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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

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:
  1. Borrow $50 through Earnin and leave a $3 tip
  2. Receive $50 in your account the next day
  3. Get paid $1,000 one week later
  4. Earnin deducts that $53 from your account

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

Updated May 20th, 2019
Name Product Filter Values Max. Loan Amount Turnaround Time Requirements
$35,000
As soon as the next business day
Regular source of income, verifiable bank account, US citizen, ages 18+
Get connected with multiple lenders you might qualify with — even if you have bad credit.
$15,000
1 business day
$1,000+ monthly income, direct deposit, US citizen or permanent resident, ages 18+
Get offers from potential lenders in minutes by filling out just one online form.
$50,000
1 business day
Employed, $800+ regular monthly income, checking account, ages 18+, US citizen
Fill out a simple online form to compare offers from several lenders that may be able to help.
$10,000
As early as 1 business day
$1,000+ monthly income after taxes, valid checking account
Explore its online education center to get tips on budgeting, how to prioritize your bills and more.
$1,000
1 business day
Valid bank account, proof of employment or steady income, US citizen, ages 18+
No credit? Past bankruptcy? One of the lenders in its network may still be able to help.
$1,000
1 to 2 business days
Employed, $1,000+ monthly income after taxes, US citizen or permanent resident, ages 18+
Use its repayment calculator to see how the loan term and amount you borrow affects the overall cost.

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.

Earnin Payday loans
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?

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

Image on step one to create an account on the app

Get started by creating an account with your email address.
Image on step two to create an account on the app

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

Image on step one to pay on the app

Select which bank you use from the list of popular banks.
Image on step two to pay on the app

Securely log in to your bank account to give Earnin access for tracking and verifying your income.
Image on step three to pay on the app

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

Pictures: earnin.com

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75 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    деньги-на-телефон.рфMay 11, 2019

    Great article, very helpful!

  2. Default Gravatar
    KApril 4, 2019

    If you only borrow once, will it keep getting money from your account every check?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaApril 8, 2019Staff

      Hi K,

      Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. 😃

      Earnin would stop getting money from your account after you have completely paid back your balance.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  3. Default Gravatar
    CarrieMarch 17, 2019

    Can I use Earnin to access my Social Security Direct Deposit?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JhezMarch 18, 2019Staff

      Hello Carrie,

      Thank you for your comment.

      No, unfortunately. Earnin currently doesn’t work with social security or government benefits.

      Regards,
      Jhezelyn

  4. Default Gravatar
    DillydillyFebruary 25, 2019

    Hey, so I signed up and was wondering something. It says I can take out 100 bucks. If I don’t touch it at all, will all my money from paycheck go straight back into my bank account?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaFebruary 27, 2019Staff

      Hi Dillydilly,

      Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      If you don’t borrow money from Earnin, then your paycheck would remain untouched. You will receive your full paycheck without deduction.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  5. Default Gravatar
    KariFebruary 20, 2019

    Was wondering if earin uses your location to see if your at work. My account is in the positive and I am not over my max but earin has not been registering that I have been at work. It won’t let me take any money. I leave my phone at home sometimes would that be why its not picking up that I am working?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      johnbasanesFebruary 21, 2019Staff

      Hi Kari,

      Thank you for reaching out to Finder.

      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. You may need to contact Earnin directly for further assistance on this query. Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Reggie

  6. Default Gravatar
    IndraFebruary 19, 2019

    Will my employer be notified I’m using this app?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaFebruary 20, 2019Staff

      Hi Indra,

      Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      Upon checking, I couldn’t find the exact answer to your question. However, upon checking, Earnin would ask for the details of your employer and confirm it with you. It does not specifically mention whether it will need to notify your employer or not.

      For this reason, it would be a good idea to directly as Earnin. They should be able to provide a more personalized answer.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  7. Default Gravatar
    MarianaFebruary 16, 2019

    Does Earnin have any effect on my credit score?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JasonFebruary 17, 2019Staff

      Hi Mariana,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      Earnin doesn’t have any impact your credit score since they don’t do credit inquiries or report your repayment history to a credit bureau or other consumer reporting agency.

      Please feel free to get in touch with us through our online chat for any other questions.

      Kind regards,
      Jason

  8. Default Gravatar
    MonteFebruary 10, 2019

    How do I receive money from Earnin?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaFebruary 10, 2019Staff

      Hi Monte,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      After verifying your identity and meeting all requirements, Earnin sends you the money to your nominated bank account.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  9. Default Gravatar
    CritterDecember 17, 2018

    So I just wanted to get this straight with this app I have signed up I have work more hours than the sheet I had… I don’t get paid this week but next week. Would i be able to take money out and then pay on my payday which is a Thursday 12/27/18? right now my account pending money which I have like 0.86 cents something like that.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaDecember 18, 2018Staff

      Hi Critter,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      You can still sign up for Earnin. However, it takes a few days for Earnin to verify your bank account. When you request money, Earnin first verifies the hours you worked that week. If they could see that you are able to make payments on the day you are scheduled to make the first payment, they can approve your request. If not, then you would need to wait until you have enough track record to show Earnin that you are able to make repayments.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  10. Default Gravatar
    SaherDecember 16, 2018

    If I download Earnin right now and enter all the information it asks for, is it possible for me to have $50 in my bank by tomorrow?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaDecember 18, 2018Staff

      Hi Saher,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      Yes, it is possible for you to receive your $50 money by tomorrow provided that you made the request on a weekday. If you have done the request on a weekend, it would take two business days for you to receive your money. However, if your bank is part of the Lightning Speed program, then you can get your money as quickly as a few minutes.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

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