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Quick Ways to Borrow Money in an Emergency

Online personal loans and credit card advances put money in your pocket almost immediately. If you have more time, head to a credit union.
Budgeting, Loans, Personal Loans

Sometimes you need cash, and fast, for a broken-down car, a trip to the emergency room or an overdue utility bill.

If you have to borrow that money, your options include online personal loans and credit card cash advances, which can put money in your hands immediately. Loans from banks or credit unions could take a few days to a week or more.

The trade-off for borrowing fast cash could be a sky-high rate that leaves you in debt.

Before you take cash from any lender, take a few minutes to shop around, especially if you have no credit or bad credit. The trade-off for borrowing fast cash could be a sky-high annual percentage rate that leaves you in debt for years.

The table below compares the cost of a three-year, $1,000 loan for someone with average credit. How much you pay in interest and fees will depend largely on your credit profile.

Type of lenderAPRTotal repaymentsTime to funding
Federal credit union9.6%$1,155A week or more
Online personal loan19.84%$1,3351 to 5 days
Credit card cash advance25%$1,431Immediate
Payday loan391%$11,730Immediate

In this article, you’ll see ways to borrow loans as quickly as the same day or the same week — as well as options that don’t involve borrowing at all.

Quick cash, without a loan

Before making a hasty decision to take out a loan, see if you can delay paying for the emergency expense or find interest-free sources of cash:

  • If you’re facing a large medical bill, review the charges and try negotiating instead of taking the bill at face value
  • If you have a job, ask your employer for an advance on your next paycheck; some employers have assistance programs for their employees. You can also consider using an app like Earnin that lets you draw from your own paycheck before payday.
  • Ask family or friends for help, using a contract that details your plan to pay them back
  • Check out other ways to make fast cash

How to get cash in a day

A credit card cash advance, loans from online lenders, payday lenders and pawnshops are some of the ways to borrow money quickly.


Some online lenders offer loans in as little as an hour or within one business day.

Loan amounts usually range between $2,000 and $50,000. At a reputable lender, rates are based on your credit profile and capped at 36%. Some lenders cater specifically to people with bad credit or those with good credit.

Things to know:

  • Gather the data you need to apply for a personal loan beforehand so the lender can verify your identity and other information easily.
  • Shop at multiple lenders and pick the loan with the lowest rate for a given loan term. Most online lenders run a soft credit check to estimate your rate, so your credit score won’t take a hit.

Lenders that say they typically make loans in a day include:

LenderGood forNW star rating
AvantPoor credit4 stars out of 5
DiscoverGood credit5 stars out of 5
LendingPointPoor credit4 stars out of 5
LightStreamGood credit4 stars out of 5
Mariner FinancePoor credit4 stars out of 5
OneMain FinancialPoor credit3 stars out of 5
RocketLoansGood credit4 stars out of 5
UpstartAverage credit4 stars out of 5


A cash advance is an immediate loan from your credit card issuer, and you can get it by using your card at an ATM. Cash advances usually are capped at a fraction of your credit limit; you can view the exact amount in your credit card account.

Things to know:

  • Cash advances come at a high cost; the APR is much higher than what you’d pay for regular purchases. The average at most issuers is 25%, according to NerdWallet data.
  • Most issuers also charge a cash advance fee that can range from 3% to 5% of the amount borrowed, with a minimum of $5.
  • The interest starts to accrue immediately, with no grace period, which means you need to pay off the loan as soon as possible to stop the charges from spinning out of control.

» MORE: Are cash advances a good idea?


Pawnshop loans have APRs slightly lower than those on payday loans because you leave an item you own as collateral. If you don’t repay, your credit remains intact — but the shop sells your item.


Payday lenders that advertise “fast cash loans,” “instant cash loans” or “quick cash loans” typically offer loans within a day. Lenders don’t check your credit, but you need a bank account and a regular paycheck to qualify.

However, if you couldn’t come up with the cash for your emergency expense, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pay it all back with interest in two weeks. That’s how payday loans trap people in a cycle of debt. NerdWallet does not recommend taking payday loans for this reason.

Things to know:

  • Payday loans carry an average rate of 391% and typically are due in two weeks.
  • No-credit-check or payday installment loans have interest rates similar to those on payday loans but are spread out over a longer period.
  • Many federal credit unions offer payday alternative loans, savings loans and other small-dollar loans at a fraction of the cost of a traditional payday loan, but it takes longer than a day to get approved.

» MORE: What is a payday alternative loan?

How to get cash in a week or less

If you have more time, you have more choices. Most online lenders offer loans within one to three business days, although the exact amount of time depends on your individual application.

Each lender uses a unique method to assess applicants, which means the rates you’re offered could vary from one lender to another. It’s worth checking rates at several lenders to see which gives you the lowest rate and fees, plus payment flexibility.

» MORE: Check your rates from multiple lenders using NerdWallet’s tool

Citibank and Wells Fargo are two large national banks that offer personal loans within a week, mainly to borrowers with good credit. Existing customers may be able to get a loan more quickly.

How to get cash if you have a week or more

Try your local credit union. Many offer affordable personal loans, especially if you have bad credit. At federal credit unions, the maximum APR allowed by law is 18%.

A credit union may fund your loan in less than a week, once you’re approved.

Federal credit unions also have “payday alternative loans” — with a maximum APR of 28% — and starter credit cards for people who need to borrow a few hundred dollars.

Depending on your credit union, you may be able to receive funds in less than a week, once your application has been approved. Many credit unions have online applications, but they typically require a branch visit to complete the paperwork.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best credit unions

Updated Aug. 30, 2017.

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