Waiting a week or more for a paycheck is no picnic for cash-strapped employees. Some turn to earned wage access (EWA) apps that allow them to receive their paycheck early for a fee.

However, these services can build dependence on advanced pay and cause inaccurate wage estimations. Here are some techniques to help you avoid these pitfalls.

Set Up Direct Deposit

When you enroll in direct deposit, such as through Wisely by ADP, your employer sends your paycheck to your bank as soon as it’s processed. Then, the money is in your account and available to spend, usually a few days before your pay date. That’s a huge benefit for many people who live paycheck to paycheck or who have urgent expenses that need to be paid right away.

Some banks offer an early version of direct deposit called Early Pay. It allows you to access your funds up to two business days earlier than a normal direct deposit, and it’s free.

It’s important to note that this differs from employee-sponsored earned wage access (EWA) programs. These are designed to help employees avoid costly alternatives, such as payday loans and cash advances, by giving them access to their estimated earnings before payday. These programs often charge a small fee, either paid by the employee or subsidized by employers.

The main advantage of employer-sponsored EWA is that it’s free for employees and that it’s transparent about how much will be withdrawn from your paycheck before payday. By contrast, consumer-facing apps and services typically charge a fee for early withdrawals. The difference is important to understand because it can help you assess whether these programs might be appropriate for your workplace.

Sign Up for Automatic Payments

There often needs to be more clarity between when employees complete work and when they get paid. For low-wage workers, this lag can result in financial hardship. For example, they might be unable to pay their rent or cover an emergency expense until the next paycheck. Luckily, there are apps and other techniques that allow workers to access their earned wages before their payday.

These early payment apps work through a contract between the provider and the employee and do not involve the employer. The worker downloads the app and creates an account with the provider by uploading a timesheet and linking a checking account. The provider then offers the worker a percentage of their earnings, as reported by their employer, to use before their next payday. In this way, the provider acts more like a lender than a payday service. The fee for these services can be quite high, but smart negotiating and efforts by some companies to subsidize fees can help keep fees low.

While on-demand pay may not be a perfect solution for every company, it can improve employee morale and performance. It also allows employees to avoid expensive alternatives, such as payday loans and credit card debt. For companies that offer this option, it’s important to communicate clearly about the benefits and drawbacks. Employees should be able to opt out of the program at any time.

Use an App

Many app developers target low-wage workers with new programs that advance a portion of an employee’s paycheck ahead of their pay period. The money is usually deposited into a bank account and available for withdrawal when the worker wants it. Sometimes, these apps charge service fees or ask for optional tips. Many experts say these services are essentially payday loans by another name. The problem is that the cost of repeated advances can add up, and many of these services are not designed to support financial wellness or long-term savings goals.

A few apps offer a different approach, which connects to employers’ payroll and timekeeping systems and offers employees the option of getting a paycheck in advance on their day of work. The company uses its capital to advance the money, which it returns to employees on their next pay date. This eliminates the need for employers to reimburse the on-demand pay vendor and reduces administrative burden. Companies that use this model report a 41% decrease in turnover among their hourly workers, according to the app’s website.

Other apps allow workers to access their wages early using their mobile devices. The app shows real-time accrued funds and how much is available to draw down before a payday. Amounts drawn down are deducted from the worker’s subsequent paycheck and are not subject to interest charges or credit card late fees.

Use a Prepaid Debit Card

Whether it’s running weekend errands, prepping for this week’s birthday party, or buying groceries, getting your money as soon as you can can make the financial “ifs” in life feel less iffy. With an employer-based prepaid debit card, you can get your paycheck up to two days early.

Employer-backed EWA enables workers to access the money from their paycheck before it is directly deposited into their bank account, usually for a flat fee or membership cost. It differs from direct-to-consumer (D2C) products that charge a higher APR or cash advance fees and often require more documentation, such as pay stubs and employment history.

The program can be especially helpful for employees who are paid biweekly or semimonthly or those who work in industries where payday is not common. It can eliminate the time gap between earning wages and having them available to spend — a source of financial stress that’s particularly acute for the two-thirds of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, according to CareerBuilder.


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