Cash Advance Apps: What You Need to Know + Tips and Tricks

Cash advance apps promise quick short-term loans with no credit check. The interest-free instant cash is designed to be a better alternative to high-cost payday loans. 

But you may not always save money. Here’s what you need to know before turning to a loan app for some instant cash. 

What is a Cash Advance?

A cash advance is just how it sounds: Apps will loan you small amounts of money until your next payday. They are designed to be a less-expensive alternative to payday loans and tribal lending. 

However, not all cash advances are a bargain. Some platforms advance so little money that they end up being significantly more expensive than if you’d just gotten a payday loan. 

How to Get Cash Advances

There are two ways to get some quick cash to carry you over until payday. These are:

  • Cash advance apps: You sign up for a cash advance app and usually have to link your bank account or set up direct deposit. You will typically pay a monthly subscription fee, which can range from $1 to $10+, depending on the app you choose.
  • Credit card cash advances: You use your existing credit card to withdraw cash, then pay it back on your bill’s due date. Unlike traditional credit card purchases, there is no grace period. Interest will start to accrue as soon as you take the cash out. But it may be a less-expensive option than an app with a subscription fee and tipping.

However, credit card cash advances will only work if you already have a credit card (and it’s not maxed out). If you don’t, cash advance apps are your next best option – as long as you choose wisely.

Pro tip: If you already have a credit card and it has available credit, a credit card cash advance will almost always be simpler and less expensive than any cash advance app or payday loan.

How Do Cash Advance Apps Work?

Cash advance apps have relaxed lending requirements and qualifications. 

Most apps require steady direct deposits and account activity. Some will require you to scan an official government ID (to prove you’re a real person). Many assess the health of your bank account and spending patterns, and repeat customers who have successfully repaid previous loans will be allowed to borrow larger loan amounts.

Pro tip: Cash advance apps are also sometimes called paycheck advance apps, payday advance apps and overdraft apps.

Do Cash Advance Apps Check Credit?

No, cash advance apps typically do not run a credit check. Instead, they use the overall health of your bank account, and some will review how much available credit you have. 

However, if you don’t repay your cash advances as scheduled, it will be reported to the major credit bureaus, and it will hurt your credit score.

Which Apps Will Give You Cash Advances Instantly?

Free transfers usually take at least a couple of business days. Most apps will expedite the money, so though the transfers will be very quick (though not instant), and the money should be in your account within a couple of hours. However, you’ll have to pay extra. Fees for expedited transfers can range from $3 to $10 and up.

Dave offers the lowest-cost expedited transfer at $3.

Before you commit to a monthly subscription, confirm the availability of instant transfers. Some apps (Lenme, for example) don’t offer that option. 

What are the Best Cash Advance Apps?

There are dozens of cash advance apps, and new ones are constantly popping up. Some of the most popular apps include Dave, Albert, Brigit, Earnin, Empower and MoneyLion. There are also peer-to-peer lending apps, where you can post your loan request and an individual investor may be willing to fund it. SoLo Funds is one such app. Even apps that focus on banking (like Varo and Chime) offer ways to get quick loans.

Pro tip: The best options have low fees and good customer service. Some offer additional services like budgeting tools, credit builder products and debit cards. There are also a few “earned wage access” apps that require your employer to participate, including DailyPay, PayActiv and Branch.

READ MORE: Best paycheck advance apps

However, there are dozens of options available, including Kora, Grid Pay Boost, Current, B9, Vola, Gerald, Hundy, and FrontPay.

What Is the Easiest App to Get a Cash Advance?

The simplest option is typically Chime or Varo. If you already use one of these services, you’ll have access to their respective cash advance programs. If you don’t, Dave is the easiest and least expensive option, but you’ll still need to subscribe and set up your account a few weeks before you need to borrow money.

How to Trick Cash Advance Apps

Cash advance apps are known for being an interest-free borrowing option. However, they require a monthly subscription fee, and since you can typically only borrow a small amount for your first advance, these fees can equal a relatively high AP.

However, there is a totally legit loophole to help you bypass the membership fee. Several apps have language buried in the terms of service that allow you to get an advance without a subscription.

The following six apps offer fee waivers when requested via email:


Users that are eligible for Advances and/or Credit Monitoring may access an Advance and/or Credit Monitoring without paying the Membership Fee. To do so, email and state that you would like an Advance and/or Credit Monitoring without subscribing to one of our Membership plans. You may check whether you are eligible for Advances and Credit Monitoring through the Services.


You may also apply for Salary Advance without subscribing to the Cleo Plus services. To do so, please email and state that you would like to receive Salary Advance without subscribing to the Cleo Plus services. All advances are free.


You may access Empower Advance (as well as the Empower Checking Account) without subscribing to the Empower subscription service. To do so, please email and state that you would like an Empower Advance without subscribing to the Empower subscription service.


5.6 Obtaining an Advance without Paying the Membership Fee
Users that are eligible for Advances may access an Advance without paying the Membership
Fee. To do so, email and state that you would like an Advance without
subscribing to a FrontPay membership. You may check whether you are eligible for Advances through the Services.

Grid Money

Customers may also access Advances without subscribing to Grid+. To do so, please email and state that you would like an Advance without subscribing to Grid+ and we will determine whether you are eligible. Any such Advances are free and provided without interest.


You may obtain an Advance with a Basic Membership by emailing and stating that you would like an Advance without subscribing for a Premium Membership.

Pro tip: Earnin and Klover don’t require a membership fee for cash advances.

Which App Gives the Largest Cash Advance?

Many apps will loan up to $500, but you will have to be an established user and work your way up to borrowing the maximum amount. Earnin offers up to $750 per pay period, and MoneyLion Instacash technically offers up to $1,000, but only for people who use MoneyLion’s other services.

Cash Advance Apps with No Direct Deposit Required

Not everyone wants to have to change their direct deposits just to get a short-term cash advance. Dave, MoneyLion, Cleo and Lola all offer small cash advances with no direct deposit requirement, but they do require a linked bank account.

What is the Cash Advance APR?

Technically, there is no interest charged for these advances. However, as with payday loans, you should calculate the fees you pay to figure out the “interest rate” you’re technically paying. This includes:

  • Subscription fees
  • Fees for expedited transfers
  • Optional tips

For example:

  • If you borrow $200 through the Dave app and pay the $1 monthly fee, the APR equivalent is 15%.
  • If you add a $1 tip, your APR increases to 26%.

Dave also charges an optional “express” fee to get your money faster, and that ranges from $3 to $26. If you pay a $5 fee, the APR increases to 91%.

This makes Dave a cheaper option than a payday loan, which charge an average fee of $10 to $30 for each $100 borrowed.

But these apps aren’t always a cheaper option. 

If you’re borrowing through Floatme, the maximum you can get is $50.

  • If you borrow $50 and pay the $3.99 monthly fee, your APR equivalent is 208%.
  • If you pay the optional $4 fee for expedited transfers, your APR increases to 417%

How Do Cash Advance Apps Make Money?

Some apps, like MoneyLion, Chime, Albert and Varo, offer additional financial services, so they don’t rely solely on revenue from cash advances. Other apps primarily offer cash advances and, occasionally, some free financial help. In those instances, they make money from subscription fees, fees for expedited transfers and tipping.

Cash Advance Apps vs. Credit Card Cash Advance

If you already have a credit card, using a cash advance should be a no-brainer. It will cost less and the money will be available instantly. However, if your credit score is not high enough to qualify for a credit card, a cash advance app is typically better than a payday loan.

Cash advance appCredit card cash advance
Must wait hours or sometimes daysMoney available immediately
No interestInterest starts to accrue immediately
Monthly subscription feeMany credit cards charge no monthly fee, though you may have to pay an ATM fee
APR equivalent could be in triple digitsAPR will be no higher than 30%
Smartphone typically requiredNo phone needed
No credit score requirementCredit score must be high enough to meet credit card application criteria


There aren’t many eligibility requirements to sign up, but there are a few, and it can take some advance planning. Many apps have a waiting period between the time you sign up and the time you’re eligible to borrow money. This is so they can monitor your account balances and cash flow. 

Most apps require:

  • An active bank account
  • A steady source of income
  • Regular direct deposits
  • Government ID
  • Users must be age 18 or older

Which Cash Advance Apps Request Tips?

Tipping is a sore subject right now, as customers are hit up everywhere from Starbucks to Subway.

Most cash advance apps request tips, though Brigit does not.

Skip the tip

Tipping is optional, and you won’t be penalized for neglecting to tip. That said, some sites use emotional manipulation to try to get you to tip more. For example, Dave pledges that a portion of all tips goes to Feeding America. To encourage tipping, Dave shows an image of a child. The more you tip, the happier the child appears. 

If you want to give a few bucks to charity, it will be better off to donate directly.

Most banks and lenders are regulated by federal laws. However, in many states, cash advance apps aren’t considered lenders, so they can sidestep state and federal laws. 

This means they can bypass Truth in Lending Act requirements to disclose the cost of borrowing and request “tips” instead of interest. This allows many to charge the equivalent of triple-digit APRs that would otherwise violate some states’ caps on interest rates.

Pros and Cons of Cash Advance Apps

No credit checksEncourage reborrowing
Overall cost can be low if you pay attention to feesYou may initially only be able to borrow a small amount 
Fast fundingFees to expedite funding
Not much risk of credit score impactRepayments could overdraft your bank account
A lot of optionsSubscription fees
Easy to accessOptional tips

Cash Advance Apps to Avoid

Avoid apps that don’t get results or charge excessive fees. Watch out for apps that offer very low lending amounts for new customers. For example, FloatMe is free for the first month, put after that, the monthly subscription fee is $3.99, even though the maximum amount you can borrow is $50, and most new subscribers will only be eligible to borrow $10. 

Many customers report that Lenme, a peer-to-peer lending app, doesn’t have enough investors willing to fund loan requests, so requests sit for 30 days and cannot be resubmitted until they expire. This has left many Lenme subscribers frustrated, particularly since they pay a monthly fee of $1.99 to use the service.

Cash Advance Apps vs. Payday Loans

Cash advance apps are sometimes a better option than payday loans, but not always. In fact, there is so much similarity that they’re sometimes called payday advance apps. To find out whether you would be better off visiting a payday lender, add up the total fees you would have to pay, then use a payday loan APR calculator to figure out your interest rate. 

Cash advance appsPayday loans
Repaid from your next paycheckRepaid on your next payday
Monthly membership feeFee of $10 to $30 for each $100 borrowed
Require checking account accessRequire checking account access
No late feesCharge late fees and rollover fees if you can’t repay as scheduled
Borrowers must calculate the actual cost of borrowingHigh interest rates, usually triple-digit APRs
Basically unregulatedIllegal in some states
No credit check requiredNo credit check required
Can leave you trapped in a cycle of debtCan leave you trapped in a cycle of debt
Repayment can trigger overdraft feesRepayment can trigger overdraft fees

READ MORE: Payday loan alternatives with no credit check

Does Getting a Cash Advance Affect Your Credit Score?

Most lenders care about your credit history, but cash advance apps don’t care about it. 

However, cash advance apps won’t help you build credit. But they can cause your credit score to drop.

If you borrow money and pay it back on time, it will not affect your credit score at all. This means that your loan won’t be denied due to a low credit score, but you also won’t get credit for making your payment on-time.

However, if you don’t make your payment as scheduled and default, the debt could be handed off to a debt collection agency. At that point, it will be reported to the credit bureaus and will hurt your credit score.

READ MORE: Why did my credit score drop?

Do I Need a Smartphone to Use a Cash Advance App?

Yes, in most instances cash advances will only be available via smartphone apps. This is because it’s simple and efficient. Though most apps can be accessed via desktop, you’ll find that cash advances can only be requested through the app. It puts the loan at your fingertips, which makes borrowers more likely to request money on impulse, rather than waiting until they get home (and having time to think through their spending). Mobile banking apps, like Chime and Varo, are typically available through traditional browsers, so you should be able to access those accounts if you don’t have a smartphone.

Can I Get a Cash Advance if I’m on Social Security?

As long as you have direct deposit and a consistent source of income, you will be eligible to use most cash advance apps. This includes Social Security and even child support. However, you will have to link your bank account to the app, and you will typically have to link it a few months before you actually need to borrow money, because the app must confirm that there’s a regular pattern of direct deposits.

Can I Get a Cash Advance if I’m a Contract Worker or Freelancer?

Freelancers or contract workers who don’t receive consistent income via direct deposit may have trouble qualifying for many cash advance apps. In these instances, you’ll need to look for apps that allow more flexibility, such as Chime SpotMe, Lenme or SoLo Funds. Contract workers who are paid on a consistent schedule should not have any issues with qualification.

Other Alternatives to Help Get Your Debt Under Control

If you regularly turn to cash advances and payday loans to make ends meet, here are a few other financial products and options to ease your money crunch.

READ MORE: Ways to get money now

The Bottom Line

Cash advance apps can be a lifeline when you simply don’t have enough money to make it until payday. If you choose wisely, they can be a cheaper alternative to payday loans.

But just because issuers tout the loans as “interest-free” doesn’t mean the loans are actually free. You will need to pay attention to the costs and fees.

They can also lead to a cycle of debt. If you find yourself taking a new cash advance to pay off another cash advance, you need to break the cycle. Look for other ways to earn some quick money before you get in too deep.


Which Cash Advance Apps Work With PNC Bank?

Many traditional cash advance apps require Plaid to connect with banks. PNC Bank is one of several major banks that is not compatible with Plaid, which means PNC customers will not be able to use many of the most popular cash advance apps. Instead, you will need to seek out cash advance apps that don’t require Plaid. This includes Dave, B9, Beem, Branch, Cash App Borrow, Venmo, Grid Money, DailyPay, Quick Benjy and FrontPay.
Other banks that don’t utilize Plaid include Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Capital One and American Express.

Which Cash Advance Apps Work With Cash App?

If you’re a frequent Cash App user, Cash App Borrow will probably be your fastest option. However, it’s not yet available nationwide, so it’s possible you may not be able to access that feature. If that’s the case, many popular apps will work. This includes Albert, Brigit, Chime, Cleo, Dave, Klover and MoneyLion.

Which Cash Advance Apps Work With Chime?

Chime is a mobile banking app that offers a full array of banking services, from savings accounts to a Chime-branded credit card. Chime offers its customers overdraft protection of up to $200 to carry you over until payday. This is called Chime SpotMe, and it will be the best option for people who already bank with Chime. 
Chime works with most of the popular cash advance apps, including Dave, Albert
Cleo, Empower, Varo, MoneyLion and Klover. Chime does not work with Brigit and Earnin.
READ MORE: Cash advance apps that work with Chime

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