Online Cash Advance vs. In-Store Cash Advance

by Jim Hughes   August 18, 2015

It used to be that when you wanted a short-term loan, you’d just ask your local bank or credit union. After the economic crisis of 2008, though, the banks were forced to tighten up their procedure for determining risk. What happened was it became a lot harder to get a short-term loan from a bank or credit union.

Cash advance lenders were more than happy to help, and the number of cash advance storefronts grew exponentially. Business was good, but lenders decided that it could be even better if they expanded to the Internet. Thus, the online cash advance was born, or if it had already been born before this, it began to skyrocket in popularity … and infamy.

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All of this happened back in 2009. Since then, every state has passed new cash advance regulations, with some states outlawing the loan altogether. These laws have led some people to question whether applying for a cash advance online is safe. That’s why we wanted to look at the pros and cons of online cash advances.


A few years ago, you would have had a better chance of finding a cash advance location near your house. But because of new state regulations, which decreased the profitability for cash advances in many states, a lot of storefronts had to close down.

That means it’ll likely take you a little longer to drive or walk to your nearest storefront. Once you’re there, though, the cash advance application process is usually pretty simple, as long as you brought the proper paperwork.

If you’re approved, you’ll likely walk out of the store with your money. An online cash advance is a little different. Most of the time you don’t have to travel to a storefront. The entire process happens online, from the application to the agreement to getting your money deposited into your bank account. You should know, though, that it’ll take about one business day from when you sign your loan agreement for you to get your money.  

Winner: Cash Advance Online

If you absolutely need your cash advance today, then you’ll want to use a storefront location. If you can wait a day for the money, then the benefit of doing it all from home makes a cash advance online the clear winner for convenience.    

Scam Avoidance

If you want to avoid today’s most cunning scammers, then you’ll need to get off the grid.

That’s because cyber thieves always pose a risk to your digital identity and currency.

Online lenders will do everything they can to protect your information, but nobody promises that your information is 100-percent secure. There’s always a chance a site will get hacked and your data will get stolen.

Some cash advance sites are scams. If you aren’t careful, you could enter your information into a site that’s not there to lend you a loan, but trying to get your information so they can either sell it or steal your identity. In a lot of ways, the Internet is still the Wild West. Use it at your own risk.

That doesn’t mean a storefront is immune to attacks, but chances are a storefront lender won’t be a scam artist. Personally, I find it easier to gauge the credibility of business when I’m standing inside of it, rather than shopping online.

If you’re approved for the loan, your neighborhood storefront will likely lend you your money before you leave the store. Remember, though, an online loan takes at least a day to process. We think that a faster transaction makes it easier to determine a lender’s legitimacy, and so this is another point for the storefront lender over the online cash advance lender.  

Winner: Storefront Location  

If you want to reduce the odds of getting scammed, you should deal with the storefront directly and in person. Or, you can use a reputable cash advance website. To start, check and make sure the site is an OLA member. You can also check for a trust seal. For instance, before a site receives a McAfee seal, it’s scanned for malware, malicious links, and phishing.  

Lowest Finance Charges

From what we’ve seen, lenders charge similar fees whether you go to store location or do the loan online. This is especially true in states with stricter regulations. When a state regulates cash advance finance charges, most lenders will usually loan at whatever the maximum rate is.

That’s true for both storefront locations and online locations. This is a little surprising because usually, it’s cheaper to shop online. That’s just not the case for cash advances, which usually cost the same whether you get them online or from a storefront location.  

Winner: Tie

Okay, so technically you do save money on gas when you don’t drive to a storefront location and that would kind of make online loans cheaper. But we’ll go ahead and call this one a tie.  

Other Things to Consider

  • If you aren’t tech-savvy, you might have trouble applying for a cash advance online. You might be required to fax a few documents to the lender. At the same time, if you are tech-savvy, you might prefer digitally sending this information.
  • When you apply for a cash advance online, you can take your time and fill everything out at your own pace. This means that you can really pore over the agreement, look at the fees, and decide whether or not you’ll be able to pay off the loan. At a storefront location, you might feel a little more pressured and less comfortable.
  • Depending on where you live, you might not have a cash advance location near your house. There are many small towns across the U.S. that don’t have any storefront locations.
  • There isn’t a real-world equivalent to the Internet’s loan-matching sites. Like, you can’t go into a store and have them link you with a reputable lender. It’s up to you to compare lenders and find the one you think is the most reputable. We think it’s easier to use a loan-matching site … but we’re a little biased.
  • If you regularly use cash advances, then you probably have a preferred application method. We could weigh the pros and cons of an online cash advance all day, but if you’re more comfortable using the same store you’ve used for years, then you should probably just keep using that.  

Overall Winner: It’s Up to You

There’s no clear winner. It comes down to your personal preference. If convenience is important to you, then we suggest going with an online cash advance. If you like to be able to look a lender in the eye, then head over to your local cash advance store. No matter which option you choose for a cash advance, be sure to pay it off as fast as you can. You’ll likely pay less for your cash advance if you pay it off early rather than late. If you’re ready to start the process of requesting an online cash advance, you can learn more about payday loans right here.

Jim Hughes   OpenCashAdvance Marketing Manager
Personal Finance
Jim Hughes remembers checking his first email on the original BlackBerry 850 nearly 20 years ago. It was spam, and he fell for it. Even so, he’s been on the beat every day since, following the ebbs and flows of financial technology. Look to Jim for insider exclusives on shorter-duration loans, installment loans, and other popular products in fintech today.
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