If you find yourself short on cash and are waiting for your next paycheck, there's a few options to hold yourself over until money hits your bank account. For some, turning to friends and family is the solution. For others, picking up extra cash gigs on the side or turning to their credit card provides the money they need.
Another option is to use cash advance apps to borrow small amounts of money that you pay back with your next paycheck. Earnin is a prime example, and it's one of the most popular cash advance apps out there.
This app doesn't charge interest, fees, and uses a tipping model to make money. But it's important to understand how the app works, and what the pros and cons are, before you borrow. Our Earnin review is covering all of this information and some of the best alternatives as well.
Pros & Cons
Earnin is a financial services company that provides its users with easy, interest-free cash advances based on their earned wages. If you're looking for a quick spot and need cash a bit earlier than your actual paycheck, you can use Earnin to borrow up to $500 per pay period.
The company began in 2014 and has since grown to over 2.5 million active users. It's one of the most popular cash advance apps and is available on both Android and iOS.
Who Is Earnin For?
With Earnin, you can borrow up to $100 per day, with a maximum of $500, per pay period. This makes it for getting a bit of extra cash to hold you over until your next paycheck. It's frequently used to cover bills, smaller emergency expenses, and to avoid overdraft fees.
This app isn't a personal loan provider that charges interest or lets you take out thousands of dollars.
Earnin Cash Out
With Earnin's cash out feature, you get access to your money the moment you earn it. It lets you get a cash advance of up to $500 per paycheck period with a cap of up to $100 per day.
The app connects to your bank account and sends you your cash advance via direct deposit. When your paycheck actually arrives, Earnin automatically deducts the cash you owe.
There aren't any hidden fees, and you don't pay interest on Earnin cash advances. There isn't a credit check either, and you start with a $100 total cash out limit per paycheck period. As you use the app and successfully pay back Earnin, your limit increases to up to $500 per pay period.
It's important to note that Earnin regularly asks users to submit screenshots of their bank balances to prove that direct deposits regularly come in. This is because Earnin doesn't have minute-by-minute data from your linked bank account, so it sometimes checks that you can repay the money you borrow. The app can also ask for screenshots of your timesheet for proof of hours worked if it doesn't detect any income in your bank account after a while.
To make money, Earnin has a tipping option you can use when borrowing. You can tip between $0 and $14. But this is completely optional and doesn't impact your experience with the app if you decide not to tip.
Note: Money can still take a couple of days to reach your bank account depending on your bank. Alternatively, you can cash out with Lightning Speed and get the money in minutes. You have to connect a checking account that receives at least 50% of your paycheck to qualify for Lightning Speed. There's a $3.99 fee for Lightning Speed cash advances.
If you need more money during a pay period, you can also request a Max Boost to get a temporary $50 cash advance increase for that period. You need to ask a friend who's also on Earnin to vouch for you through the app, so it's a community-based system.
All this requires is requesting a Max Boost and your friend can simply confirm the request for Earnin to spot you more money. Just note Max Boosts can't grant an increase over $500 per pay period.
Earnin's cash advances can help if you need a bit of cash to hold you over until your next paycheck. But its Balance Shield feature can also help you avoid painful overdraft bank fees.
Users can set up an account balance threshold for Earnin to notify them if their balance drops below this amount. For example, you can have Earnin send an alert if your linked checking account drops below $200. You can also enable automatic Balance Shield cash outs, which work like normal $100 daily cash outs but are designed to prevent you from going into overdraft.
With Earnin Express, you can receive your paycheck up to two days early into your linked account. It also lets you cash out more of your money with limits of 80% of your paycheck or up to $1,000, whichever is lower. Cash out reaches your account faster so you get your money as soon as possible.
The process works by routing your paycheck through Earnin's virtual account. It doesn't change your actual payday but you can potentially get your money a little bit earlier.
There's no additional fee for using Earnin Express. But you can still tip for the service like with regular cash outs.
Earnin Tip Jar
To encourage saving, Earnin also lets you deposit money from paychecks or from your cash advances into a tip jar. You can “tip yourself” anywhere from $1 to $50 per day. You can then withdraw this money anytime, so it's essentially a small savings account or emergency fund you work on building up over time.
This feature exists because Earnin wants to encourage saving money, not simply living paycheck to paycheck. Funds in your tip jar are held by Evolve Bank & Trust, so money gets FDIC insurance as well.
However, we don't recommend using the tip yourself feature since the account pays 0% interest. You're better off using a high-yield savings account from a company like Aspiration or OnJuno where you can easily earn over 1% APY and not pay fees.
How Much Does Earnin Cost?
Earnin doesn't charge any interest or fees on cash advances for normal cash advances or Earnin Express cash advances. The app makes money by asking for tips from its users and advertises tipping as a way to pay it forward to others by helping the platform continue to operate.
However, if you use Earnin's Lightning Speed feature to get cash in a matter of minutes, you pay a $3.99 fee.
How Do I Contact Earnin?
You can contact Earnin by using its 24/7 live chat support within the app or by sending a Facebook or Twitter DM. The app only has a few reviews on websites like Trustpilot but has 180,000 reviews on the Google Play store and an average 4.4 star review.
Users generally like how Earnin helps hold them over until their next paycheck and the lack of fees. But some users complain about slow support response times and issues with their bank accounts frequently disconnecting from the app.
Is Earnin Safe & Legit?
According to its website, Earnin doesn't sell your data and states that the security of your information is its top priority. Additionally, Earnin doesn't check your credit score or ask for your SSN and doesn't impact your credit score.
The only time you provide your SSN is if you enroll in Earnin Express, but otherwise, you don't provide much personal information to use the app. According to Earnin, information is also encrypted to keep your personal and financial data safe.
Earnin's Tipping Controversy & Payday Loan Concerns
Back in 2019, Earnin used to give users who tipped access to larger cash advances. But after regulators started looking into Earnin and similar cash advance apps, the company quickly removed this reward-for-tipping feature. However, 11 states and Puerto Rico continued investigating Earnin for skirting usury laws, with usury being the illegal practice of lending money at very high interest rates.
The reason for this probe in the first place is the idea that Earnin and similar apps are essentially payday loan apps in disguise. After all, if you're rewarding users for tipping with higher cash advance limits, how different are those tips from the high interest rates payday loan providers charge?
This is honestly a fair argument. For example, a $14 tip on a $100 loan is an incredibly high interest rate. But if Earnin users felt they had to tip to unlock higher cash advance limits, they might have tipped regardless of the cost.
These days, Earnin is a much better, more transparent app that doesn't reward tipping users with extra perks. However, it's important to know what apps like Earnin have been accused of and how the business model works. And if you're considering tipping, think about your tip as a percentage of your cash advance and decide if it makes financial sense or not.
These days, there are plenty of apps like Earnin that you can use to take out cash advances. And some of these alternatives have higher limits or other useful features that make them more robust solutions than Earnin.
Chime is a fintech company that's an excellent Earnin alternative if you want more bank-like features and to avoid fees. It has a high-yield savings account, checking account, and also lets you withdraw up to $200 with its SpotMe feature. You don't pay interest or fees for this cash advance either, just like Earnin.
We also like Chime® for its free secured Visa card that helps you gradually improve your credit. There's no credit check requirement, annual fee, or interest with this card either.
Like Earnin, Empower lets you take out a cash advance to help cover bills until you get paid. You can take out advances in $25, $50, $75, and $100 amounts. And like Earnin, you don't pay interest, fees, or go through a credit check.
There's also a credit-building tool in the world like Chime offers that will start with a $200 line of credit and gradually grow to $1,000 as you make payments. The only fee you have to worry about is Empower‘s $8 monthly subscription cost.
One final Earnin alternative you can consider is MoneyLion. This app lets you take out up to $250 in a cash advance and get paid up to two days early like Earnin. It also has a credit builder tool, cash-back rewards, and spare-change round-ups to help you save more.
Plus, with its RoarMoney account, you can get up to $1,000 in cash advances by adding direct deposits to your account. There's even an investing account option if you want to start investing with little money to slowly grow your wealth. Overall, MoneyLion is much more comprehensive than Earnin, which is a perk if you're on the market for more bank-like services.
MoneyLion charges a $1 monthly membership. Instant cash advances cost $0.99 to $7.99 depending on how much you're borrowing. But you can avoid this fee if you opt to wait a few days for money to reach your account.
Companies like Earnin have grown rapidly in popularity in recent years. And when you compare many of these free or low-fee cash advance apps to options like payday loans, they're generally a much better solution.
That said, you still need to be careful with overborrowing. Cash advance apps that rely on your upcoming paychecks aren't something you should use lightly; you're still borrowing money that you have to pay back. And it's also important to be careful of hidden fees or features like tips since these can rack up costs quickly.
If apps like Earnin help you avoid overdraft fees or loans with painfully high interest rates, consider using them. But never forget the importance of building an emergency fund so you have money set aside for rainy days.Chime Disclosure - Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
1Save When I Get Paid automatically transfers 10% of your direct deposits of $500 or more from your Checking Account into your savings account.
^Round Ups automatically round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and transfer the round up from your Chime Checking Account to your savings account. Empower Disclosure - *Empower is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provide by nbkc bank, Member FDIC.¹ Eligibility requirements apply.
² Early access to paycheck deposit funds depends on the timing of the employer's submission of deposits. Empower generally posts such deposits on the day they are received which may be up to 2 days earlier than the employer's scheduled payment date. Cashback deals on Empower Card purchases, including categories, merchants, and percentages, will vary and must be selected in the app. Cashback will be applied automatically when the final transaction posts, which may be up to a week after the qualifying purchase.