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A credit card cash advance could come in handy if you need money fast and can’t pay with your credit card. But be careful – it could be costly.
If you need to pay rent, a lawn care service or even your neighborhood babysitter, you most likely won’t be able to use your credit card. But what can you do if you don’t have enough cash to cover these expenses?
What is a credit card cash advance?
If you need cash immediately, you can consider taking out a cash advance on your credit card. Unlike using a debit card to withdraw money you already have in a bank account or making a purchase with your credit card, a cash advance is a short-term loan that you take against your credit card.
An American Express cash advance is easy to access — you’ll simply need to find an ATM after enrolling.
What to consider before taking out a credit card cash advance
Before you take your plastic to the ATM, consider that a credit card cash advance is expensive and should generally be used as a last resort. Plus, with many cards, there is no grace period for cash advances. This means interest starts accruing as soon as you take the advance.
Also, be very careful when paying only the minimums when you have a cash advance. The CARD Act requires issuers apply only payments beyond the minimum payment to the highest interest portion of your balance. Depending on your balance, this means it can take a long time to pay off a cash advance if you’re only paying the minimum amount due each month.Avoid these credit card cash advance fees
How to get an American Express® cash advance
If you decide that this is the best option for your needs, use the following steps to get your American Express cash advance:
- Call American Express customer service at (800) 227-4669 or visit your account online to create a credit card PIN number. You can then use that PIN at ATMs.
- The American Express Cash Advance program allows you to withdraw cash at participating ATMs up to the available cash advance limit on the card account. The fee for a cash advance can be $5 or 3% of the transaction, whichever is greater. But some cards may set the dollar limit at $10 instead.
Looking at the pros and cons of credit card cash advances
You get access to cash fast
Lee Huff, travel blogger and credit card expert, says cash advances can be useful if you’ve exhausted all other options to get cash fast.
“It’s a really easy way to access cash when you’re in a hurry or can’t get approved for a new loan,” Huff says.
Once you’ve signed up with American Express, all you need to do is head to the nearest participating ATM to get cash.
Taking out a cash advance on your credit card is pretty straightforward, but it may not be the cheapest solution. Aside from the cash advance fee, there’s no grace period compared with making a regular purchase on your card, meaning you won’t have an interest-free buffer period to pay off the cash advance.
The interest rate for a cash advance can often be higher than the interest rate for purchases, too.Learn more about credit card grace periods
An advance could hurt your credit scores
Taking out a cash advance from your credit doesn’t affect your credit scores directly, but it could still influence them.
For one, it’ll increase your outstanding balance, meaning it’ll raise your credit utilization ratio, which you can calculate by dividing your total credit card balances by your total credit card limits. For example, if your balance is $400 on a card that has a $1,000 limit, your credit utilization ratio is 40%. If you end up taking out a cash advance of $300 on top of that, then your credit utilization is 70%.
Most experts recommend keeping your overall credit card utilization below 30%. Lower credit utilization rates suggest to creditors that you can use credit responsibly without relying too heavily on it, so a low credit utilization rate may be correlated with higher credit scores.
Secondly, cash advances tend to have a high interest rate, which could affect your ability to pay it back quickly. If you don’t pay the balance back in a timely matter, that could affect your credit scores.
Bottom line: If you take out a cash advance, you’ll want to repay it as soon as possible.
There are alternatives to getting a credit card cash advance
If you need quick cash but don’t want to pay the fees associated with a cash advance, consider these other options:
- Borrowing money from friends and family. This option may be a bit awkward, but having people to turn to can help save some serious cash on high interest rates.
- Taking out a personal loan from a bank, credit union or online lender. If you have good credit, getting a personal loan may be cheaper than taking out a cash advance. It can take as little as a week to see money from these loans deposited in your account.
- Asking about a paycheck advance. If you have excellent rapport with your employer, you might be able to ask for an advance on your next paycheck. You can then arrange to pay it back when you get your next paycheck or spread repayments out over several paychecks. Keep in mind that even if they’re willing to give you an advance, some larger companies may charge a fee.
American Express makes it convenient to sign up for programs to access cash at participating ATMs. However, keep in mind that you’ll typically be charged a cash advance fee plus a high variable APR on your credit card account as soon as you withdraw money.
A credit card cash advance could be useful in the right situation, but keep in mind you’re taking on an expensive short-term loan.
If you need a loan quickly, consider all possible options before going the cash advance route. In any case, make sure you understand the fees involved as well as payment terms to help you make an educated decision.