take out a cash advance on your credit card might sound appealing: you get easy access to cash you might need to buy groceries or pay rent.
But cash advances have significant downsides, including fees that tend to be high and interest that starts accumulating immediately. There’s also often a cap on how much you can withdraw, and it’s usually well below your card’s overall credit limit.
So while they may be an available resource – and a better option than, say, removing a payday loan — cash advances should only be used as a last resort if you are in a financial emergency.
Before you pull one off, consider these alternatives:
1. Introductory Low Interest or 0% APR Credit Cards
Some credit cards offer 0% APR intro periods on purchases, which means you can use them to finance the purchase of groceries and other essentials without paying interest upfront. Of course, you’ll still owe the money, but you’ll have a significant period of time – often anywhere from six months to nearly two years – to pay it off in full before interest kicks in.
With the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card, for example, you can enjoy a break of almost two years without interest. It offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases for up to 21 months and 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, then APR ongoing 15.24% to 27.24% variable APR.
2. Credit card loan programs
Some credit card issuers offer loans to existing customers that, among other things, allow them to repay certain purchases, over time, for a fee. Examples of this are AmEx Pay It® and Plan it® Features.
3. Third-party payment services
If you need to save time before your next paycheck, you can consider a service like Plastic pay some bills. The site lets you use a credit card to cover expenses that are often not payable this way, including rent, utilities, daycare, and more. For a 2.85% service charge, Plastiq will charge your card for the invoice, make a check payable to the seller in your name, then mail it.
Assuming you can pay the bill quickly – that is, without carrying it over to the next month and without getting hit by your credit card’s double-digit interest rate – a convenience fee of 2, 85% may be worth it and may be cheaper than other options. If you’re using a rewards credit card for the bill, that can also help with those upfront costs.
4. Buy now, pay later
Sometimes it’s not possible to shell out a large sum of money at once, whether you’re short on cash or not. Buy now, pay later Providers, like Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna, allow users to split purchases into small installments that you can pay off over time — typically three to 12 months.
Although some BNPL options come with interest rates and fees that can be costly, if you are able to pay your bill in a short period of time, they can offer more flexible financial relief.
It is important to note, however, that BNPL is only offered by specific merchants. This means that if you need money quickly for rent or groceries, for example, the services may not be useful to you.
5. Flexible credit card options
There are alternative credit cards who can offer flexible and less expensive financing options than cash advances. For example, the $0-annual-fees Cash Rewards Visa® Upgrade allows cardholders to tap into their credit limits for personal loans. Customers can repay the borrowed amount in equal monthly installments at a fixed rate of interest.
6. Personal loans
Lenders offer many types of personal loans, including secured loans, which are backed by collateral, and unsecured loans, which are not. Some offer fixed rates, which means you pay the same amount each month until the loan is paid off, while others offer variable rates, which means your payments can change over time. Rates generally range from 5% to 36%.
Although the interest rate is still relatively high, it may be lower than that of a cash advance, especially after taking into account the other costs involved in taking out a cash advance, which are usually fixed fees or a percentage of the amount withdrawn.
7. Alternative “quick cash” options
If you’re in dire financial straits and need more immediate funding, there are quick ways to find relief:
Redeem your rewards: If you have a credit card with a cash back program, you may be able to redeem your rewards for a good chunk of change.
Ask for an advance on your salary: Although a cash advance on your credit card can be risky and expensive, asking your employer for a cash advance from your salary can be a way to cover your financial needs, without incurring fees or charges.
Request local support: Many local organizations offer financial assistance to people in difficulty. Local organizations that can generally be helpful may include religious organizations, non-profit organizations, or community centers.