19 Ways to Find Fast Cash

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You need cash now, but payday is days or weeks in the distance. What do you do?

Panic and stress are natural reactions. Once those subside, you’ll find there are ways to get your hands on money in a hurry, without falling prey to scams.

Here are 19 strategies to earn fast cash today, plus some tips on how to cut costs, boost your income and build an emergency fund, so you don’t find yourself scrambling for spare change next time around.

1. Sell spare electronics

You can sell your used phone or tablet on sites such as Swappa and Gazelle, but to get cash today, using an ecoATM kiosk is your best bet. Consider selling old MP3 players and laptops, too.

2. Sell your gift cards

Exchange websites offer cash for gift cards. The site CardCash pays up to 92% of a card’s value. GiftCash is another option. Most sites like these take a few days to issue payment, especially if the card needs to be mailed in. CardCash’s website says some cards can be transferred online though, which can lead to faster cash.

3. Pawn something

As a way to borrow money, pawnshop loans are not great. But they’re quick, and if you can’t repay the loan, the pawnshop simply keeps the item you used as collateral. That’s a lot better than ruined credit and calls from debt collectors. You can often sell outright to a pawnshop, too, instead of borrowing against an item. Jewelry, musical instruments, firearms and up-to-date electronics fare best.

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Link your cards to see which ones will earn the most from your spending — and new ones to check out.

4. Work today for pay today

Searching for this phrase online turns up lots of results. We've researched 25 legitimate side jobs that can provide a quick income boost, ranging from driving passengers or packages to freelancing from home.

You can also try the Craigslist jobs or gigs sections, which often have postings for short-term work in food service, housekeeping and general labor.

5. Seek community loans and assistance

Local community organizations may offer loans or short-term assistance to help with rent, utilities or other emergency needs. NerdWallet has compiled a database of payday loan alternatives available to residents in each state. Local churches may make small loans at low rates. Community centers and nonprofit associations in your area may also offer small loans.

6. Ask for forbearance on bills

Some creditors such as utilities and cable television companies don’t charge interest on late payments, so find out whether they’ll accept delayed payments. Use whatever money you save from not paying those bills to cover emergency needs. If you can't pay consumer debts such as auto loans or mortgages, explore your options with the lender first before turning to toxic high-rate loans.

7. Request a payroll advance

Ask your employer for a cash advance on your pay, which usually doesn’t cost you any fees and which you repay via payroll deduction. Some companies also offer low-cost loans to workers in crises. You also might consider Earnin, an app that offers workers advances that they repay in a lump sum on payday at no interest. It does ask for a voluntary donation, though, and requires access to your bank account and work time sheets.

8. Take a loan from your retirement account

You can take a loan on your 401(k) or individual retirement account, but there are conditions. You can borrow from your IRA once a year if you repay the money within 60 days, but it can be a complicated maneuver. If your employer allows 401(k) loans — not all do — you typically can borrow as much as half your account balance, up to $50,000, and you have five years to repay it. However, if you don’t make timely payments, the loan may be considered taxable income. And if you quit or lose your job, you may be required to repay the 401(k) loan shortly thereafter.

9. Borrow against life insurance

If you have a life insurance policy that has cash value, sometimes called permanent life insurance, you can borrow against it and have the rest of your life to repay it. If you don’t repay, the insurance company subtracts the money from the policy payout when you die. But you can’t borrow against a term life insurance policy, which is the more common type.

10. Use a credit card cash advance

If you have a credit card and the account is in good standing, a cash advance is a much less expensive option than a high-interest payday loan. You’ll pay a fee, typically around 5% of the amount you borrow, plus interest, which can be around 30%.

11. Look for a payday alternative loan

Some credit unions offer small, short-term cash advances known as payday alternative loans. Federally chartered credit unions legally can’t charge more than a 28% annual percentage rate on PALs. That's not cheap, but it's much better than payday loans, which have triple-digit APRs.

12. Take out a personal loan

Some lenders can fund a personal loan in a day; if you have good credit, you’ll probably have many choices. If your credit is a challenge, you’ll need to find a lender that not only delivers fast cash but also accepts poor credit. Rates for borrowers with bad credit from mainstream lenders top out at 36% APR. You may find other lenders offering fast funding without a credit check, but you’ll pay triple-digit interest rates. Don’t fall for it.

13. Rent out a room

Sites like Airbnb aren’t just for people who have vacation homes to rent out when they’re not using them. Many of the site’s listings are for extra rooms — or even shared rooms — in the owner’s house, meaning you could stay put while bringing in some cash, particularly if you live in a reasonably desirable area. Check local ordinances to make sure short-term rentals are allowed.

Creating a listing on the site is free, but there's a 3% service fee when a reservation is made. The company releases payment to the host 24 hours after the guests check in.

14. Moonlight as a dog sitter

Technology is on your side here, too, with sites including Care.com, Rover and Wag, that match pet owners with dog sitters and walkers. At Rover, you can choose to host the dog, stay at the owner’s house (and — here’s an idea — rent out your place through Airbnb while you’re gone) or do drop-in care visits. Rates for pet sitting at an owner’s home can range from $20 to $100 a night, depending on the size of your city and the services involved. (Not a dog person? See other hobbies that make money.)

15. Become a rideshare or delivery driver

These are jobs you can do in the evenings or on weekends, using your own car and gas. Become an Uber or Lyft driver to get matched with people willing to pay for a ride. Delivery services such as Gopuff and Postmates will pay you to deliver takeout and other items. A Postmates delivery driver earns just under $18 an hour on average, according to ZipRecruiter.

16. Cut your insurance premiums

One of the dirty secrets of the car insurance industry is that premiums for the same driver for the same coverage can vary by hundreds of dollars from company to company. Each insurer does its own math; that’s why it pays to compare car insurance quotes.

If you like your carrier, review the dozens of discounts it may have available. You could get 10% off or more for things like making good grades, completing defensive driving training or going at least three years without an accident.

The same is true for homeowners insurance. Shopping around can save you 10% to 15%, as can discounts for things like having a home security system, staying claim-free or being a nonsmoker. And many insurers offer discounts for buying both car and homeowners or renters policies with them.

17. Consolidate your debt

If you’re struggling to keep up with multiple debt payments, you may be able to consolidate those balances — from credit cards, medical bills, store financing or other charges — and lower your payments with a personal loan. Some lenders can fund the loan within a day. Refinancing $5,000 worth of debt from a 10% interest rate to 5% could save you more than $500 in interest if you need to carry the balance for at least four years.

If you have good credit, you can do a balance transfer of high-interest credit card debt onto a new card with a 0% introductory interest rate. Make sure you can pay off the balance before the rate balloons at the end of the introductory period.

18. Refinance your student loans

Private student loan refinancing options are available for people with a range of credit scores. It’s worth checking whether a refinance could save you money on NerdWallet’s refi platform.

19. Change your cell phone plan

Switching cell phone providers is a good way to cut down on the cash leaving your pocket. Budget carriers like Visible and Mint Mobile offer plans with talk, text and data for as little as $30 and $15 a month, respectively. The catch with these services is you often have to buy a phone outright or bring your own. Check out the best cheap cell phone plans for more money-saving options.

4 fast-cash loans to avoid

Don’t be fooled by the fast-cash options below. They all come with a catch that ends up costing you. Read on to know what you’re getting into if you have to go this route.

Payday loans: Payday loans are short-term loans that are made to people who have a source of income and a bank account and that are repaid in a lump sum. Your credit isn’t a factor, but if you already have outstanding payday loans, you may not be able to get another one. Interest is usually expressed as a “fee” — $10 to $30 per $100 borrowed is typical. But that can be a trap: Borrowers often have the option to pay another fee instead of settling the loan, and over time, those fees add up. A typical $15 fee on a two-week loan amounts to nearly 400% interest on an annual basis.

Payday installment loans: Available at stores and online, these payday installment loans stretch repayment terms. You don’t need good credit; the products often are advertised as no-credit-check installment loans. But you typically must meet the requirements of a payday loan: a paycheck and a bank account. Interest charges hit hard over the long term: A $2,000, three-year loan at 400% APR will end up costing over $22,000 in interest.

Auto title loans: These short-term loans — in places where they’re legal — require you to hand over the title to your vehicle as collateral for the debt. They’re often compared to payday loans, and the interest rates are comparable at triple digits, but they can be even worse: If you don’t repay, the lender can seize your car.

Credit-building payday loans: Most payday lenders don’t report on-time payments to the big credit bureaus, which would help your credit scores. Some lenders do, and they also reduce interest rates on subsequent loans to reflect improved credit. Companies like Rise and Fig Loans offer installment loans at a lower cost than a payday outlet — but their rates are still many times those of mainstream lenders. We don’t recommend these loans unless the only other option is a traditional payday loan.

Looking for more money?

You may need more help if your current income isn't covering basic expenses, like utilities. Learn about ways to save on a tight budget, including getting support and negotiating with service providers.