the author: Ben Luthi is a personal finance freelance writer and credit cards expert. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance from Brigham Young University. In addition to Credit Karma, you can find his wo… Read more.