VISA's report on the Earned Wage Access (EWA) model

The impact on employee engagement, health and financial wellness

VISA Insights 2019


Employees have received their paychecks in the same scheduled manner for decades. However, expectations for real-time payments combined with socioeconomic trends are fuelling a change to the traditional pay schedule.

Research from CareerBuilder shows that roughly 8 out of 10 U.S. full-time workers

are living paycheck to paycheck. This financial stress, combined with the highest employee turnover rate in ten years, has brought to the market a quickly growing solution — Earned Wage Access (EWA).

Earned Wage Access, a service typically provided by fintechs, provides employees early access to their earned wages to help them make ends meet. While cost may vary by EWA provider, a small fee that is disclosed upfront is often charged for the service. Employees are able to choose from the payout methods offered which can include a reloadable card or an instant payout option, i.e. Visa Direct — Visa’s real-time push payments platform that enables funds to be delivered at any time, 24/7/365.

In 2019, Visa commissioned research with Ask Your Target Market (AYTM) to better understand the opportunity and appeal of Earned Wage Access in the United States. Findings cover a wide array of topics including current savings rate, related toll on employees’ health and productivity levels, and the associated impact of Earned Wage Access on employee engagement.

We hope you will find these insights valuable and helpful as you shape and deepen your company’s employee benefits strategy.

Executive Summary

Financially healthy employees means more engaged employees. With Earned Wage Access (EWA), employees can have access to their earned income when they need it the most. Our research shows that 84% of employees worry about finances while at work. This can not only impact employee health, but can also impact employee turnover and productivity rates.


1. Almost half of employees have less than $500 saved for unexpected expenses. This effect is more pronounced among employees making the median household income of $61k.

2. Employees can spend a significant amount of time at work on personal finances. More than 8 out of 10 employees spend time at work thinking about or dealing with finances each week. This time employees spend on their personal finances takes away from their work productivity.

3. Financial stress impacts employees’ health. This stress can lead to health-related issues and reduced productivity, costing nearly $500 billion a year across the country (US).

4. Employees are looking to use their early earnings for essential items. Our research shows that employees would use the earnings to help offset the cost of essential items such as groceries, utilities and gas bills.

5. Providing Earned Wage Access can improve employee engagement. With the highest turnover in ten years, employees are at an advantage to demand better alternatives. Research shows that the ability to access earned wages prior to payday can aid in recruitment, engagement and retention rates.

6. Employees consider five key criteria when choosing how to receive early earnings. Security, cost, speed, convenience and ease are the top five priorities for employees. Though cost is a factor in how employees choose to receive early earnings, majority (79%) of those surveyed say they are willing to pay for a service that allows access to their funds in real-time.


Our research shows that almost half of employees have less than $500 saved for unexpected expenses. The lack of available funds needed to pay for necessary expenses — such as groceries, utilities or gas bills — is impacting employees’ productivity and health.

Earned Wage Access (EWA) can help relieve financial pressure by providing employees early access to their earned wages. Offering this service as an employee benefit can help improve employee retention and engagement as a large majority (79%) of employees surveyed report they are willing to switch to an employer who provides EWA.

While providing employees early access to wages is beneficial, ensuring employees can quickly receive the funds is key. Such consumer expectations and related technological innovations have led to the rise of real-time payments.

Given current socioeconomic trends, and as seen by the highest turnover in ten years, employees are looking for better alternatives. Earned Wage Access can not only increase employee engagement but also impact employee productivity and health, which can ultimately help reduce costs for employers.

You can read the full report here.