Students Who Need Cash: There Are Cheaper Options Than Payday Loans

Don’t sign up for expensive payday loans - there is a better way.

Advertiser Disclosure: At Slickdeals, we work hard to find the best deals. Some products in our articles are from partners who may provide us with compensation, but this doesn’t change our opinions.

When you need cash fast, it can be tempting to turn to payday loans. You know your paycheck is coming, so why not just tap into your future funds a little early, right? Wrong—payday loans are not your only option when your budget is tight, and using a payday loan can wreak havoc on your financial goals.

The need for fast cash is a real and common problem though. A CNBC Make It survey found that 40% of the polled 18 to 21-year-olds strongly contemplated taking out a payday loan. Over 1 in 10 Gen-Zers polled considered a payday loan for college costs. As someone who would park a mile away from my university campus to avoid the school’s parking fees, I understand how hard dealing with college expenses is. However, there are better options than taking out payday loans.

The Problem with Payday Loans

In short, payday loans offer quick cash at outrageous interest rates. Borrowing $500 to help you with emergency expenses until a paycheck arrives seems like a simple plan. Don’t be fooled. If this quick loan has a 391% APR and a two-week lending period, you now owe $575.

If you can’t afford to pay $575, you can rollover your debt into a new loan. The interest charges continue to pile up, and it can become easy for anyone to get stuck in this vicious debt trap.

Do You Really Need to Borrow Money?

Before you borrow any money—even borrowing funds from a trusted family member—pause and consider what this loan will do to your financial future. Do you really need to put your financial health on the line for this emergency? For example, if your car’s air conditioning needs to be fixed, this is not a life and death emergency. No one wants to drive in a hot, stuffy car. But for most, this expense can be put off for a few months while you put money aside to pay for the repair.

Before you borrow money, look at your spending to see what expenses you can cut. Try ditching the streaming services and meal delivery services for a month or two and set these savings aside into a savings account. Take inventory of your personal items and figure out what you can sell over a weekend. Selling a beloved Xbox system is not comfortable, but it will keep your finances in the green, rather than taking out a loan.

Finally, ask if you can pick up extra hours at work or do a few odd jobs around your neighborhood for cash. Again, it’s not comfortable spending your weekend off asking the neighbors to mow their lawns for $20, but it will be better for your bank account in the long run. Consider borrowing money as your last option when facing a financial emergency.

Two Better Alternatives to Payday Loans

If you have considered all of your options and still need a loan for quick cash, we have found two better alternatives to payday loans or charging your credit card. With all loans and financial apps, spend time researching the terms and reading over the FAQs before deciding if a service or company is right for you.

1. Empower

empower website screenshot
Credit: Empower

Empower is a money management app that describes itself as “budgeting for people who hate budgeting.” It offers features such as:

  • Automatic Savings
  • Interest Checking
  • Bill Negotiation
  • Subscription and Bill Management

Many Empower accounts are also eligible for a $250 cash advance with no fees, no interest and no credit check. While this cash advance does not have any fees, holding an Empower account costs $8 per month after the free month trial.

Using Empower’s automatic savings feature can help you stash away $50-100 per month without you noticing. The app makes saving money easy and painless. However, many other banking apps are incorporating this feature without a fee. Alternatively, benefiting from Empower’s bill negotiation and subscription management can cost less than what similar services, like Trim, charge.

2. Boro

boro website screenshot
Credit: Boro

Boro is a money app just for college students. The app allows you to set financial goals and track spending so you are not derailed by a surprise expense. But life does happen, which is where BoroCash can help.

BoroCash allows college students and recent grads to borrow up to $2,000 for 12 months. Your APR rate is determined on your creditworthiness, but you can expect a lower rate than typical credit card or payday loans. If you only need to borrow cash for a month, you can enjoy the 0% APR option too.

Unlike payday loans, using BoroCash allows college students to build their credit. One app reviewer wrote, “Credit score goes up to 40 points after the second payment! Amazing. Thank you Boro!” There is no guarantee that your credit score will increase substantially, though.

Even though BoroCash offers lower interest rates, borrowing $2,000 at 15.9% for 12 months means you will pay $182 per month for a total of $2,176 in repayments. Depending on your credit score, your interest rate can be higher, which would make your monthly payments and total repayment costs higher. BoroCash shows customers exactly what they will pay before agreeing, so you don’t have to worry about getting sucked into hidden fees.


When in doubt, don’t borrow. If you are on the fence about borrowing money, take time to examine your financial emergency and your money options. It is important to build an emergency fund to avoid feeling financially stuck in the future. Slickdeals is full of money-saving tips and deals to help you save more and better your bank account.

While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

Ashley Eneriz

I am a lifestyle and personal finance writer based in SoCal and have been a freelance writer since way before working remotely was the new norm. Being a wife and a mom to three young awesome kids, I have made it a regular habit to check out Slickdeals (even before joining the SD content team) to help fill up my pantry and gift closet for 50-70% off retail prices. As a family of five, we go through snacks, gifts, and toilet paper at an alarming rate, so I love a good deal and am also not afraid to dig through a thrift store to score incredible finds. When not writing about amazing deals to help people save and cool things on sale, I am taking care of my three girls, homeschooling, or stuck with my nose in a book. Sometimes, at the same time.

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