Can you get cash back from a credit card?

Mother and daughter paying at grocery store checkoutImage: Mother and daughter paying at grocery store checkout

In a Nutshell

You may be able to earn cash just by using a credit card — or you can borrow cash with a cash advance or balance transfer on your card. The former is a type of rewards, while the latter two often come with fees and interest.
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There are a few different ways to tap your credit card for cash. One is to earn cash back rewards. But you can also borrow cash on a credit card, although you’ll usually have to pay both a fee and interest on the balance.

Sometimes you can’t use a credit card, like when you need to pay rent, hire a handyman or make purchases at some small merchants. If you don’t have access to a debit card or you have too little cash in your account to cover your expenses, you may be able to borrow on your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM or bank teller. Some cards allow you to transfer money into a bank account using a balance transfer check.

Another way to get cash from a credit card is to earn it through cash back rewards, when offered.

Using a credit card to earn cash back rewards

A cash back credit card is a type of rewards credit card. Generally, you’ll earn cash back or points whenever you make certain purchases. You may be able to redeem your rewards for a statement credit, check or cash transfer into a connected bank account.

Earning cash back rewards can be a good alternative to miles or points credit cards, which often involve more-complex rewards structures or loyalty programs for airlines or hotels. The simplicity of knowing the exact cash value of what you earn versus having to figure out when and how to redeem travel rewards can make cash back cards a good fit for some people.

There’s also a wide range of cash back credit cards to fit different people’s needs.

Simple flat-rate cash back cards offer the same cash back rate on every transaction. For example, with the Citi Double Cash® Card, you can earn 2% cash back — 1% when you make purchases and then another 1% cash back when you pay your credit card bill for them.

Or there’s the Chase Freedom Flex℠, which you can use to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases at select categories each quarter you activate. You also earn 1% cash back on non-bonus-category purchases.

Getting a cash advance with a credit card

If you need cash now, you may be able to use your credit card to borrow cash with a cash advance. Cash advances work a little differently than using your credit card for purchases, though.

  • You may have a lower cash advance limit than your card’s overall credit limit.
  • There’s almost always a cash advance fee — for example, 3% or 5% of the cash advance amount, with a $5 or $10 minimum.
  • Your card could have a higher cash advance APR than purchase APR. Also, your cash advance may start to accrue interest immediately.

You might be able to use your credit card to get a cash advance at an ATM, although you may have to create a PIN for your credit card first and the ATM operator may charge you a fee for the cash advance. Alternatively, you may be able to get the advance by going into a bank or credit union branch. The amount you withdraw will be added to your credit card’s cash advance balance.

Because of cash advance fees and interests, a credit card cash advance should be a last resort when you need cash quickly and don’t have access to your checking account.

Using a balance transfer check to add cash to your checking account

You also may be able to use your credit card to do a balance transfer with a balance transfer check. Generally, this involves moving debt from another creditor to your credit card, which could be a money-saving move if your card has a lower interest rate than the other debt.

But you may also be able to “transfer” a balance into a qualifying checking account, effectively using your credit card to get cash.

As with a cash advance, there may be a balance transfer fee, which often ranges from 3% to 5% of the amount you transfer, with a $5 or $10 minimum. Your card may also have a different balance transfer APR than your purchase APR, and balance transfer balances may start to accrue interest right away.

It could take several days for the cash to appear in your checking account, so this isn’t necessarily a way to get cash in an emergency. But your card’s balance transfer APR may be lower than its cash advance APR, which might make this a better option. Also, your balance transfer limit could be up to your card’s credit limit, while cash advances often have a lower limit.

Bottom line

Using your credit card for a cash advance or balance transfer can be an expensive way to get cash, but it might be your only option in a pinch. On the other hand, if you want to earn cash while using your credit card for purchases you were going to make anyway, a cash back rewards card could be a great option.

About the author: Louis DeNicola is a personal finance writer and has written for American Express, Discover and Nova Credit. In addition to being a contributing writer at Credit Karma, you can find his work on Business Insider, Cheapi… Read more.