Earnin review: Can this app save you from payday loans?


Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam

Blog author Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a money writer and educator. She helps artists and freelancers get creative with their money at Hey Freelancer.

Published January 4, 2018 | 4 min read

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Updated July 24, 2019: Some rules are simply a given. We don’t question them because that’s how things have been from day one. We change our clocks twice a year, we eat three meals a day and we pay our taxes by April 15.

And when we get our first job, we normally get paid twice a month. So we budget, pay our bills and pay off debt based on when those paychecks come. But sometimes we hit a low point, and we're left with more days in the month than money to cover them.

With Earnin, (formerly Activehours), you don't have to wait for payday. With this app, you won’t have to wait two weeks for a paycheck.

“As a country, we spend more on overdraft fees than we spend on fresh vegetables,” said Earnin founder Ram Palaniappan. “By doing payroll as they worked, people were able to stay out of overdraft fees and pay their bills on time.”

How does Earnin work?

Founded in 2014, Earnin works with employees from more than 25,000 companies, including Apple, Starbucks and Whole Foods. The app works for both salary and hourly workers. As long as you can set up direct deposit, you can link to Earnin’s app. The money should hit your bank account within a day if you make a request during the weekday.

Besides being able to set up direct deposit to your checking account, the only other requirement is that the app can track your time, which can be done in one of three ways:

  1. You commute to work and enable “Automagic Earnings,” which allows Earnin to use data from your phone to track your hours.

  2. You send snaps of your time sheet.

  3. Earnin is integrated with your employer’s time tracking and attendance system. Currently, Earnin is integrated with: Uber drivers, Brink, Tsheets, Nimble Schedule, uAttend, When I Work, Deputy and WebPunchClock.

Here are some easy ways to make the most of your paycheck.

What people say about Earnin

Earnin received 4.3 out of 5 stars (based on more than 14,000 reviews) on Google Play, 4.7 out of 5 stars on the Apple Store (out of nearly 5,000 reviews), and a B rating from the Better Business Bureau (out of five ratings). Why only a B rating? Users have filed 25 complaints against the company. The app has received some press love, including coverage in TechCrunch, Buzzfeed and Inc.

Want to stay on top of your money? Check out these best budgeting apps.


It’s free to download Earnin. There are no initiation or monthly fees. However, there is an option to tip up to $14 per transaction. While tipping is optional, you need to tip regularly to use some of Earnin's special features (we’ll get more into that in just a bit).

Is Earnin secure?

As with many money management or budgeting apps, Earnin requires your banking and personal information. However, to protect your privacy and secure your data, Earnin uses technology such as 256-bit encryption, which is the same level of security as most online banks — learn more about those here.

Other features

Besides its main function, Earnin also offers Balance Shield, which helps protect you from overdraft fees. With Balance Shield, Earnin automatically deposits $100 when your bank balance dips below $100. If you don’t tip, this form of overdraft protection turns on only once. To keep this feature going, you need to continue tipping.

Another special feature is Lightning Speed, which enables you to receive your payment within minutes of your request. No tipping required here. You just need to link a debit card to the app.

How Earnin can help you improve your finances

Getting paid the day after you work is rad. You can avoid predatory payday loans, overdraft fees and resorting to credit to keep up with your bills. But it’s not a cure-all for your money woes.

Ideally, you can set most of your bills on auto pay and not worry about cash flow. Getting paid more frequently may help with your finances but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. You’ll still need to create and stick to a budget, mind when all your bills are due and keep your savings goals in mind. Plus, if you tip Earnin, you’ll want to keep a close watch on how much you spend.

If getting paid earlier can help you avoid overdraft fees, digging into deeper debt or resorting to payday loans, it’s worth checking out. Otherwise, if you’re experiencing cash-flow issues, you should review your budget, how and when you pay your bills and how you manage your money.

Want to learn more? Check out our review of the best investing apps.

Image: RobertoDavid