HONOLULU (KHON2) — Strapped for cash? You might have already heard of loan advance apps, but experts say they are not all created equally.

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These apps can be great if you have got a bill that is due before your next paycheck arrives. They front a percentage of your wages, but remember, you have got to pay it back — and then some.

“We all have that time where we need that little extra money, but all it is is an advance on what you’re already earning and you’re going to pay a fee for that.”

Roseann Freitas, BBB Hawaii Marketplace Manager

Some of these apps advertise themselves as free, but the BBB said you better read the fine print.

“That is right there, a red flag in the scam,” Freitas said. “They have charges. They may be hidden somewhere and listed under a different name, but there are charges involved. A membership fee or a subscription fee or a premium account to access tips or donations.”

“Doesn’t matter how you disguise it, it’s money out of your pocket.”

Roseann Freitas, BBB hawaii marketplace manager

Freitas said if the app asks for payment before sending the loan, steer clear.

“Charging an upfront fee is actually illegal,” Freitas said about loan advance apps. “You get your loan and then you pay it back, but they can not charge you that upfront fee.”

Other tips for loan advance apps include keeping any documents with information on transactions, in case you need to dispute a charge. Also, look up the app on the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs website to see if it is a registered business in Hawaii.

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If you have a bill that needs to be paid, contact the billing company and see if you can work out a payment program that fits your budget instead of getting a loan.