TurboTax Refund Advance review: Small no-interest loans for tax refund advances

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In a Nutshell

With a TurboTax Refund Advance loan, you may be able to access your tax refund early without paying interest — as long as you use the TurboTax software to e-file your federal tax return. But it won’t be available after early February and the maximum amount you can receive is $2,000.
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Pros Cons
May be able to access tax refund early Not available after Feb. 8, 2021
No interest charged Loans funded onto a prepaid Visa card
  Maximum refund advance of $2,000

What you need to know about a TurboTax Refund Advance loan

TurboTax is tax-preparation software that lets you file your tax return online. The company offers no-interest refund advance loans at the beginning of the tax season. Loans range from $250 to $2,000 and are based on your expected federal tax refund.

To be eligible, you’ll have to use TurboTax to e-file your federal tax return. If you’re expecting a federal refund when you file your taxes with TurboTax, you can apply for a refund advance. And if you’re approved (after the IRS processes your refund), your loan amount, minus any applicable fees, will be deducted automatically and any remainder of your refund will be deposited onto a prepaid Visa card.

Here’s what else you need to know about TurboTax Refund Advance loans.

You may be able to access part of your tax refund early

TurboTax will submit your return once the IRS starts accepting tax returns, which in recent years has been in late January. If approved, you can set up your account to use your Turbo Card information to shop online anywhere Visa is accepted. But you’ll have to wait five to 10 business days for the card to arrive in the mail.

What’s the advantage? If you’re owed a refund, the IRS says it can direct deposit refunds into your bank account within 21 days, so the refund advance loan from TurboTax offers the possibility of getting some of your money to you more quickly.

The disadvantage? The tax refund advance loan is available only through Feb. 8, 2021, so your window to qualify is pretty small. TurboTax also states that there’s a possibility funds for the loans might run out before then.

Loan funds are deposited onto a prepaid Visa card

If you’re approved for a TurboTax Refund Advance loan, the money won’t be directly deposited into your bank account. Instead, it will get loaded onto a Turbo® Visa® Debit Card. The same goes for any remaining refund you’re owed once the IRS issues the funds.

While it’s appealing to be able to spend your tax refund early, a prepaid card might not give you the flexibility you need. For instance, if you want to withdraw cash from an ATM and can’t find a convenient surcharge-free machine, you might have to pay a fee to withdraw money.

Not a good option for larger loan amounts

Since a TurboTax Refund Advance is based on your expected federal refund amount, it may not make sense if you have a larger refund, since the maximum loan amount available is $2,000.

You can find larger loan amounts available from TurboTax competitors H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt.

A closer look at TurboTax Refund Advance loans

If you’re considering a TurboTax Refund Advance loan, here are a few other things to keep in mind.

  • No credit impact — Applying for a TurboTax Refund Advance loan won’t hurt your credit scores. Your eligibility is based on your anticipated refund amount and other noncredit factors.
  • Not available in all states — You’re not eligible for the loan if you’re filing an Illinois, North Carolina, Rhode Island or Vermont state return.
  • Certain forms make you ineligible — If you need to file Forms 1310, 1040SS, 1040PR, 1040X, 8888 or 8862, you won’t be eligible.
  • Prepaid card will be mailed — While you can start spending your prepaid Visa card online sooner, your physical card should take five to 10 business days to arrive in the mail.

Who a TurboTax Refund Advance loan is good for

If you’re already planning to use TurboTax to e-file your federal taxes, you may want to consider a refund advance loan. But depending on how you plan to spend your refund, it’s probably wiser to wait until the IRS deposits your entire refund into your bank account, since you won’t have the same flexibility with a prepaid card.

If you need the money to pay off high-interest debt, like a payday loan, and can use a debit card to do it, then a refund advance loan might make more sense for you.

If you don’t want to be limited to using TurboTax, this loan probably isn’t the best fit.

How to apply with TurboTax

To apply for a TurboTax Refund Advance loan, you’ll first need to e-file your federal taxes with TurboTax. If you decide you want to apply for a refund advance, you’ll have the opportunity when TurboTax asks you which “refund method” you prefer. Remember, you don’t have to apply for a refund advance. You can always wait for the IRS to process your tax return normally.

You won’t have to do anything extra to repay your loan because it will be automatically paid back once your refund is processed by the IRS. Any remaining refund amount will be placed onto your prepaid card.

Not sure if a TurboTax Refund Advance loan is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • Jackson Hewitt: If you’re looking for a larger loan, a Jackson Hewitt refund advance loan may be a good choice.
  • H&R Block: An H&R Block refund advance loan may be a better fit if you’d like to file your taxes at an H&R Block office.

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.