Withdraw small amounts from what you’ve already earned before payday — no wait, no fees and no interest.
The traditional two-week pay cycle offered by big business doesn’t always work for everyone. When you’re working an hourly job, you might wonder why you can’t just access your paycheck as soon as you earn it.
Earnin seeks to step into the gap between when you’ve worked and your actual payday, allowing you to borrow up to $100 daily from your pending paycheck based on how often you work and how much you earn.
There’s no charge to use the Earnin app, and you don’t have to jump through hoops to see if you’re eligible. Rather, Earnin decides how much you can withdraw based on what you regularly earn.
Read our review to learn more about the new payday loan alternative Earnin.
What is Earnin?
Founded in 2014 and rebranded from Activehours in November 2017, Earnin is a financial service that allows you to draw fee-free amounts from your wages before payday. It sets your limits by tracking how often you work and how much you earn.
That Earnin is a free service might raise an eyebrow: Rather than charge you a fee to draw on your pending wages, it simply asks for an optional tip for its services — up to $14 per withdrawal.
Earnin’s way of conducting business aligns with its main marketing message: That you’ve already earned your wages, and so you should be able to access them whenever needed.
How does Earnin work?
The Earnin app is relatively simple to use. To take advantage of its services, you need direct deposit of your paycheck into a checking account and a regular place of employment or electronic time sheet.
After you download the app, you’re walked through a brief signup process. Earnin takes a few days to verify your bank account, sending two small test transactions to confirm ownership.
When you request money, Earnin first verifies the hours you worked that week. It does this through a process that varies by how you’re paid: Hourly workers submit photos of their time sheets, while salaried workers allow access to mobile location tracking to confirm commuting to and from their job location.
- Maximum withdrawal. $100 daily limit and up to $500 per pay period, depending on your income and spending
- Cost. Optional tip of up to $14 per withdrawal
- Turnaround. Next business day for weekday requests, two business days for weekend requests and within minutes with Lightning Speed
How repayments work with Earnin
Earnin automatically deducts repayments from the checking account you provide at signup each time it expects you to get paid. How does it do this? Earnin uses your time sheets and mobile location tracking to monitors how often you work and how often you’re paid to determine your due date. You won’t be able to withdraw more than you’re scheduled to earn.
Let’s take a look at an example. Say you wanted to borrow $50 and left a $3 tip. One day later, you receive that $50 in your account bank account. One week later, your employer deposits a paycheck of $1,000 into your bank account. After that, Earnin deducts $53 from your account, leaving you with $947 from that paycheck.
Here’s how this example works step-by-step:
- Borrow $50 through Earnin and leave a $3 tip
- Receive $50 in your account the next day
- Get paid $1,000 one week later
- Earnin deducts that $53 from your account
Optional programs available to Earnin users
To help you avoid pricey overdrafts of $35 or more on your bank account, Earnin offers the optional Balance Shield. With Balance Shield, as long as you’re adding regular timesheets, Earnin automatically deposits up to $100 to your bank account each time your balance slips under $100.
Your control over the optional Balance Shield comes down to whether you tip for the service. Without a tip, Earnin activates the protection only once. Leaving a tip, however, keeps Balance Shield activated until you toggle it off through the app.
If your bank is part of the Earnin Lightning Speed program, you might not need to wait a full business day for processing. Lightning Speed allows you to withdraw your pending earnings in minutes, meaning you can use the money you’ve already earned sooner than waiting for a payday loan.
Compare Earnin to online payday loan providers
How much does it cost to use Earnin?
Technically nothing. The app is free to download and requires no fees.
Instead, Earnin makes money from your optional tips. Each time you draw from your pending paycheck, you have the option to tip how much you think the service is worth. If one week you can’t afford to tip, you don’t have to. If you work extra hours during the month and want to tip extra, you can do that too.
The model Earnin runs on is simple: You shouldn’t be punished for needing money between the two-week pay cycle businesses put in place.
Is Earnin safe to use?
Anytime you’re sharing your bank account information, it’s fair to be concerned about safety. With this service, you’re also sharing your work schedule, possibly accepting tracking to confirm your comings and goings. For perspective, keep in mind that Mint and plenty of other highly regarded services require access to your banking login info.
Like Mint, Earnin uses digital safeguards that it claims are equal to or even stronger than what most online banks use. Security measures include standard 256-bit encryption technology to protect your personal and financial information, secure server locations and regular audits to identify any security gaps.
What are users saying about the service?
Earnin is a relatively new startup and doesn’t fall into the same categories as other financial services that have come before it. Which means that you’ll find mixed reviews as to whether it’s a good service to use. The majority of its users report that Earnin does what it says it will, providing a helpful alternative to payday loans.
While Earnin doesn’t have accreditation from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), it does garner an A+ rating based on a handful of customer reviews. People who have downloaded the app from the Google Play Store and App Store give it high praise with an average of 4.5 stars. Many of the negative reviews are based on a lack of communication between users and customer service, so carefully read Earnin’s policies before downloading and submitting your bank information.
Earnin app vs. payday loans
Though it may sound like your typical cash advance, Earnin is not a payday loan. Rather, it’s an app that allows you to borrow small amounts from your pending wages with no fees or penalties. We compare Earnin and payday loans to bring their differences to light.
|Borrowing amount||Up to $100 daily, with pay period maximums of up to $500||Typically up to $1,000, and most states allow only one at a time|
|Turnaround time||1 to 2 business days, but if your bank is part of its Lightning Speed program, you could see immediate transfers||Typically next business day|
|Application process||Simple mobile app signup, requires connection to bank account||Simple online application, typically requires Social Security number and bank account numbers|
|Costs||No fees; instead, you tip what you think makes sense||High interest rate that can equal fees of $15 to $25 per $100 borrowed|
|Availability||Anywhere in the US||Prohibited in some states|
What are the pros and cons of Earnin?
- Borrow money you’ve already earned. Unlike payday loans, Earnin allows you to draw on the money you’ve already earned based on the hours you’ve worked during your pay period. No need to worry about taking out too much, because you can only borrow what your employer is guaranteed to give you.
- Bonus features. Balance Shield and Lightning Speed set Earnin apart from other lending services. You can benefit from added protection against costly overdraft fees and the ability to get your money in minutes.
- No fees — only tips. If you can’t afford to leave a tip, it’s OK: Earnin understands that not everyone can afford to spare a few dollars for access to their paycheck. You won’t pay fees to use this app, making this a safe alternative to payday loans.
- Borrowing isn’t a cure for financial problems. While Earnin can provide you with a small cash loan when you need it, if you find yourself using this service often, you might want to seek financial counseling. It’s likely you have a structural issue that needs to be addressed.
- Specific user criteria. The app isn’t designed for everyone. If you don’t have regular work hours or don’t have a bank account, you won’t be able to take advantage of Earnin.
- Personal info required. For withdrawals and repayments, hourly employees must upload their schedules each week. If you’re salaried, you’ll need to turn on the app’s location services. Earnin also needs access to your checking account.
- Tips can add up. A few dollars here and there might not sound like much. But think of it this way: If you tip $14 on a regular $200 withdrawal from your pending two-week paycheck, it calculates to 182.50% APR on that withdrawal.
How do I use the app?
You can either get the app from your phone’s app store or enter your phone number on Earnin’s site to receive a text message with the download link. Follow these five simple steps to sign up:
Download the free Earnin app from your phone’s mobile app store.
Get started by creating an account with your email address.
Add information on how you get paid, including your pay frequency and how you receive payment.
Select which bank you use from the list of popular banks.
Securely log in to your bank account to give Earnin access for tracking and verifying your income.
Once Earnin verifies your account and income, you can immediately request up to $100. Funds are transferred to your account in one to two business days.
You’ll have the option of adding a tip to support the app.
Should I use the Earnin app?
Earnin is suitable for people who need a little help between paydays through a service that doesn’t charge fees. As long as you can provide proof of regular work hours, you’re eligible for small withdrawals through the app on the money you’ve already earned.
If you work from home, have an irregular work schedule or need more than the $100 or your limit each pay period, you’ll need to consider other pay advance apps similar to Earnin. Or read our short-term loans guide to explore other options for cash loans.
Frequently asked questions