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Are Money Loaning Apps a Safe Way to Borrow?

These apps can help you in a pinch, but it's best to avoid relying on them in the long term.

Written by Ben Luthi / September 9, 2022

  • Dave, Earnin, Brigit and MoneyLion are all reputable money loaning apps that can provide you with an advance.
  • While these apps can help in tight situations, they're best used in irregular situations.
  • Be sure to research and compare all of your options before using an instant loan app.

If you're struggling to get access to money, there are several apps that loan you money, typically on a short-term basis.

These apps provide people with a relatively safe way to borrow small amounts—unlike expensive payday loans, some don't charge interest or fees—but they can pose a risk to your financial well-being if you rely on them too often.

If you're thinking about trying out one of the many instant loan apps, here's what you should know.

Inside this article

  1. 4 reputable money loaning apps
  2. Pros, cons of instant loan apps
  3. When to use instant loan apps
  4. Alternatives to loan apps

4 reputable money loaning apps

Also called cash advance apps or even payday loan apps because repayment is typically tied to your paycheck, apps that loan you money can spot you some cash when you need it. Depending on the app, you may start out with a small amount, such as $50, then build up to several hundred dollars as you make on-time payments.

Here are some legitimate instant loan apps that can help you when you're in a pinch.

Dave

Dave offers free cash advances worth up to $500, but there's a $1 monthly membership fee. If approved, you'll typically receive the funds within three business days, but you can pay a small fee of up to $5.99 to receive the money within hours.[1,2]

As for repayment, you can opt to pay back the money on your next payday or one of the dates offered during the application process.[2]

Earnin

With Earnin, you'll start with $100 per pay period but can get up to $500 with each advance over time.[3] There are no interest or fees to worry about with regular advances, though you can pay a gratuity if you'd like.[3-4] Funding occurs in three business days, but you can pay a fee of up to $3.99 to receive the funds instantly.[5,6]

If you use the app multiple times, you may receive an invitation to join Earnin Express, which allows you to get up to 80% of your paycheck in advance, with a $1,000 cap.[7] Repayment occurs on your next payday.[3]

Brigit

Brigit loans range from $50 to $250, depending on your bank account activity, with no interest charges.[8] One of the more expensive options, though, Brigit charges a $9.99 monthly fee.[9] With that, though, you'll get instant transfers (if you link a debit card), automatic advances when your checking account is at risk of overdraft, access to a credit-builder loan with a 0% APR and other features.[10,9]

Instead of requiring repayment on your next payday, Brigit will provide you with a repayment date each time you request an advance.[11]

MoneyLion

When you link your checking account to MoneyLion, you can obtain advances of up to $250 with no fees or interest.[12] But if you open an account with the money loaning app, which functions like a checking account, you can qualify for up to $1,000 in advances.[13]

There's no fee for regular delivery, which takes up to five business days with an external bank account and up to 48 hours with a MoneyLion account. But you can pay a fee of up to $7.99 for delivery within hours.[14] The app will give you a repayment date when you request the advance.[13]

Pros and cons of instant loan apps

Cash advance apps are a much cheaper alternative to payday loans, but they're not without their drawbacks. Here's what to consider before using one.

Pros

  • No credit check: These apps typically don't run a credit check to determine your creditworthiness. Instead, they usually link to your checking account and review your activity to determine whether you're eligible and how much of an advance you can get.[15]
  • Relatively inexpensive: Some of these apps don't charge interest or fees on advances, though you may need to pay money if you need the money fast. While some of the apps have monthly fees, they're either very low, or they provide other benefits that could make the charge worth it for you.
  • Easy to use: You don't have to go through a lengthy application process or visit a payday loan store to apply. "You literally don’t need to lift a finger to use these apps— you just swipe that finger across the screen on your phone. It doesn’t get any more convenient than that," says Howard Dvorkin, a longtime consumer advocate and the chairman of Debt.com.[12]

Cons

  • Short repayment: If you're experiencing financial hardship, having to pay back your loan within a couple of weeks may not be feasible.
  • Not a permanent solution: If you rely on money loaning apps regularly, the negative impact on your budget and financial health could increase over time. If you need them, these apps are best for irregular use.
  • Fees could translate to high APRs: If you need money fast, the express fees some of these apps charge could equate to a relatively high APR. For example, if you borrow $250 and pay a $5 fee to get the money early, a two-week repayment period would result in a 52.14% APR.[16]

Alert

"Each of these apps has its own weird way of calculating your costs—many don’t have standard interest rates," says Dvorkin. "They might charge a subscription or have fees for things like expedited funding. You’ve heard of comparing apples to oranges? This is like comparing apples to pork chops." As a result, it's a good idea to use an online APR calculator to understand your costs of borrowing.

Who is a good fit for these instant loan apps?

Apps that loan you money can be a good fit for people who are experiencing a small financial emergency. For example, you can't wait until your next payday to cover an emergency expense, but you have the regular cash-flow to bounce back quickly and avoid needing to borrow more.

The benefit of these apps is temporary, though, so if you're experiencing financial hardship and don't anticipate being able to pay back the loan without making your situation worse, it's best to avoid money loaning apps.

"If you need one of these apps, it means your finances are a mess. You literally can’t make ends meet," says Dvorkin. "While these apps can tide you over, you need to use that time to make your income meet your outflow."

To avoid these instant loan apps, implement a budget and find ways to increase your income.

How to Create a Budget, and Stick to It

How to Create a Budget, and Stick to It

Creating a budget that works for your specific goals is easier than you think.

Find out more

Here’s How to Increase Your Income

Here’s How to Increase Your Income

Having a budget in place is wise but will only get you so far, whereas there are no real limits on your earning potential.

Find out more

What are good alternatives to money loaning apps?

Depending on your situation, there may be other options you can consider to get the money you need, including:

  • Loan from a friend or family member: If you have a good relationship with someone in your family or friend circle, you may be able to get a loan with more flexible repayment options. Just be aware that the arrangement could affect your relationship if you don't stick to your end of the deal.

  • Personal loan: If you have a greater financing need, want a longer repayment term and have good credit, a personal loan may be a better fit.

  • Zero percent APR credit card: If you can cover your emergency with a credit card and don't need to pay the expenses immediately, you could qualify for a 0% APR credit card with good credit. These cards offer no interest on purchases for a set period of time, sometimes upwards of a year and a half, allowing you to pay off your debt with less stress.[17]

Take your time to consider all of your options before you move forward with your financing needs.

Article Sources
  1. "Get up to $500 instantly," Dave, https://dave.com/.
  2. "Dave Terms of Use," Dave, Feb. 11, 2022, https://dave.com/terms.
  3. "Cash out—Turn every day into payday," Earnin, https://www.earnin.com/products/cash-out.
  4. "Does Earnin charge fees or interest?" Earnin, https://help.earnin.com/hc/en-us/articles/223283747-Does-Earnin-charge-fees-or-interest.
  5. "How long does it take to get my money?" Earnin, https://help.earnin.com/hc/en-us/articles/212811538-How-long-does-it-take-to-get-my-money-.
  6. "Why am I seeing different Lightning Speed fee amounts?" Earnin, https://help.earnin.com/hc/en-us/articles/4531829897235-Why-am-I-seeing-different-Lightning-Speed-fee-amounts-.
  7. "Earnin Express—Your paycheck, but faster," Earnin, https://www.earnin.com/products/earnin-express.
  8. "How is my amount calculated?" Brigit, https://help.hellobrigit.com/hc/en-us/articles/360023451692-How-is-my-amount-calculated-.
  9. "Our pricing," Brigit, https://www.hellobrigit.com/pricing.
  10. "When will I get the Brigit Advance?" Brigit, https://help.hellobrigit.com/hc/en-us/articles/360023451712-When-will-I-get-the-Brigit-Advance-.
  11. "How do I pay back the advance?" Brigit, https://help.hellobrigit.com/hc/en-us/articles/360023699171-How-do-I-pay-back-the-advance-.
  12. "Get cash advances up to $250 with no interest," MoneyLion, https://www.moneylion.com/instacash/.
  13. "Banking that gives you more," MoneyLion, https://www.moneylion.com/.
  14. "How much does Instacash℠ cost?" MoneyLion, July 20 2022, https://help.moneylion.com/en_us/how-much-does-instacashsm-cost-r1cYpGCfF.
  15. "Safe personal loans, no credit check," MoneyLion, https://www.moneylion.com/credit-builder-app/personal-loans-no-credit-check/.
  16. "Payday Loan Calculator," Omni Calculator, July 27, 2022, https://www.omnicalculator.com/finance/payday-loan.
  17. "Wells Fargo Reflect® Card," Wells Fargo, https://creditcards.wellsfargo.com/reflect-visa-credit-card/.

About the Authors

Ben Luthi

Ben Luthi

Ben has been writing about money since 2013. He's been on staff at NerdWallet as a credit card writer and for Student Loan Hero, where he covered student loans and other personal finance topics. Ben's work has appeared in U.S. News, The New York Times, Experian, FICO, Credit Karma, Bankrate and more

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