Before coronavirus hit, it wasn’t infrequent for many in society to occasionally find themselves in dire need of a cash infusion. There are numerous situations that can arise suddenly that demand unusually large sums, whether it be a medical event, a job loss, or a debt taken on. After the onslaught of COVID-19, however, there are few among us indeed who haven’t felt the squeeze at one point. Most of us probably wished that there was such a thing as apps that loan you money…oh, wait.

Taking out high interest and payday loans isn’t an uncommon practice in the United States, but many lenders are predatory, and last-minute and risk-based loans tend to have high interest rates anyway. It can be difficult to choose the best line of credit among brick-and-mortar locations. 

That’s where today’s advanced technology comes in. The powers that be have created the ultimate blessing in the time of social distancing and beyond: money that can be accessed via mobile phone. This article will cover 9 of the front running apps that loan you money in a pinch. We hope that you utilize these resources as a complete last resort – and only when you have depleted your emergency savings. 

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Before You Borrow

The following apps we detail are alternatives to traditional payday loans. We will also quickly cover some alternatives to our alternatives, listed below. But first, a quick introduction to the predatory world of payday loans and how they extort money from their prey. 

Payday Loans

Payday loans are high interest, short-term loans that lend money immediately with the intent you use your next paycheck to cover the debt. Institutions that offer these loans don’t examine any aspect of creditworthiness or ability to pay back beyond owning a bank account and receiving a paycheck. (This should set off your alarm bells).

These practices are funded by offering exorbitantly outrageous interest rates – some studies have found payday loans with APRs in excess of 600 percent! As a result, most payday loan institutions are considered predatory lenders, and many states cap the amount to be lent at $1,000. 

Alternatives to Payday Loans

Many financial advisors and licensed financial professionals advise against payday loans in any circumstances. Instead, it’s recommended to look into the following options.

Before You Take Out a Loan…

While a traditional loan or lending app may seem like a quick way to obtain instant money, in reality, they are a good way to ruin your credit before you’ve even blinked. Instead of going for the interest-included option, consider first:

  • Reducing expenses
  • Contacting billing agencies and requesting that your bills be given an extension
    • If they are willing to comply, the agency in question may not report the delayed payment to credit bureaus or sell the debt to a collection agency. In turn, this will leave your credit score unscathed and give you extra time to scrounge up the funds.
  • Building an emergency savings account, even if you feel like you will never need one
    • If you save just $10 a month for a year, that’s $120 in emergency savings. This may be a small amount, but in a financial bind, every dollar helps. 
  • Opening a checking or savings account with a commercial bank; many will grant up to $300 with no minimum deposit
  • Getting involved with the gig economy:
    • Uber: up to $900 a week
    • Lyft: up to $750 a week
    • DoorDash: up to $25 an hour
    • Beware that many gig economy jobs consider workers to be independent contractors, which affects how you file your taxes. If you expect to owe over $1000 a year in taxes, you are required to file estimated payments quarterly; if you owe less than that, you can make your payment upon filing your tax return. 
  • Selling an asset
    • Personally, I just sold matchbook cars online for $3 apiece and made $1,000 off my old toys. The matchbooks were simply collecting dust in a bin of childhood memorabilia in my garage. You can utilize sites like Let Go, eBay, and Craigslist. 

Borrow Money from Other Sources

If you must borrow, look first toward options that might be more friendly than payday lenders. While these choices may not all be viable in every situation, most are still better than taking out a loan at interest from a lender who definitely doesn’t have your best interest in mind. Considering borrowing money…

  • From close family and friends
    • Remember that most people who borrow funds from family never return the full principal amount, which can lead to bad blood or family fights. Therefore, you should only borrow if the loan is willingly gifted or you are sure you can pay back the loan. 
  • Via a personal loan from your bank or credit union
    • Note that bad credit will severely damage your chance to receive the loan, so keep up on your credit score wherever possible.
  • Against your assets
    • If you have home equity, consider a HELOC
    • Utilize the credit limit on your credit cards, starting with your lowest APR lines first
    • Consider borrowing against retirement savings, such as:
      • A brokerage account
      • 401(k)
      • Roth IRA
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Credit Worthiness 

There are several mentions of “creditworthiness” throughout this article. This refers to your credit history and how likely you are to pay back your loans. Credit rating agencies use the credit score, or FICO score, to highlight your eligibility and creditworthiness. Check out the chart below from Experian which highlights credit scores. 

With all of this now listed out, let’s dive into the business of the article and expand your financial knowledge on 9 of the best apps that loan you money. (Please keep in mind that most banks and credit unions will not protect against fraudulent charges for the use of third-party apps.)

1. Earnin 

Earnin charges no interest or fees, earning them top slot on our list, though they do recommend that users “tip” the company. 

To qualify for Earnin, you need to make a minimum of $4 an hour take-home (after taxes and deductions). You also need to bring home an actual paycheck or direct deposit, as independent contractors are not allowed, with the exception of Uber. 

After you’re signed up, Earning links directly to your bank account. You can either upload your timesheets or enroll in the platforms Automatic Earnings program to have your hours tracked through your phone’s GPS.

Once you’ve worked enough hours, Earnin lets you cash out the money you made before you are paid. Once your paycheck hits your account, Earnin automatically deducts the money you owe the app before you cash out.

Pros: 

  • No interest or fees 
  • Earnin protects your bank account from overdrafts

Cons:

  • You lose some privacy
  • Not available for gig, commission, or tip-based work

2. DailyPay 

DailyPay works similarly to Earnin, where you cash out on your tracked hours and future earnings. However, they do charge a transactional fee of $1 to $3 every time money is moved. 

To qualify for DailyPay, you need a bank account, payroll card, or prepaid debit card. You will also need to provide information as needed if your employer doesn’t already contract through DailyPay. 

DailyPay is a little unique in that it partners with many employers already as the primary payroll function for the company. Depending on the partnership, you may have reduced fees to transfer your funds. 

Pros:

  • Many employers contract with DailyPay already
  • You can withdraw your money the day it’s earned

Cons:

  • $1-$3 transactional fee

3. PayActiv 

PayActiv is another payday loan app that integrates with your employer’s system to forward your time worked wages to a prepaid debit card and give you access to your money. Instead of charging per transaction, you pay a flat $5 fee to withdraw your funds up to three times per month. 

To qualify for PayActiv, all you need is to be an employee of any company and have the ability to provide time and attendance data. 

In addition to cashing out before you are paid, PayActiv provides users with financial counseling and other budgeting tools, as the target demographic for the company makes between $11 and $13 an hour. PayActive also allows users to pay bills and access discounts to other services. 

Pros:

  • PayActiv is compatible with all attendance systems
  • All employees are automatically eligible
  • Flat $5 fee

Cons:

  • You can only withdraw three times a month

4. FlexWage 

FlexWage allows users to access a percentage of their already-earned cash on demand. They do offer a debit card through their service, but there is a variable fee to use the service per transaction. There is also a $5 fee per money transfer. 

To qualify for FlexWage, you need to have access through your employer, who can provide you with a link to the enrollment form. 

FlexWage’s policies vary per employer, such as in the amount you can withdrawal per pay period, how many times you can make a withdrawal, and the fee to access your funds. However, unlike some other options, FlexWage does accept 1099 contractors. 

Pros:

  • Accepts contractors and some gig work
  • Offers a debit card – no bank account required

Cons:

  • $5 fee per money transfer
  • All other fees are variable per employer
  • Access is routed through your employer initially

5. MoneyLion 

MoneyLion provides cashback rewards, no fee checking accounts, investment management, and more. They even offer in-house loans with lower-than-average APRs. As far as apps that loan you money go, that’s both unusual and quite innovative.

However, this app charges a subscription fee of $29 per month (though they do offer you a dollar for each day you log into your account to counteract this fee). 

Each service MoneyLion offers has different eligibility requirements, though there are no prerequisites for a basic checking account. 

MoneyLion has a network of 55,000 ATMs, a “credit builder” loan for low-credit individuals, and a managed investment account included with your checking account – at no minimum investment. 

Pros:

  • Offers a fee-free checking account
  • In-house loans
  • Cashback rewards

Cons:

  • $29 a month subscription fee (albeit with counteracting login bonuses)
  • Some of their loans have astronomical APRs

6. Dave 

Dave is an app that helps you pay expenses ahead of time – and ahead of payday – with your traditional paycheck. The application is designed to help you avoid expensive overdraft fees by covering those last few dollars on inopportunely timed bills.

To qualify for Dave, you need a reliable paycheck deposited into a legitimate checking or savings account. You also need to prove that you have some cash leftover at the end of the month. 

Dave works by tracking your expenditures and placing a 0% APR loan of $75-100 into your account to cover these costs. When you are paid next, Dave deducts that money from your paycheck. Dave is also incredibly cheap compared to some other alternatives at $1 a month.

Dave also offers the chance to “hook you up” with side gigs nearby, and there is even a budgeting tool to help you plan for your upcoming expenses.  

Pros:

  • Flat rate of $1 per month (with the option to “earn” free months)
  • Extra planning and job opportunity tools built in

Cons:

  • Low cash advance limits ($100 at a time max)
  • Payments are automatically withdrawn from your next paycheck (no payment plan)

And Remember…

There is no substitute, credit-wise, for paying your bills directly out of your paycheck. However, in a pinch, these 6 apps that loan you money may just save your *ahem* cash.

I hope this article has been informational and helpful in directing you toward your financial goals. Please review the options listed above and consult with the trusted financial professional(s) in your life on which option is right for you. 

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