Payday loans in North Carolina: 2 alternatives

man with phone looking up pay day loans in north carolinaImage: man with phone looking up pay day loans in north carolina

In a Nutshell

 Payday loans are illegal in North Carolina. But if you need emergency money, these three companies may be good alternatives to payday lenders. One of these companies will consider people with less-than-perfect credit, and one of them doesn’t check your credit scores at all.
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North Carolina doesn’t allow payday loans, so if you’re looking for quick cash, you’ll need to explore other options.

There’s no real set definition of what a payday loan is, but in practice, they’re short-term loans with expensive fees and financing terms that can quickly trap people in a cycle of debt. 

Since payday loans aren’t legal in North Carolina — and they’re so expensive — we’ve rounded up two alternatives to payday loans in the state. Keep reading to see if one of them may be right for your financial situation.

Earnin: Good for early access to your paycheck

Why you may want to consider Earnin: If you need a little bit of money to tide you over until your next paycheck, Earnin may be able to help. The company offers advances of up to $100 per pay period through its app. And as you continue to use the app and repay Earnin, the advance amount could increase up to $500 per pay period. Earnin doesn’t charge any interest or fees, but it does encourage you to leave a tip that you think is fair. You’ll pay back the amount you borrowed directly from your bank account on payday — though you’ll want to be sure you have enough funds to cover the payment, to avoid costly fees.

The app is available for both Android and Apple iOS users. Here are some more details about Earnin.

  • Eligibility — Not all workers will be eligible to use Earnin. You need to have a consistent pay period (weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly or monthly) with at least 50% of your pay directly deposited into a checking account. You’ll also need to either work at the same location daily or use online time tracking systems to track your hours. 
  • Potentially fast funding — If you sign up for the app’s “Lightning Speed” feature, Earnin says you should receive your money the same day you’re approved. But your bank also has to be on board to offer this service. Otherwise, you’ll typically receive your money in one to two business days.
  • Overdraft alerts — Earnin’s “Balance Shield Alerts” feature sends an alert when your bank balance drops below a certain amount that you choose. You can also enable “Balance Shield Cash Outs” to automatically send a $100 advance to your checking account if the balance drops below $100. 
  • Borrowing from the future — Keep in mind that borrowing from your future paychecks could lead to a cycle of borrowing. Once you’re out of your emergency situation, evaluate and maybe get some help with your budget and see if there are any areas to tweak.

Read our Earnin app review to learn more.

OneMain Financial: Good for looking beyond credit scores

Why you may want to consider OneMain Financial: Even if you’ve had some bumps in your credit journey, OneMain Financial may still consider you for a personal loan. Credit scores are just one piece of the puzzle, according to OneMain’s website. The lender also considers income, expenses, collateral (if needed), credit history and ability to repay. In North Carolina, OneMain offers personal loans ranging from $1,500 to $9,000. (The lender may offer different terms through Credit Karma.)

  • Co-applicants allowed — If you don’t think you’ll qualify on your own or want to try for a lower interest rate or larger loan amount, you can add another person to your loan application. Just remember that adding a co-applicant doesn’t guarantee approval.
  • APRs and origination fee — OneMain’s starting APR is higher than what you’ll find with some other personal loan lenders, and its overall range is also high. OneMain gives an example on its site of an “average customer with good credit” who would pay an APR of 24.99%. This is still significantly lower than the fees and interest you’d pay with a typical payday lender. But if you have good credit, you may want to look elsewhere since the APR in this example is more than twice the average rate of a 24-month personal loan, based on Federal Reserve data. OneMain also charges a loan origination fee (either a flat amount or a percentage, depending on your state).
  • No prepayment penalty — OneMain offers loan terms from 24 to 60 months. Keep in mind that the longer the repayment schedule, the more interest you’ll pay. But OneMain won’t tack on penalty fees if you want to repay your loan early.

Read our OneMain Financial personal loan review to learn more.

How we chose payday loan alternatives in North Carolina

To create this list, we looked for lenders that are licensed to work in North Carolina that position themselves as alternatives to payday lenders or say they may lend to people with bad credit. When choosing lenders, we focused on factors such as how quickly loans are issued, loan amounts, fees, interest, prequalification applications, loan terms and lender transparency. 

If you need a small loan, you could also consider a payday alternative loan, which is a small, short-term loan offered by certain federal credit unions. The fee to process your application is limited to $20, and the APR is capped. You may also want to check the APR of any existing credit cards to see if it’s a more affordable option than taking out a loan.

About the author: Donna Freedman is a former newspaper journalist who has been writing about personal finance since she created the Smart Spending blog for MSN Money in 2007. Her work has won regional and national awards and has appear… Read more.