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Updated on Friday, May 31, 2019
It can be tough when you’re stuck between paychecks, anxiously waiting for the next one so you can pay the bills. If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. According to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.It’s important to know that there are ways to get your paycheck early. No, we’re not talking about payday loans. A number of banks and financial services companies can help you get your pay in advance by cutting out the electronic limbo between an employer issuing a paycheck and it showing up in your bank account.
We’ll explore different types of bank accounts and prepaid cards, and provide a great alternative option — and also talk about whether these services are safe.
Bank accounts where you can get your paycheck in advance
The following bank accounts are breaking the traditional mold to bypass the paycheck waiting period. They’re full-service, low-fee accounts, too, which means you can make purchases, withdrawals, deposits and more without worrying about extra charges.
Chime online spending account
You can get your paycheck up to two days early by setting up direct deposit on a Chime Spending Account. Chime even sends you a prefilled direct deposit form when you open an account. That way, your employer can start your direct deposit as soon as possible.
This mobile-first bank account is a pretty great option all around. There’s no minimum balance to open or keep the account. Chime promises no hidden fees, meaning there are no monthly service charges, or fees for overdrafts or foreign transactions. It does charge a fee for out-of-network ATM usage, though it partners with the MoneyPass network to give you access to more than 38,000 fee-free ATMs. Avoiding extra charges can come in handy when you’re already depending on your next paycheck for help.
The account allows you to deposit cash at 60,000+ Green Dot retail locations. You’re limited to $1,000 per 24 hours and $10,000 per month. Chime won’t charge you for these deposits, but third parties might. The Chime Spending Account limits you to spending $2,500 per day, capping ATM withdrawals and point-of-sale transactions at $500 per day.
Varo online checking account
Varo is a fee-free, mobile-friendly checking account that can get your paycheck direct deposited up to two days early. Once your employer submits payroll files to the Federal Reserve, the Fed notifies Varo of the amount owed to you. Varo then deposits the money into your account as soon as it receives the notification. For example, for most Friday paydays, Varo gets the Fed notification and pays you on Wednesday. This also applies to your tax refund.
The Varo account includes several perks that make banking easier and more affordable than traditional banking. There are no fees for monthly service, foreign transactions and transfers, nor is there a minimum balance requirement. You can use more than 55,000 Allpoint ATMs to withdraw cash from your account for free — up to $500 per day. You can use Green Dot locations to deposit cash; Varo doesn’t charge a fee, but the store will charge up to $4.95. You can deposit up to $1,000 per day and up to $10,000 per month.
Prepaid debit cards where you can get your paycheck in advance
RushCard prepaid debit card
The RushCard Prepaid Visa can deposit your paycheck into your account as soon as it is notified of the deposit — up to two days sooner than other services. There is no charge for direct deposits, covering employer paychecks, government benefits and tax refunds.
You can deposit cash on the card at thousands of partner locations, including CVS and Rite Aid. RushCard won’t charge a fee, but third parties might.
You can open a RushCard online, where you’ll be prompted to choose one of two payment plans. The Pay As You Go Plan works if you’ll use the card occasionally, charging a $1 fee per purchase. If you’ll be using the card more regularly, the Unlimited Plan costs either $5.95 a month with direct deposit or $7.95 a month without direct deposit. It doesn’t cost anything to open the card account, but there is a $3.95 or $9.95 fee when you first fund your card depending on the card design you choose.
Green Dot prepaid debit card
The Green Dot can get you your paycheck up to two days in advance when you set up direct deposit. The service is free. Plus, if you deposit at least $1,000 in a month, that waives the card’s $7.95 service fee the following month. You can also deposit cash, but this can cost up to $5.95 in third-party fees.
You cannot open a Green Dot Prepaid Card online. You’ll need to buy one at a participating store, either as a Mastercard or Visa, whichever you prefer. A card costs up to $1.95 depending on where you buy it.
Netspend prepaid debit card
The Netspend Prepaid Card allows you to get paychecks and government benefits direct deposited up to two days early at no extra cost. In fact, it’s cheaper to set up direct deposit than it is to make cash reloads, which cost $3.95 each.
The Netspend Prepaid Card may also charge a service fee, depending on the payment plan you choose. The Monthly Plan charges a flat fee, which is as high as $9.95 a month depending on the issuer. Direct deposit is beneficial here, too, as depositing at least $500 each month upgrades you to Netspend Premier and almost cuts the monthly fee in half.
Looking for a paycheck advance app? Here’s an alternative
Earnin (previously branded as Activehours) works differently than the options above. Designed to help you pay your bills and avoid overdraft fees, it doesn’t wait for your employer to deposit your paycheck. Instead, using the employment information you provide, it can pay you on the day that you work for the portion you choose. For example, if you worked six hours today, Earnin will log those hours and you can receive the wages in your bank account immediately. Then when your paycheck comes in, Earnin will debit back the amount you logged.
If you’re an on-demand worker or are paid hourly, you are required to upload a photo of your timesheet to demonstrate how long you’ve worked. However, if you don’t receive a timesheet at work, Earnin is able to track your earnings automatically as long as you provide a work address.
You can cash out a maximum of $100 per day of money you’ve already earned. This might make it difficult to get a full day’s wages in advance, unless you made $100 or less in that day.
Earnin doesn’t assess any fees for monthly service or transactions, nor does it charge interest. Since Earnin is not a bank account itself, you will need to have a separate, supported checking account to use Earnin. You must also have direct deposits from your employer into that account, a regular pay schedule and a fixed work location or an online timekeeping system at work to qualify. Earnin does not check your credit history.
Without fees and interest, Earnin depends on optional tips from its clients to make money. So you never need to worry about paying Earnin for its services, especially when you’re short on money. If you do have some extra cash you’d like to give to Earnin, you can do that, too.
Check out this MagnifyMoney roundup for other apps that will help you ahead of payday.
How do paycheck advances work?
Signing up for direct deposit allows you to get your paycheck much faster than with a standard paper check. It takes the hassle out of collecting your check from payroll, depositing the check into your account and waiting for the money to clear.
Still, there’s a bit of a delay even through direct deposit. Once your bank sends your paycheck to your bank, the funds aren’t usually available right away. Instead, the money has to clear the Automated Clearing House before landing in your bank account. Your bank (or credit union) must make the funds available the next business day after the business day your paycheck is received.
However, banks and other financial entities are moving toward faster, more convenient transactions. A newer Nacha rule — Same Day ACH — makes payroll direct deposits available to consumers by 5 p.m. local time on the same day, depending on the time of transfer.
Are these services safe?
Absolutely. It’s easy to be wary of new companies that go against the status quo. But each of these options — except for Earnin — provide Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insurance for your money. Since Earnin is not a bank account, it cannot obtain FDIC insurance, but it keeps all your information, including your linked bank information, secure and encrypted.
Plus, these paycheck advance services are much safer for your money in the long run than payday loans. Payday loans allow you to borrow money quickly. However, you’re getting money that must be repaid.
If you’re constantly in between paychecks, you can get stuck in a cycle of borrowing all too easily. All the while, your loan is accruing interest.
So instead of helping your financial situation, payday loans can land you in a worse spot than where you started. These alternative services can give you earlier access to your own money — without interest or extra fees in most cases.