If you sometimes feel like there’s too much month at the end of your money, you’re not alone.
If you sometimes have trouble making ends meet, you’re not alone. It’s one reason payday loans are such big business in this country. These short-term loans promise a quick and easy way to tide yourself over until your next payday. But in the long run, they only make your situation worse by adding a whopping interest payment to all your other bills.
Thanks to modern technology, there’s a better solution. Several popular personal finance apps help you make it from one payday to the next by giving you access to your paycheck a few days early. That way, if it’s the middle of the week and your car battery just died, you can get the money to cover the repair without paying hefty interest and fees.
How Payday Advance Apps Work
Technically, the service these apps offer isn’t a loan. It’s a paycheck advance. In other words, it’s a way to get paid a little early for the work you’ve already performed.
A payday advance app pays you for some of the work you’ve already done this week, even if your paycheck is still several days away. For example, the app transfers the $100 you need to borrow to your checking account, and when your next paycheck arrives, the app takes $100 directly from it to cover the cost.
It’s the same way a payday loan works but with one crucial difference: There’s no interest. When you receive your paycheck, all that comes out is the $100 you actually received — without an extra $15 or more in interest. The apps earn their makers money in various other ways, including tips and monthly fees.
However, the lack of interest doesn’t mean there’s no downside. You’re still taking money out of your next paycheck, leaving yourself with even less to pay all the bills. For many, that leads to taking another advance before the next paycheck and another paycheck after that. Eventually, you’re stuck in a cycle. You’re always behind and dependent on the app and the advances it offers to get you through the month.
Taking a paycheck advance is only a stopgap measure. It doesn’t make your limited paycheck stretch any further this month than it did last month. Use it for the immediate cash you need to deal with an unexpected one-time expense. If you’re always behind, it’s time to either earn extra cash or tighten your belt a notch or two.
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Top Payday Advance Apps
Some payday advance apps do only one thing: give you access to your paycheck early. However, most of them come with more features. Many apps provide online banking services, cash-back shopping, online investing, and tools for employers to manage their workforces.
Don’t just download the first app you can find. Figure out which one has the features you really need, and stick with that one.
Albert is a mobile-first financial app with a no-fee, no-interest cash advance feature that can spot you up to $250 from your next paycheck.
Called Albert Instant, it’s free to use — though you can pay a small fee to get your money instantly rather than in two to three business days.
You can use Albert Instant as de facto overdraft protection too. No matter how you employ it, there’s no credit check — not even a soft inquiry — and no hidden fees for use. When your next paycheck comes, simply repay Albert for the advance and move on.
Albert has some other notable features as well:
- Up to 20% instant cash back on eligible purchases with your debit card
- Automated savings on a custom schedule that fits your needs
- Guided or DIY investing — pick your own stocks and themes or have Albert do it for you
- No minimum balance fees or commissions
- Pay what you think is fair — no hidden fees, ever
With Empower, you can get an interest-free advance up to $250.* There are no late fees and no credit checks. You can have the money sent instantly to your external bank account for a small fee or to the Empower Card for free.
However, Empower is more than just a payroll advance app. The Empower Card has benefits tailor-made for you:
- Empower Perks. Get up to 10% cash back** on places and things you spend money on already. Select the deals you want in the app and use your Empower Card at qualifying merchants.
- Early Paycheck Deposit. You can get access to your paycheck up to two days faster^ by having it deposited into your Empower Card account, which is a separate feature from the payroll advance.
- Free ATMs. Get free unlimited access to over 37,000 MoneyPass ATMs across the US.
- Maximum flexibility. There are no overdraft fees, insufficient funds fees, or account minimums.
Empower also has an automatic savings feature. It sets aside money in your savings account according to rules you set. And the app gives you access to bill negotiation services from BillShark.
Empower charges a fee of $8 per month. You must meet certain qualifications, which are identified when you sign up for the Empower app, to use Empower Cash Advance.
*Eligibility requirements apply.
** Deals will vary and must be selected in the app.
^ Timing may vary by employer.
GO2Bank, a subsidiary of Green Dot, is an online banking service that can give you faster access to your paycheck. It offers all the perks you’d expect from an online bank account, including:
- An interest rate of 1% APY
- No monthly fees, as long as you use direct deposit (without direct deposit, the fee is $5 per month)
- Fraud alerts if there’s suspicious activity on your account
- The ability to lock and unlock your card in the app
- Online bill payment
- Opt-in overdraft protection of up to $200 with direct deposit
- Access to a network of free ATMs you can find through the app (there’s a fee of $3 for out-of-network ATM withdrawals)
- A secured credit card to help you build credit
- The ability to make cash deposits at a participating retail store (although the store may charge a fee)
- The ability to cash checks of $5 to $5,000 via the app (with a fee for instant payment)
- Up to 7% cash back on in-app purchases of electronic gift cards
Chime is an online bank account that gives you access to your pay faster. If you have a Chime account with direct deposit, your wages become available to you the same day your employer deposits them into the account. That gives you access to your money up to two days earlier.
Chime is a full-service bank account you can use to transfer money, send and deposit checks, and pay bills online. It also offers a lot of other great perks most bank accounts don’t, including:
- No Hidden Fees. Most brick-and-mortar banks load down their accounts with costly bank fees. By contrast, Chime charges no minimum balance fees, monthly service fees, foreign transaction fees, or fees for overdrafts of up to $200. It also offers fee-free access to a network of over 60,000 ATMs.
- Banking Alerts. You can opt to receive an alert any time Chime transfers cash into or out of your account. The app notifies you when your paycheck comes in or when you make a purchase with your Chime debit card. It also tells you every day exactly how much money you have in your account.
- Automatic Savings. Chime offers a savings account with built-in automatic savings features. For instance, you can arrange to have 10% of every paycheck transferred to your savings account immediately. There’s also a feature to automatically round up your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and deposit the change into savings.
- Secured Credit Card. Chime offers a secured Credit Builder account linked to a Visa credit card. The card has no annual fee or interest, and it requires no credit check or minimum security deposit.
- Payments to Friends. Chime’s Pay feature allows you to send payments to other Chime users for free. You can use it to split a restaurant check, pay your share of the rent or utility bill, or make an instant payment to the babysitter.
Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by, and debit card issued by, The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
Cleo isn’t a bank. It’s a money app that links to your existing bank account. One of its key features is a salary advance benefit to help you avoid overdraft fees.
If you qualify, you can get an advance of $20 to $70 immediately. Once you pay it back, your cash advance limit can increase up to a maximum of $100. This feature requires no credit check and no proof of regular income. And you pay no interest on the money you borrow.
Salary Advance isn’t included with the free version of the Cleo app. It’s available only as part of the Cleo Plus and Cleo Builder accounts, which come with monthly fees. However, these accounts also provide other perks.
Cleo Plus, which costs $5.99 per month, doubles as a cash-back app. You can earn cash back at five retailers of your choice as well as at online partners that change daily. Its other features include:
- A full credit report and tips on improving your credit
- An easy-to-use budgeting tool based on your spending
- Automated savings tools like roundups, regular transfers to save money, a “swear jar” to penalize yourself for bad behavior, and a tool that calculates how much you can afford to save each week
Cleo Builder has these same features and more. Its primary perk is a secured credit card for building credit. It also provides other tools to help your credit, like bill reminders and credit monitoring. It costs $14.99 per month.
Revolut is a financial technology company that makes it easy to access your entire paycheck early — up to 2 days before your scheduled payday with a qualifying direct deposit payer.
Unlike some early direct deposit providers, Revolut doesn’t take any fees from your paycheck. And you’ll get a notification as soon as the funds hit your account — no more worrying about funds lost in limbo.
- No hidden fees or minimum balance amounts
- Unlimited P2P transfers within the Revolut network in 30+ countries
- Create multiple currency accounts when traveling abroad
- Send international wires in 30+ currencies at amazing exchange rates — and send up to 5 zero-fee international transfers per month
- Earn cashback and discounts from top brands with Rewards
- Personalized Cards, for every customer
Upgrade to Revolut Premium to get additional benefits like:
- 4.25% APY on savings (vs. 3.25% with Revolut Standard)
- Primary accidental medical insurance, trip delay expense coverage, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, and lost or damaged baggage protection
- Lounge access with SmartDelay for you and a friend, plus discounted airport lounge access
- And much more
Please note that Revolut is frequently updating its products and features, see the Revolut Terms and Conditions for the latest offerings.
Revolut is a financial technology company. Banking services provided by Metropolitan Commercial Bank, Member FDIC.
The ExtraCash account from Dave is an online banking account —You can use its overdraft feature to give yourself a no-interest advance.
Based on eligibility, you can get up to $500 sent from your ExtraCash account to your external bank in one to three days for free. Or for a small fee, you can transfer it instantly to your Dave Debit Mastercard.
You start with a balance of zero in your ExtraCash account. If you take a cash advance from the account, the balance becomes negative, but there’s no overdraft fee.
Dave automatically calculates the date the money will come out of your linked bank account — usually your next payday. When that happens, the balance in your account returns to zero. However, if you can’t pay the full amount, you can pay part of it with no late fee.
You can also opt to pay back your Dave advance early.
Other Dave features include:
- A non-interest-paying electronic Spending account with no minimum balance
- Fee-free access to 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs nationwide
- Automatic budgeting based on your monthly expenses
- A Side Hustle feature to connect you with money-making gigs in your area
A basic Dave membership costs just $1 per month. You can also give Dave a tip when you request an advance.
Perhaps the most flexible payday advance app is Brigit. It delivers up to $250 that you’ve already earned to your account by the next business day without subjecting you to a credit check. You can choose your own repayment date to pull the money out of your bank account.
However, you can opt to pay back the loan early. You can also extend the due date once on your first loan with no late fee or penalty. As you continue to use the app, you can earn additional extension credits that allow you to delay payment up to three times in a row. These features are only available as part of Brigit’s Plus plan, which comes with a $9.99 monthly fee.
Brigit’s Plus plan also has an option to set up automated advances to avoid overdraft fees. You’ll receive a transfer anytime your account balance is in danger of dropping below zero.
Brigit doesn’t offer cash advances to just anyone. You must meet the app’s requirements for:
- Income. You must show you’ve received at least three paycheck direct deposits from the same source before Brigit grants you an advance. ATM deposits, paper checks, and irregular direct deposits don’t count.
- Banking. You must have a checking account that’s at least 60 days old with a balance greater than $0. Additionally, you must use your account daily for at least a few weeks to establish your earning and spending patterns. Finally, you must show you have a sufficient end-of-day balance on your payday so Brigit knows it can safely collect your payment without overdrawing your account.
- Brigit Score. Brigit applies a scoring system similar to a credit score to all potential members. It’s based on your earnings, spending, and banking behavior. The score ranges from 1 to 100, and the app tells you what score you need to receive cash advances.
In addition to cash advances, Brigit offers a few extra features to help you stay on top of your finances. The free plan gives you updates on your financial health, personalized tips for improving it, and opportunities to earn extra cash. The Plus plan adds instant deposit, credit monitoring, and identity theft insurance.
The Plus plan also includes a credit-builder feature. Brigit gives you a 12- to 24-month loan, and the monthly payments go into your credit-builder account. Brigit reports these payments to the credit bureaus. You build credit, and at the end of the loan period, you get all your money back.
The very first payroll advance app was ActiveHours, which is now Earnin. Its creator, Ram Palaniappan, says its goal is to make the financial system fairer by helping workers break free of the pay cycle that holds back their money.
Earnin works much the same way as Brigit, but it only allows you to cash out up to $100 per day and up to $500 per pay period. There’s no fee for this service, but you can add a “tip” of any amount up to $14. Although the tip is optional, Palaniappan told Vox in May 2019 that many Earnin users voluntarily pay it to help keep the app running. Some even opt to “pay it forward,” deliberately leaving a bigger tip to cover the cost for those who can’t afford it.
In addition to paycheck advances, Earnin provides several other features to help workers on a budget, including:
- Balance Shield. This feature protects you from hefty bank overdraft fees. It keeps track of your bank balance and alerts you if your balance drops below a particular amount you choose. It can also automatically give you a cash advance if you need one.
- Earnin Express. You can use this virtual account to pay back your cash advances and tips easier. Just route your paycheck through this account before sending it to your primary bank account. By doing so, you can gain access to your pay up to two days earlier. If you use Earnin Express, you can increase your maximum cash-out amount to as much as $1,000.
- Financial Calendar. This feature keeps track of your regular bills and other expenses. Having this info helps you schedule a cash advance if you need one.
Tip Yourself. Earnin offers a virtual tip jar in which you can make payments to yourself. You can set aside between $1 and $50 per day and withdraw it at any time. However, the tip jar is not a savings account and earns no interest.
Varo is another online banking service that can give you faster access to your paycheck. When you use direct deposit with your Varo account, your paycheck enters your account as soon as your employer transfers it. Thus, the money can be in your hands up to two days earlier.*
Once you have a Varo account, you can become eligible for Varo Advance. This feature lets you borrow up to $100 interest-free. When you first qualify, you can receive advances of up to $20, and you can build your limit from there.
Other features of a Varo Bank Account include:
- Varo Visa® Debit Card. The account comes with a contactless debit card that bears the Visa brand mark. You can use this card wherever Visa is accepted and add it to digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, Cash App, and Venmo.
- Transfers to Other Varo Bank Customers. You can transfer money instantly from your Varo account to anyone else’s. There’s no fee for this service.
- Fewer Fees. Varo has no monthly fee, no minimum balance, no transfer fees, and no foreign transaction fees. It also provides fee-free access to more than 55,000 ATMs in the Allpoint® network in stores like Walgreens, Target, and CVS.
- Deposit Money. You can deposit checks remotely using the Varo app.
- Automatic Savings Tools. A standard Varo Bank Account is similar to a checking account. However, if you also have a Varo Savings Account, Varo offers two automatic savings tools to build up your nest egg. With Save Your Pay, you can automatically have a chosen percentage of every paycheck transferred from your bank account to your savings account. Or with Save Your Change, you can round up every transaction to the nearest dollar, and Varo transfers that amount from your Varo Bank Account to your Savings Account.
- Varo Believe Credit Card. If you’re trying to build your credit score, Varo’s secured credit card can help. To use it, transfer money from your Varo bank account to your Varo secured account. That’s the limit on your card. That guarantees you can always pay your balance in full, and you can use the automated SafePay feature to ensure you pay on time. Varo reports these on-time payments to the three major credit bureaus to boost your credit score fast. You can even watch it improve through credit monitoring in the Varo Bank app.
Cash Back. You can earn up to 6% cash back when you purchase selected brands with your Varo Believe or Varo Bank debit card. When you’ve earned $5, the money automatically transfers to your Varo account.
*Early access to direct deposit funds depends on timing of payer’s submission of deposits. Varo generally posts such deposits on the day they are received which may be up to 2 days earlier than the payer’s scheduled payment date.
Bank Account Services provided by Varo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Visa® Debit Card is issued by Varo Bank, N.A. pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc and may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
©2021 Varo Bank, N.A.
11. SoFi Checking and Savings
SoFi Checking and Savings gives you access to your pay up to two days early with direct deposit. Its perks include:
- No Account Fees. SoFi Checking and Savings charges no monthly fees, no minimum balance fees, and no overdraft fees. It also gives you fee-free access to a network of over 55,000 ATMs.
- Free Overdraft Coverage. Your SoFi Checking and Savings account will cover accidental overdrafts of up to $50 with no fee. You must sign up for direct deposit to get this benefit.
- Interest. With SoFi Checking and Savings, your savings earn 1.25% APY — many times the national average. Interest caps at $300 per year.
- Cash Back. You can earn cash back rewards of up to 15% when you make payments from your SoFi Checking and Savings account. The list of local retailers providing rewards may vary from place to place.
- Vaults. With the Vaults feature, you can lock away savings you don’t want to use for your everyday expenses. For instance, suppose you want to save for a down payment on a house. You can set up a Vault for this purpose, make regular monthly deposits into it, and track your progress toward your goal. You can have up to 20 Vaults at a time.
- Roundups. To boost the savings in your Vault faster, you can sign up for Roundups. Every time you make a purchase with your SoFi Checking and Savings debit card, it gets rounded up to the nearest dollar and the extra cents are transferred to your Vault.
Mobile App. SoFi Checking and Savings makes it easy to bank from your phone. You can pay bills, transfer and receive funds, and deposit checks without setting foot in a bank.
Learn More About SoFi Checking and Savings
Another online banking app that offers a combination of early cash advances and early paycheck access is MoneyLion. Its Instacash feature lets you borrow up to $250 with no interest or credit check. The money appears in your account within minutes. And at the same time, its online RoarMoney account gives you access to your paycheck up to two days early.
But MoneyLion’s features don’t end there. It also offers:
- Low-Fee Checking. RoarMoney has no minimum balance requirement and no fees for standard transfers, stop payment, or online bill payment. It also gives you fee-free access to over 55,000 Allpoint ATMs worldwide. The only fee is a $1 monthly administrative fee.
- Low-Fee Investing. MoneyLion isn’t just for saving. It lets you transfer money from your savings account into a portfolio of exchange-traded funds customized to fit your risk tolerance. You can also adjust your investments to suit specific interests, such as socially responsible investing. Your account is fully managed but has no management fees or minimum balance. There’s even an automatic investment feature to make investing easy. This account has a monthly fee that ranges from $1 to $5, depending on your account balance.
- Free Fraud Protection. MoneyLion uses multi-factor authentication to keep your account secure. It also enables you to lock and unlock your debit card through the app.
- Budgeting Tools. MoneyLion sends weekly spending reports so you can see where your cash is going.
- Cryptocurrency Purchases. You can buy and sell two cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum, from your RoarMoney account. You can even opt to round up the spare change from all your credit or debit card purchases and put it into crypto.
- Cash-Back Rewards. With the MoneyLion app, you earn cash back on purchases from select online merchants with your debit card or RoarMoney virtual card. And with MoneyLion’s Shake ‘N’ Bank feature, you can earn additional rewards just by shaking your phone after making a $10 purchase.
- Price Protection. Your purchases through MoneyLion are also price-protected. If you find a lower price within 90 days of making a purchase, you can get a refund of the difference. (There’s a limit of $250 per refund and four refunds per year.)
For $19.99 per month, you can upgrade to a Credit Builder Plus account. This feature allows you to take out a loan of up to $1,000 and pay it back over 12 months. Annual percentage rates (APRs) range from 5.99% to 29.99%, depending on your credit rating. By making regular, on-time payments, you can build a solid credit history.
Credit Builder Plus also includes other features to help build your credit. It comes with free credit monitoring from TransUnion, allowing you to track your progress. And it allows you to waive the monthly administrative fee on a RoarMoney bank account, a MoneyLion investment account, or both.
There are two ways to use Payactiv. If your employer offers it to you as a benefit, you can sign up for earned wage access. It allows you to collect your wages as soon as you earn them. This service comes with a $1 fee for each day you use it, capped at $5 for each two-week pay period.
You can transfer the money to your bank account, load it to a Payactiv Visa prepaid card, or receive it in cash at a Walmart Money Center. There’s a $1.99 fee for cash pickup and instant deposits to cards other than the Payactiv card.
If your employer doesn’t offer Payactiv, you can still sign up for the Payactiv Visa card. That doesn’t qualify you for earned wage access, but you can have your paycheck deposited to the card up to two days early. The card is accepted anywhere Visa is and also works at 37,000 MoneyPass ATMs.
The Payactiv app also offers one-on-one financial coaching, savings tools, and payment features for employees. You can use it to pay bills, summon an Uber, make payments to friends, or make purchases at businesses like Amazon and Walmart. It even provides discounts on certain purchases.
Payactiv has perks for employers as well. It makes payroll easier and handles the distribution of tips and mileage reimbursement automatically. If you coordinate your team, arrange shifts, and pay bonuses. The service costs employers nothing and takes only two days to set up.
DailyPay is another app for employers to offer as a benefit. Like Payactiv, it gives you access to a portion of the wages you’ve earned before payday.
For each shift you work, you build credit in your DailyPay account, which you can then transfer to your bank account at any time. You can opt to receive your money instantly or by the next business day. The app charges a fee of $1.25 to $2.99 for each transfer.
When payday comes, you receive your regular paycheck minus any advances you’ve requested. According to DailyPay, the average employee using the service saves $1,250 in overdraft fees, late fees, and payday loan interest.
DailyPay also lets you set up various kinds of automatic transfers to your savings account. You can use AutoSave to save a set amount each payday, DirectSave to set aside a percentage of each paycheck, or RoundupSave to make a transfer to savings whenever you request an advance.
DailyPay boasts that it can help employers attract twice as many job applicants and reduce turnover by more than 70%.
The FlexWage app for employers works a little differently from DailyPay and Payactiv. When you sign up for the app as an employee, you receive a reloadable debit card for your wages, which takes the place of a paper paycheck. This gives you immediate access to your money on payday, unlike a check you deposit at the bank. You can use the card at any retailer that accepts Visa and at any Allpoint ATM or transfer the cash to a bank account for free.
If you need money before payday arrives, the OnDemand Pay feature lets you request an advance. However, it’s up to your employer to decide how often that feature is available and what the limit on the advance is. The fee you pay for this service ranges from $3 to $5.
An additional feature, called Flex Pay, is specifically for tipped employees, such as restaurant servers. It allows them to receive all their tips on their pay card instantly at the end of their shift. It’s faster than waiting for tips submitted with a credit card payment and safer than leaving work with a large sum in cash. Flex Pay also lets employers pay contract workers or make one-time payments such as commissions, bonuses, and per diems to their regular workers.
FlexWage gives you access to a financial wellness program called Sum180 too. It allows you to:
- Link and view all your financial accounts in one place
- Make a starter budget in seconds
- Receive daily financial tips and challenges
- Read more detailed information on financial topics of interest
- Talk to a financial wellness coach
In addition to improving worker satisfaction, FlexWage helps employers save money by eliminating the need for paper paychecks. Many well-known restaurant chains use this app, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Panda Express. Other clients include RWJBarnabas Health and Peppermill Casinos.
Branch is another payday advance app designed mainly for employers. It replaces paper paychecks with cashless payments to a free digital account complete with its own debit card. Employers can use the service to pay contractors, reimburse employees for expenses, pay tips instantly, and grant workers access to their pay through earned wage access.
For employees, Branch also offers savings tools to get ahead financially. Aside from accessing your wages early, the app lets you:
- Keep track of your balance and payments
- Make payments to friends
- Transfer money to other accounts
- Receive personalized savings tips
Branch is a great benefit for employers with a lot of unbanked or underbanked employees. It provides them with their own bank account, payment card, and fast access to their wages. Branch says it can help employers improve both employee morale and worker retention.
Payday Advance App Won’t Lend Enough?
Sometimes, the $100 or $250 limit on payday advance apps isn’t enough to cover all your expenses. Even in this situation, a payday loan isn’t the best way to get the help you need. A personal loan has much lower interest and more manageable payments than a payday loan, which is due in a lump sum.
Banks, credit unions, online lenders, and peer-to-peer lenders like Prosper offer personal loans. The lender performs a credit check before approving you for a loan. Some personal loans, called secured loans, also require some form of collateral, such as a car or cash in your bank account. Unsecured loans don’t require collateral, but they usually have higher interest rates.
Banks offer personal loans for amounts ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. If you have great credit, you can get a personal loan for as low as 3% APR. That’s significantly less than the rate on most credit cards.
However, if your credit is poor, the interest rate on a personal loan could be as high as 36%. Additionally, these loans often come with origination fees of 1% to 6%. So, before signing off on a loan, check the total cost to ensure it wouldn’t be cheaper to use your credit card.
If you need money in a hurry to cover an unexpected expense, cash advance apps offer a cheap and convenient way to get it. However, they’re not a long-term solution to your financial woes. If you consistently have trouble making ends meet, you need more than just a one-time cash infusion. You need to stop living paycheck to paycheck.
Fortunately, many of these apps help you with that too. For starters, they help you break free from payday lenders and the high interest payments they charge. They also help you stay on top of your bills and avoid the late or overdraft fees weighing down your budget.
Some payday advance apps also offer budgeting tools to help you track and manage your spending or automated savings tools to help you build up your emergency fund. Many also provide ways to help you earn extra money through cash-back rewards, extra shifts, or side gigs. With the help of these tools, you won’t need to rely on cash advances to cover those unplanned expenses; you’ll have money in the bank to take care of them.