HoneyBee, SalaryFinance and TrueConnect provide small personal loans for emergencies, typically between $250 and $3,000, through an employer's benefits portal.

All three companies say they look at employment and income data to underwrite borrowers instead of traditional credit information, so a low credit score won't automatically disqualify you. They also report payments to the credit bureaus, which can help your score.

HoneyBee, SalaryFinance and TrueConnect provide small personal loans for emergencies, typically between $250 and $3,000, through an employer's benefits portal.

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All three companies say they look at employment and income data to underwrite borrowers instead of traditional credit information, so a low credit score won't automatically disqualify you. They also report payments to the credit bureaus, which can help your score.

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It's not only low-income workers taking such employer-provided loans. Workers at all salary ranges have cash-flow issues at some point or another, says Doug Farry, one of the founders of Employee Loan Solutions, the company behind TrueConnect.

The TrueConnect program was originally meant for lower-income workers, Farry says, but even people making six-figure salaries use it. Comcast is one of the company's better-known clients.

The interest rates on these loans are significantly lower than those on payday loans, which can be as high as 400%. TrueConnect has a one-size-fits-all rate of 24.9%, HoneyBee charges an upfront fee of 5% of the loan amount, and SalaryFinance charges 11.8%. Payment terms span from a few months to a year. Monthly loan payments are deducted from the employee's paycheck.

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These loans work like any form of credit - as long as you make on-time payments, your credit improves. If you lose your job, you're still responsible for loan payments, although the companies say they will work with borrowers in that situation.

In keeping with their mission to help people manage money, they also offer financial education resources.

Pros and cons
The biggest advantage of paycheck advances or emergency loans is access to money at a low cost, regardless of your credit situation. They're one option in an array of alternatives to payday loans, depending on your need. Others include payday alternative loans from credit unions, pawnshops and lending circles.

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But these services aren't a silver bullet if you have chronic spending problems, low income or a lot of debt. You may be better off creating a budget , exploring ways to make more money , or using a strategy to pay off debt .