Earnin app review — a new payday loan alternative?
earnin app

Earnin review — a new payday loan alternative?

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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

Earnin automatically deducts repayments from the checking account you provide at signup. So if you borrow $50, then the next time you’re paid, Earnin deducts $50 from your account; if you borrow $50 and leave a $3 tip, it deducts $53.

In addition, because Earnin monitors how often you work and how often you’re paid, you won’t be able to take a withdrawal if the amount you’re requesting affects your ability to pay it back. If the amount you’ve borrowed isn’t available in your account when Earnin is scheduled to debit it, you won’t be able to use the app again until you’ve fully repaid your withdrawal.

Optional programs available to Earnin users

Balance Shield

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.

Lightning Speed

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

Rates last updated July 20th, 2018
Unfortunately, none of the short term loan providers currently offer loans in your state. Learn more about short term loans in your state to find an alternative.
Name Product Product Description Term of Loan Turnaround Time Max. Loan Amount
With straightforward, simple qualifications, these loans offer easy approval for people with poor credit.
3 to 36 months
Slam Dunk Loans
Potentially get approved for a short-term loan through this lender-connection service, even with poor credit history.
Varies by lender
As soon as next business day
LendYou Payday Loans
Apply online with this loan-connection company offering unrestricted short-term loans at high maximums — fast turnaround.
1 business day
CashAdvance.com Payday Loans
Whether for emergencies or unexpected expenses, this provider may be able to connect you among its nationwide network of lenders.
Up to 12 months
1–2 business days
TriangleCash Payday Loans
If you have bad credit or no credit history, apply to be connected to a network of lenders for funding at rates that vary by state.
Varies based on lender
As soon as next business day

Compare up to 4 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.

EarninPayday loans
Borrowing amountUp to $100 daily, with pay period maximums of up to $500Typically up to $1,000, and most states allow only one at a time
Turnaround time1 to 2 business days, but if your bank is part of its Lightning Speed program, you could see immediate transfersTypically next business day
Application processSimple mobile app signup, requires connection to bank accountSimple online application, typically requires Social Security number and bank account numbers
CostsNo fees; instead, you tip what you think makes senseHigh interest rate that can equal fees of $15 to $25 per $100 borrowed
AvailabilityAnywhere in the USProhibited 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?

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.

Earnin app screenshot login screen

Add information on how you get paid, including your pay frequency and how you receive payment.

Earnin app screenshot sample form

Select which bank you use from the list of popular banks.

Earnin app screenshot choosing bank to use

Securely log in to your bank account to give Earnin access for tracking and verifying your income.

Earnin app screenshot last step

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 short-term loan options.

Frequently asked questions

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12 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    TerriJune 26, 2018

    Can I still use Earnin with a monthly VA compensation that’s direct deposited into checking?

    • finder Customer Care
      AshJune 27, 2018Staff

      Hi Terri,

      Thank you for contacting finder.

      Yes, you may use Earnin as one of their eligibility is that your paycheck should be directly deposited to a checking account and that you have a regular place of employment or electronic time sheet.

      I hope this helps.

      Let us know if there is anything else that we may assist you with.


  2. Default Gravatar
    AlvinMay 8, 2018

    How long does it take to approve your bank account ? As of now it’s been more than a week and just concerned

    • finder Customer Care
      AshMay 9, 2018Staff

      Hi Alvin,

      Thank you for visiting finder.

      Earnin will be verifying your bank account in 72 hours or 3 business days. If it takes longer than that you may reach out directly to Earnin’s Support through the “Help” button on their application.

      I hope this helps.

      Let us know if there is anything else that we may assist you with.


  3. Default Gravatar
    NickMarch 3, 2018

    Im a server and get tips but my credit card tips all go on one paycheck that i get every two weeks, can i still use this app

    • finder Customer Care
      RenchMarch 13, 2018Staff

      Hi Nick,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Yes, you can still get this app and sign up for Earnin. Earnin decides how much you can withdraw based on what you regularly earn. It will take a few days to verify your bank account, sending two small test transactions to confirm ownership when you sign up.

      You may follow the step by step guide on the lower part of this page on how to sign up for Earnin.

      Best regards,

  4. Default Gravatar
    SFebruary 3, 2018

    Can I use Earnin if I receive a monthly pension from job? I am retired and is deposited to my bank every month.

    • finder Customer Care
      ArnoldFebruary 15, 2018Staff

      Hi S,

      Thanks for your inquiry

      The app’s intended users are those who have their income directly deposited into a checking account. If you have an alternate source of income or your income is not deposited into a checking account and you need a loan, you may want to consider loan options for retirees by clicking this link.

      Hope this information helps


  5. Default Gravatar
    KayceJanuary 14, 2018

    Is Well Fargo one of the banks that offer the lightning speed? That if I cash out $100, I will receive the loan in minutes?

    • finder Customer Care
      ArnoldJanuary 15, 2018Staff

      Hi Kayce,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Wells Fargo is one of recommended banks of Earnin. You may scan your debit card in the Earnin app for verification to see if your debit card is eligible for Lightning Speed. The verification could take up to an hour. However, all future cash outs will be sent to your bank account within seconds, even on weekends and holidays, once your debit card is approved.

      Please submit a support ticket through the Earnin app, or email Earning support (support@earnin.com) for more information or for further assistance regarding their services.

      Hope this information helps


  6. Default Gravatar
    AngelaDecember 27, 2017

    If i work for a temp agency but get paid regularly can i still use this app ? The office location is not the worksite location.

    • finder Customer Care
      RenchDecember 30, 2017Staff

      Hi Angela,

      Thanks for your inquiry. Please note that we are not affiliated with Earnin or any company we feature on our site and so we can only offer you general advice.

      Yes, Earnin supports temp agencies employees. Please get in touch with Earnin support through email (support@earnin.com) for more information or for further assistance regarding their services.

      Best regards,

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