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If you’re strapped for cash or need to make a cash-only purchase, you might be tempted to tap your credit card’s cash advance limit. But doing so could be costly. A cash advance is effectively a high-interest, short-term loan that starts accruing interest immediately. You’ll also typically be charged a fee to access that cash.
Here’s what to know about your credit card’s cash advance limit and how you can change it.
» MORE: Are cash advances a good idea?
What is a cash advance limit?
The cash advance limit on your credit card is typically a percentage of your overall credit limit and represents the maximum amount of cash you can withdraw from an ATM or bank using your card. The withdrawal acts like a short-term loan against your card’s cash advance limit. Because the cash advance limit is a subset of your credit limit, using a cash advance will decrease your available credit and bump up your credit utilization, which could negatively impact your credit scores.
How can you access your cash advance limit?
There are three primary ways to access your cash advance limit:
ATM: If your credit card lets you set a personal identification number (PIN), you can access cash through an ATM, as you would with a bank-issued debit card.
Bank: You may be able to withdraw money in person at a branch of the bank that issued your credit card. Be ready to show your ID, present your card and let the bank teller know how much you want to access.
Convenience checks: Some banks will automatically mail you “convenience checks” that are tied to your card’s cash advance limit. Write the check as you would a normal check and it will apply against your cash advance limit.
How much does a cash advance cost?
The cost of using a cash advance will depend on your credit card issuer, but in general, the fees stack, making it an expensive option. That’s why a cash advance is advisable only in extreme financial situations. Here’s a summary of the fees you may incur:
Cash advance fees: Some issuers charge a flat fee, such as $10 or $15 per cash advance. Others charge a percentage of the total amount of cash accessed, generally 3% to 5%. Sometimes the fee is a combination of the two, based on a minimum dollar amount — such as 5% or $15, whichever is higher.
ATM and bank fees: These fees are imposed by the financial institution that provides the cash and are charged at either the ATM or the teller.
Interest: This fee is the big one. Interest rates on cash advances are usually higher than the rate on purchases, and the charges start immediately.
How can you change your cash advance limit?
Your cash advance limit is set at the time you’re approved for a credit card. You can see this limit on your monthly statement or on your online account.
Each card issuer has different rules for how much you can change your cash advance limit. The easiest way to find out how to do so is by calling the number on the back of your card or sending a secure message. If you're not comfortable with how high the limit is, you might want to protect yourself by proactively lowering it. You can also request an increase to your cash advance limit, but in this situation, you'll probably want to find another way to access cash and avoid those exorbitant fees.
Even if you don’t intend on using a cash advance, lowering your limit can help protect you from charges that can sometimes automatically process as a cash advance when you use your card. These charges can include making peer-to-peer transactions with apps like Venmo or PayPal, purchasing gift cards or money orders, funding a bank account or using your card at a casino.
Can you disable cash advances on your card?
The answer depends on the credit card issuer. As of May 2023, only American Express lets you completely disable cash advances on your card. However, one workaround is to call the number on the back of your card and ask to have the cash advance limit set to the lowest amount possible. For some issuers, that number will be $0 and for others, it may be $100 or $200.
This approach won’t technically remove the ability for cash advances on your card, but it will block any transaction that codes as a cash advance above that limit.