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For the most part, payday lenders should be considered a last resort for emergencies and taking care of unexpected expenses, because these loans can be very expensive if not repaid quickly.

If you must have money right away to pay for essentials, and can pay your loan back by the due date — typically two to four weeks — here are a few top payday lenders and their terms.

Activehours is a unique service for hourly workers that tracks your timecard and essentially provides a cash advance against hours you’ve already worked.  There’s no set fee schedule — you pay what you think is fair, based on your experience using the service.

Activehours isn’t available to everyone, though. Your employer must use an online or electronic timesheet to verify earnings for the current pay period, and you must be getting paid through direct deposit to your bank account. If your job fits the bill, this service might not be an option for you.

Check City operates primarily in the Western U.S., offering payday loans based on a finance charge which determines the APR. Rates vary by state. In Nevada, the finance charge on online loans is up to $17 per $100, which translates into an APR of 443 percent if paid back in 14 days, or 295 percent if paid back after 21 days. In Wisconsin, fees can total up to $30 per $100 borrowed, which works out to an APR of 782 percent on a 14-day loan.

Loans can also be renewed, while a partial payment on the principal can also be made on the renewal date. These loans are repaid via an automatic debit from your bank account on the loan date. Overall, the loan process is straightforward and the loan amount is dependent on specific factors. However, the loans are not available in all 50 states.

Advance America

Advance America offers cash advances based on the regulations of the states they operate in. In California a $100 online payday loan from Advance America carries a $17.64 finance charge, which amounts to a 459.9 percent APR on a loan paid back in 14 days. Paying off your cash advance loan early may result in a lowering or refunding of a portion of your finance or loan fee. Loan applications can be completed at one of more than 2,400 store locations or online. If completed online, it will take at least one business day to have your funds deposited in your account. Loans can be renewed, but the number of renewals is limited by your state’s regulations.


LendUp is a payday loan option that provides installment loans versus the more traditional payday loan. Using a point system, consumers can access larger loan amounts with a lower interest rate over time. LendUp says in California, the average APR for borrowers starting out at the “Silver” level pay is 254 percent. As they build their repayment history, they pay lower rates — 71 percent on average for “Gold” borrowers, 56 percent for “Platinum,” and 34 percent for “Prime.”

In addition, the loans can assist the consumer in improving their credit score. One of the ways to earn points is through credit courses offered by LendUp. The loan process is done completely online, but LendUp is not available in all states. Check the LendUP website to see if your state is on their list.

Speedy Cash

Speedy Cash offers traditional payday loans with one flat fee. The loan can be directly deposited into your account and then the payment is made the same way. Additionally, the loan can be repaid early without any penalties. This company also offers three options to apply for the loan, on the phone, online or in their stores. Funds can be dispersed either in person or via a direct deposit. Depending on your state, there may be a cooling off period before a consumer can borrow again.


This service provides loans via cash or direct deposit into your bank account. The finance fees for your loan are based on the amount. For example, in the state of Michigan, the finance fees for each $100 gradually decreases. However, it is important to keep in mind that each state also defines the possibilities of renewal and may demand a cooling off period between loans. Additionally, CashNetUSA requires prepayment notification of up to two business days before you can repay the loan. This does not apply if making your loan payment on the due date.

These are just a few of the payday lenders available. These lenders all operate online, but many also offer phone or in store services as well. Depending on the lender, there may be installment loan options or even title loans.

Tracy Sherwood-Knepple is a business and finance writer. She holds a degree in mass communications from Indiana University.