Empower Review [2024]: Is it Worth it?

SAVING & SPENDING - BUDGETING & EXPENSES
Empower does offer free cash advances, but you’ll need to dodge a few fees to get there first.
Updated April 11, 2024
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We recommend the Empower12 app if you need access to a small cash advance every now and then. It also helps that Empower doesn't charge interest on its cash advances.

However, it has a subscription fee of $8 per month. That's why we recommend that you make enough use of its budgeting, automated savings, and additional features to justify the fee.

In this Empower review, we’ll cover how the app works, including what other features it offers and how exactly its cash advance works.

Empower

Quick Summary

Start saving in two minutes

  • Easy automated savings
  • Effortless budgeting and spend tracking
  • Get up to $250 when you need it3
In this Empower review

Key takeaways

  • Empower doesn’t charge any interest or fees for cash advances except for an instant transfer fee ranging from $1 to $8 if you want money moved to your external bank account within an hour.
  • Empower offers cash advances up to $250, but your own individual limit may be lower.3
  • Empower is only available as an app. You won’t be able to manage your account from a desktop computer.

Empower: Is it worth it?

Pros
  • Cash advances up to $250
  • Zero interest on cash advances
  • No credit check required
  • Doesn’t damage your credit if you don’t repay
  • Automatic repayment of your advance at your next payday
  • 14-day free trial for first-time customers

Cons
  • $8 per month subscription fee
  • Doesn’t build credit
  • Instant transfers may cost extra
  • Your individual borrowing limit may be lower than $250

Our verdict: Empower is known for its free cash advance, but it also offers a few other tools, too, including a checking account, automated savings, and budgeting. We recommend the app for someone who can benefit enough from its cash advances and features to justify the subscription fee of $8 per month.

What is Empower?

Empower is an Android and iOS app that offers a few features, including a (mostly) free cash advance. It was founded in 2016, and it’s not related to Empower, the retirement investment company.

The Empower app has been downloaded over one million times in the Google Play store alone, where it has a 4.7-star rating out of 5. It’s also available in the Apple store, where it has a 4.8-star rating out of 5. According to Empower, it’s given out over $500 million in free cash advances.

How does an Empower Cash Advance work?

Empower’s cash advance is pretty simple. When you download the app, you’ll need to link your current bank account. You’ll also get the option to open a new bank account with Empower.

When Empower detects that your account balance is low and you’re likely to overdraft your account, it’ll send you a notification offering a cash advance to help you out if you’re eligible. You can also check your eligibility and request a cash advance whenever you want directly in the app.

Empower offers cash advances up to $250, but your own limit may be less than this depending on a few factors, including how much you receive regularly for a paycheck.

Empower

Learn More

If approved, you’ll see the funds show up within minutes if you’re using Empower’s checking account. If you’re still using your own checking account at another bank, Empower will send those funds via an ACH transfer, which generally takes a full business day. You can pay an instant transfer fee ranging from $1 to $8, depending on your advance amount, to speed things up to just a few hours instead.

Then, Empower will withdraw the cash advance automatically at your next regularly scheduled paycheck (within one to three weeks). There are no other fees or interest involved, including late fees, overdraft fees, and insufficient funds fees. In fact, if your bank charges an overdraft fee due to a withdrawal attempt by Empower, you can request reimbursement for that fee.

Who is an Empower Cash Advance right for?

Empower could be a good option if you find yourself paying overdraft fees with your current bank for small shortfalls every now and then. We’d also recommend Empower if you prefer to manage your money on your phone since you can only use Empower through its app, not on a computer. It offers a 14-day free trial to see if it’s a good fit.

We wouldn’t recommend Empower if you don’t want to do your banking strictly via mobile app. We also wouldn’t recommend Empower if you’re looking for more detailed budgeting tools or help with investing. If you overdraft your account regularly or need larger amounts of cash, Empower may not be right for you either.

Other Empower app features

The Empower app features more than just a cash advance. It has a few other features and banking services you might find useful too.

Empower Card

This is an account that’s actually held with nbkc bank4, but you’ll access it through the Empower app and with a Visa debit card5 Empower will send to you. It pays a small amount of interest (0.01% (as of May 23, 2023)), has no overdraft fees, and offers 10% cash back with certain retailers, known in the app as Perks. There’s also no minimum balance requirement.

You withdraw cash with no fees from in-network ATMs. You can’t deposit cash or paper checks, however.

In addition, Empower makes your paycheck available two days early if you switch your direct deposit to your Empower account.

Empower Thrive

This is essentially a small $250 line of credit that you can open without a credit check if you’ve used the cash advance feature previously. It will charge an interest rate, but if you pay off your full balance with your next paycheck, you won’t be charged interest at all. If you pay on time, Empower may increase your credit limit up to $1,000.

Empower does report these payments to the credit bureaus (unlike with its cash advance), which could potentially help grow your credit score if you manage your credit line well. It’s not yet clear how you can use this line of credit — whether you’ll get a credit card you can use or if you have to log into the app to request funds.

Automatic Savings

Empower can come up with an automatic savings plan for you if you tell the app your savings goals. The AutoSave feature will calculate when to make the withdrawals to your savings account based on when you earn money and when you spend it, and it’ll make those transfers for you.

Smart Recommendations

Empower can also keep tabs on your money management and send you important notifications. These might include:

Budgeting

Empower can help you stay on your budget, similar to how other budgeting apps work. It’s on you to decide what budget categories you need and how much should go into them. But after that, you can set these categories in Empower, and it’ll send you notifications to help you follow your budget.

How to get started with Empower

Empower makes it relatively simple to sign up for a cash advance:

  1. Download the app: You can only use Empower as a mobile app, so you’ll need to download this through the Google Play Store or Apple App Store first.
  2. Provide your information: Empower will ask for your name, email address, and date of birth. It will also need to verify your phone number.

Empower review screenshot

  1. Link your current bank account: Empower’s features work by analyzing your income and spending patterns and transferring money between your bank and Empower. Most banks are supported, but not all. Make sure to link your bank account where you receive your paycheck.

Empower review screenshot

  1. Check your cash advance eligibility: You’ll be able to see whether you’re eligible for a cash advance in the “Check eligibility now” area on your accounts page. It will also let you know how much you’re eligible for.
  2. Apply for the cash advance: If you’re eligible, you can apply for the advance right there in the app. If you have an Empower Card, your cash advance will show up right away. If you want funds sent to your external bank account it’ll take one business day unless you pay an instant transfer fee ranging from $1 to $8, depending on your cash advance amount. In that case, it’ll appear within about an hour.
  3. Repay the cash advance: Empower will deduct your payment automatically based on the pay cycle it identifies in your bank account history.

Alternatives to Empower: MoneyLion and Dave

There are tons of cool fintech apps coming out these days that can help you manage your money better. Empower is relatively expensive compared to some other options and its features are more limited.

Empower doesn’t offer investing help, for example, and it relies on you to set your budget categories. If crunching numbers isn’t your forte and you’d rather just have someone else do those things, check out these other more affordable apps:

Empower MoneyLion Dave
Services offered
  • Banking
  • Budgeting
  • Line of credit
  • Cash advances
  • Banking
  • Investing
  • Budgeting
  • Cash advances
  • Credit builder loan
  • Banking
  • Budgeting tools
Monthly fees $8 per month after a 14-day trial to use banking and budgeting tools. $1 per month for most features. $19.99 per month for credit builder loans, plus an APR of 5.99% to 29.99%. $1 per month membership fee
Requirements
  • 18 years of age or older
  • Have a smartphone
  • Have a bank account
  • Social Security number
  • U.S.-based physical address
  • 18 years of age or older
  • Social Security number
  • Have a bank account with regular paycheck deposits
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • 18 years of age or older
  • Have a bank account
  • Have a total deposit of $1,000 or more monthly

Empower FAQ

Is the Empower app legit?

Yes, Empower is a real app. It was launched in 2016 and is backed by several investment firms.

What happens if you don’t pay Empower?

Empower offers cash advances on a “nonrecourse basis,” meaning that you don’t have an unconditional obligation to repay it. If you don’t repay, Empower won’t come after you, transfer you to another debt collector, or even note it on your credit report. You simply won’t be able to get another cash advance from Empower if you need it.

How much does Empower let you borrow?

You can borrow up to $250 through an Empower cash advance. Not everyone will be able to borrow that much, however. Your specific cash advance limit depends on your bank account history, including how much you get paid and how often. Empower will check this before giving you a cash advance and let you know your limit.

Empower review: bottom line

Empower is a decent choice if you’re looking for a cheaper option than paying overdraft fees. But a few things limit its usefulness. Unless you’re planning out at least a day in advance, you won’t be able to get the cash in time unless you pay an extra fee or use Empower’s paid banking accounts. And besides, many banks offer overdraft transfers from your savings account for free.

Instead, we view Empower’s real strength in the rest of its app, which offers custom recommendations on ways to save, which bills are coming up, how well you’re tracking your budget, and more. However, there are many apps that can do this, so you may want to explore our picks for the best money apps first.

Empower Benefits

  • Cash Advance is available instantly
  • No interest or late fees
  • Easy automated repayment
  • No credit score or security deposit required

Author Details

Lindsay VanSomeren Lindsay VanSomeren is a professional writer based in Suquamish, Washington. Originally a wildlife biologist, Lindsay became passionate about helping others learn smart financial moves after seeing how positive money habits made a big difference in her own life.

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