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Best loan apps

6 payday loan alternatives

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Written by Rachel Morey
Edited by Cassidy McCants

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    If you need a short-term loan to get you to your next payday, personal loan apps may be a better choice than payday loans. In general, rates and fees are lower with loan apps than with payday loans. Some of these apps also offer perks like credit bureau reporting to help you build credit while also making money management a bit easier.

    We looked at some of the most popular loan apps to help you find the right one for you.

    Compare top loan apps

    To find the best loan app for you, start by looking at companies with solid reviews and ratings, transparency regarding interest and fees, and limits and terms that suit your needs. Our six top picks are Earnin, Brigit, Dave, Possible Finance, Klover and Cleo.

    Methodology: The ConsumerAffairs research team chose the top loan apps by comparing 26 popular companies based on their online reputations, their rate transparency and the availability of their services.

    • Online reputation: We compared reviews on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and we gave preference to loan apps with the highest average ratings from Apple and Android users. We also checked in with the Better Business Bureau for actions related to marketplace misconduct within the last year.
    • Rates and fees: We gave preference to lenders with lower fees and easy-to-access information about repayment terms.
    • Availability: We confirmed that all of our picks are currently available throughout the United States.
    Earnin
    • Loan amounts: Up to $100 per pay period for new users; up to the lesser of $1,000 or 80% of your paycheck with Earnin Express
    • Interest/fees: None
    • Repayment terms: {repayment_terms:40227}

    Earnin doesn't charge interest or fees when you use its app to access funds, but you can add an optional tip. You may be able to receive funds within 30 minutes if your bank is compatible with Earnin's "Lightning Speed" feature. Otherwise, expect to receive your money in two to three business days.

    Eligibility requirements: You’ll need a steady paycheck with more than half of each check sent to a single bank account via direct deposit. Your job must also have a fixed location and use electronic timesheets to track your hours.

    Brigit
    • Loan amounts: $50 to $250
    • Interest/fees: $9.99 per month subscription fee for instant transfer access
    • Repayment terms: {repayment_terms:40230}

    Brigit lets you sign up in just two minutes. Certain features, like budgeting tools and financial insights, are available for free, but you’ll need a Plus membership to get advances and a host of other features.

    This app isn't compatible with all banks, however. If you use Chime, Netspend or Varo Bank, for instance, you probably can't use Brigit. Brigit also doesn’t support joint bank accounts.

    Eligibility requirements: You’ll need a checking account with a bank or credit union that’s compatible with the app. Your checking account must also have a certain amount of activity, a sufficient balance and a minimum of three recurring automatic deposits from the same employer.

    Eligibility also depends on your “Brigit score,” which is a 0-to-100 scoring model that includes information about your spending behavior, earnings profile and bank account health.

    Dave
    • Loan amounts: Up to $250
    • Interest/fees: $1 monthly membership fee; fees for expedited funding
    • Repayment terms: {repayment_terms:40194}

    Requesting a payday advance through the Dave app can help you avoid hefty overdraft charges. With standard delivery, you'll receive the money within three business days. Express funding provides access to your advance funds the same day, but you have to pay a fee for the convenience.

    Eligibility requirements: Dave evaluates your income history, bank account history and other factors to determine if you're approved for your loan.

    Possible Finance
    • Loan amounts: Up to $500 (limit is $250 in California)
    • Interest/fees: APRs ranging from 150% to 200%
    • Repayment terms: {repayment_terms:40233}

    Although Possible charges more interest than similar loan apps, it does report your loan activity to the credit bureaus, so making every loan payment on time could help you boost your credit score. You also have the option to delay repayment by up to 29 days if necessary, but missed or late payments may also be reported to credit bureaus.

    Eligibility requirements: You should have a checking account with a positive balance, a consistent deposit and repayment history, and a monthly income of at least $750. Other factors, like returned checks or your monthly cash flow, may also impact your eligibility.

    Klover
    • Loan amounts: Up to $100
    • Interest/fees: Membership fee of $2.49 per month; fees range from $1.99 to $9.99 for expedited funding
    • Repayment terms: {repayment_terms:40236}

    The Klover app doesn't make money through its lending program. Instead, it leverages your custom profile to show you targeted ads and offers. However, Klover does not sell or transmit your personal identifying information.

    Eligibility requirements: Klover doesn’t check your credit, but you’ll have to connect a checking account and agree to share your data with Klover. Your bank account must have a positive balance and more than three qualifying direct deposits, the last three of which must be consistent and in the last 60 days.

    Cleo
    • Loan amounts: Up to $100; new users usually qualify for $20 to $70
    • Interest/fees: Membership fee of $5.99 per month; $4 fee for expedited transfers
    • Repayment terms: {repayment_terms:40239}

    Cleo lets you get cash advances up to $100, but you’ll need a Cleo Plus membership to access this feature. The service works with more than 3,000 banks in the U.S., but your local credit union or bank may not be compatible with Cleo.

    Eligibility requirements: Cleo uses a proprietary method to assess your creditworthiness based on the funds in your bank account and your transaction history.

    Pros and cons of loan apps

    Apps that loan money can be a convenient way to get quick cash that can hold you over until your next payday without having to fill out a long application or talk to a loan officer. These apps may offer better terms than payday loans — and, in many states, payday loans are illegal.

    Before you borrow money through a loan app, though, keep in mind that the company may require permission to access information stored in your bank account and phone.

    Several of these apps let you borrow small amounts against your next paycheck. Since this kind of app typically charges lower fees than payday lenders, it could be a good choice if you’re in a pinch and need some extra cash to bridge the gap until you get paid.

    Whether you’re borrowing from an app or a traditional lender, it’s important to compare interest rates, fees and terms and then calculate what you can afford to pay back. As one of our reviewers from Connecticut put it, payday loans and loans with exorbitant interest rates can “rock the hell out of you.”

    Loan apps also typically have low maximum limits — most typically only let you take out loans for up to $500. 

    If you’re struggling to pay your bills, taking out a loan with a high annual percentage rate or using a cash-advance app with a monthly fee typically isn't a long-term solution. Instead, try negotiating with lenders, utilities and other companies to get a lower interest rate or work out a payment plan.

    Pros

    • Fast access to funds
    • Some work with bad credit
    • Easy to apply

    Cons

    • Interest rates and fees may be high
    • Privacy concerns
    • Small loan amounts

    Alternatives to cash advance apps

    If you’re considering signing up for a cash advance app, you might find that one of these options could be a better fit.

    1. Check with your credit union

    Joining a credit union that serves your area may open doors to unadvertised financial products, like short-term loans. Many credit unions have developed programs that serve as alternatives to payday loans. While you may not be able to access a short-term loan right away, joining a credit union could save you the frustration of trying to find a suitable cash-advance program next time you need a financial boost.

    Credit unions exist to serve their members, and many branches also provide financial education and help with building credit. With good credit, you'll also have access to a greater variety of financial products, including personal loans with lower interest rates.

    2. Look at banking services you already have

    You may have access to short-term loans through your bank or with apps you already use. Some cash transfer apps, for instance, offer small loans for a flat fee or reasonable interest rates. Some automatically withdraw from your cash balance each month to reclaim the funds.

    3. Consider a personal loan

    For those with credit scores that fall in the "fair" or "good" range, a short-term personal loan through a traditional lender could be much less expensive than a cash advance. Personal loans generally don't require collateral, so you don't have to give the lender the title to your property for approval. You have to fill out an application, but many lenders advertise that they approve and fund loans within 24 hours.

    4. Think about starting a side gig

    If you feel like you’re constantly struggling to pay your bills, you may be spending too much money — or just not making enough. Finding ways to make a bit of extra money could provide a longer-term answer to your current financial problems.

    This solution won't work for everyone, of course. You’ll have to consider your resources and the amount of time you have to devote to another job.

    Frequently asked questions

    How do online loan apps work?

    To use a loan app, you’ll usually need to provide personal information and grant the company permission to access your bank account. Denying certain permissions may restrict your ability to sign up.

    Keep in mind that online loan apps may use your data for other purposes. Even if you never initiate a loan through the app, it has access to your information as soon as you grant permission. You can't revoke that access by simply uninstalling the app and clearing your phone's cache — you have to contact the company and request that they purge your details from their servers.

    Are cash-advance apps the same as payday lenders?

    While cash-advance apps and payday loans may appeal to people in similar situations, they’re not necessarily the same. Some cash-advance apps charge interest (like payday lenders), but many don’t — and those that do may have significantly lower interest rates than what you’ll get with a payday loan.

    However, you should still be on guard for abusive lending practices and make sure you can repay any loan you take out. Some consumer advocates group online loan apps and payday loans together because of their high interest rates and fees, and both types of companies could be considered predatory lenders, depending on their APRs.

    How much can I borrow through a loan app?

    Each loan app sets its own minimum and maximum borrowing limits, which generally range up to about $500. If you need more than a few hundred dollars, consider taking out a personal loan with lower interest and a longer repayment term.

    Are there any apps that loan money without direct deposit?

    Yes, but these apps are essentially online payday lenders. You still may have to provide copies of your most recent pay stubs, so a steady income might be necessary anyway. If you find an app willing to loan to those without direct deposit, be prepared to pay even higher interest rates and fees than you would with a typical loan app.

    Are loan apps safe?

    Almost all loan apps require you to share access to your bank account, and you may be required to provide your Social Security number. Many of these apps also require permission to access information stored on your phone, including your contacts, GPS location and other apps you use.

    While many loan apps advertise their digital security features and encryption, it’s up to you to decide if you trust a given app with your sensitive data.

    Bottom line: What are the best apps that loan money?

    The best loan app option for you depends on your situation and your individual needs. Before trying a loan app, take the time to think about your credit situation.

    If you can qualify for a low-interest personal loan, you'll often save money on interest and fees. Plus, personal loan lenders often report your payment activity to the credit bureaus, which can help boost your credit score and make it easier for you to access low-cost credit in the future.

    With these apps, it's important to remember that the privacy risks and high interest rates might not be worth the short-term financial boost. Many people dealing with ongoing financial problems have issues saving for emergencies and handling unexpected expenses.

    Before you start using loan apps regularly, take a close look at your finances. If you regularly spend more than you make, you might want to consider ways to earn more money or cut costs.

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