5 best quick loans for emergency cash

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In a Nutshell

If you need a quick loan for an emergency expense or other cost, you’ll want to examine how fast a lender says it can get funds to you. But keep in mind that what may seem like a promise is usually an estimate, and exactly when you’ll get any money you’re approved for also depends on your bank.
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If an emergency cost pops up and you don’t have the cash to pay for it, a quick loan might seem like your saving grace.

But keep in mind that the shortest amount of time a lender says it can get approved funds to you often comes with a disclaimer. A number of factors can delay your funding, and depending on your bank, there may be a wait before you can access your cash.

And think twice before you opt for high-cost loans like payday loans or title loans, which can come with very high fees and interest rates.

If you need fast cash, read on to see our top picks for lenders that may be able to get you money quickly.

What is a quick loan?

A quick loan is any type of loan that can help you get money fast — which is key if you’re in an emergency. If you’re looking to get money fast, two main factors will make lenders stand out: quick approval and quick funding time. Often the lenders that promote “quick cash” offer loans with high fees and interest rates. And if you need money quickly, any option can seem viable.

But even though many lenders don’t advertise “quick loans,” there are still a number of legitimate — and less expensive — options available. If possible, look for loans with more-reasonable rates (typically, 36% or below is considered affordable) and a repayment schedule that you can afford.

The most affordable quick cash loans are typically available for people with strong credit and a demonstrated ability to repay the loan — lenders may consider your income and assets while evaluating your application, for example. But even if your credit isn’t great, you’ll likely still have some options.

Wells Fargo: Good for existing customers

Why a Wells Fargo personal loan stands out: Wells Fargo says it can often deliver your funds by the next business day after loan approval. You’ll have to be an existing customer for at least 12 months to apply for a Wells Fargo personal loan. You might qualify for a relationship discount on your rate if you have an eligible checking account and make automatic payments on your loan from a Wells Fargo account.

Wells Fargo’s unsecured personal loans range from $3,000 to $100,000.

  • Competitive rates — Wells Fargo advertises loan rates that are among some of the lowest you’ll see for personal loans. But note that among other factors, you’ll need to have good credit and sign up for autopay to get the lowest rates available.
  • Rate check option — If you want to see what estimated terms you may qualify for without a hard credit inquiry, you can check your loan terms before formally applying with Wells Fargo. The bank also offers a calculator where you can explore a potential rate by inputting your preferred terms and credit score tier. As with any calculator or loan prequalification, your rates and fees aren’t locked in until you formally apply.

Read reviews of Wells Fargo personal loans to learn more.

Avant: Good for people with less-than-perfect credit

Why an Avant personal loan stands out: If you’re approved for an Avant personal loan, you could have funds transferred to your bank account as soon as the next business day, depending on what time the application is approved. (Though depending on your bank, it could take longer to access your cash.) Avant is worth a look if you have less-than-perfect credit and are facing an emergency expense. But keep in mind that its rates are higher than you may find elsewhere.

Avant’s unsecured personal loans range from $2,000 to $35,000.

  • App available — Avant offers a mobile app where you can manage your loan by setting up recurring payments, viewing your payment history and changing your payment dates.
  • Fees can add up — Avant’s loans may come with an administration fee, as well as late fees and dishonored payment fees.
  • Prequalification application — You can check your potential rate without affecting your credit scores, which is helpful if you want to view estimated terms before you officially apply. But keep in mind that you may not be approved or your rates may change if you do move forward. And Avant will perform a hard credit check if you do apply, which can lower your credit scores by a few points.

Read reviews of Avant personal loans to learn more.

Earnin: Good for small cash advances

Why an Earnin loan stands out: If you only need a small amount of money, Earnin might be a good fit since it lets you advance small amounts from an upcoming paycheck. According to Earnin, you could get your money nearly instantly if you’re a past customer and meet certain eligibility requirements. (But keep in mind that depending on your bank, you could have to wait longer to access your cash.)

  • Not all types of jobs qualify — You’ll have to meet some basic requirements to use the app: You must link a checking account, be on a regular pay cycle, and have a fixed work location or employer-provided email address.
  • Optional tips — Earnin asks customers to tip what they think is fair to support the service.  For its standard service, Earnin doesn’t charge fees, and you can still get same- or next-day access to cash on business days. But to get your money “within minutes,” Earnin charges fees based on how you access the money.
  • Balance shield alerts — If you’re worried about overdrafting your bank account, Earnin also offers a feature that notifies you when your balance falls below a level you specify.

Read our full review of Earnin to learn more.

Affirm: Good for a buy-now, pay-later option

Why an Affirm loan stands out: Buy-now, pay-later apps like Affirm can make certain large, necessary purchases more affordable. Affirm offers multiple payment plans, which vary depending on the purchase amount, store and loan term. If you choose its “Pay in 4” plan, you won’t be on the hook for interest or fees — but you’re locked into a tight repayment schedule, and this plan is typically available only for purchases of $1,000 or less. A monthly installment plan offers more flexibility, but it may come with interest.

  • Check eligibility without affecting your credit — Signing up for Affirm and checking your purchasing power won’t trigger a hard credit inquiry. Depending on the type of loan you get through Affirm, the lender may report your payment activity to Experian.
  • Using Affirm — To use Affirm, you can look for an option to pay with Affirm at checkout while shopping online, or you can get the Affirm app to use in stores and online.
  • Returning a purchase — If the store allows it, you can return a purchase made through Affirm for a refund. But if you paid interest to Affirm to fund the item, you won’t be refunded the interest.

Read reviews of Affirm to learn more.

LightStream: Good for larger loan amounts

Why a LightStream loan stands out: LightStream offers unsecured personal loans in amounts from $5,000 to $100,000, so it could be a good option if you have a larger emergency expense.

  • Rate Beat program — With its Rate Beat program, LightStream promises to offer you a rate that’s 0.1 percentage points lower than an interest rate offer you have from another lender (you must meet certain conditions to qualify). For an emergency expense, you may not have time to apply with multiple lenders — but the rates LightStream advertises are competitive.
  • No prequalification option — You don’t have the option to check your rates before submitting an application with LightStream.
  • Fast funding times — LightStream says it can fund your loan the same day you apply — though depending on the time you apply and your bank, the funds may take longer to hit your account.

Read reviews of LightStream to learn more.

How can I get emergency money fast?

If you’re in a financial jam, there’s no guarantee you’ll be approved for a loan or that you’ll be approved for funds as quickly as you hope.

There are some loan options that offer funding quickly that are often less favorable to borrowers. For example, payday loans, auto title loans, and other high-interest, short-term debt can be incredibly expensive. You should try to avoid these types of loans whenever possible.

Payday loans and payday advances

payday loan is a type of quick personal loan that’s typically for $500 or less and due on your next payday.

Lenders that offer payday loans often charge exorbitant fees, which can equate to interest rates of around 400% in some cases. To put things into perspective, a $500 loan with a $50 lending fee equates to an APR of more than 260%.

Payday loans can often be rolled over or renewed for only the cost of the lending fee, which increases the total cost for the borrower, and moves the loan out to the next payday.

This cycle of applying for and then renewing payday loans can quickly put you in a cycle of debt, so applying for this type of loan to get funds quickly should be avoided whenever possible.

A potentially cheaper option is a payday alternative loan, which is a small-dollar loan offered by certain federal credit unions. Application fees can’t be more than $20, and interest rates are capped at 28%. To apply, you’ll typically need to be a credit union member for at least one month.

Car title loans

A car title loan is another expensive short-term loan.

This is a type of secured loan, where your vehicle is used as collateral. This means your car’s title or registration is left with the lender until you pay back the loan in full — and can be repossessed if you don’t make your payments as agreed. You must repay the loan with interest and fees, typically within 15 and 30 days.

Car title loans are expensive — they’re often offered by predatory lenders and should be avoided if possible.

Pawn shop loans

With a pawn shop loan, you can use an item of value to secure the loan. A pawn shop will assess the value of the item and keep it on hand as collateral to back the loan.

Examples of items you can use as collateral for a pawnshop loan include jewelry, musical instruments, electronics and other high-value items. Terms for pawn shop loans vary and often include high interest rates.

You’ll typically be required to pay back the full amount of the pawn loan to reclaim your pawned item, though the amount of time you have to repay the loan can vary from state to state.

Alternatives to high-interest debt

If you’re worried about covering your bills, low-interest personal loans might be an option for you to consider.

Just be aware that even if a lower interest rate is advertised by a lender, it’s not guaranteed for all applicants, so borrowing could still result in a loan with a higher interest rate. Your eligibility and interest rates are based on your credit history and credit scores, among other factors, so it’s a good idea to get an idea where your credit is at before applying.

Here are some other options to consider if you have trouble qualifying for a personal loan.

  • Get a co-signer. If you have difficulty qualifying for a loan on your own, getting someone with good credit (like a parent or spouse) on board with co-signing a loan for you may be another alternative to avoid high-cost debt.
  • Use a credit card. If you have a credit card, you could consider using it to cover an unexpected expense. If you pay it off in full before the due date each month, you won’t have to pay any interest.
  • Ask for an extension. If you’ve recently become unemployed or experienced a crisis, you also can reach out directly to creditors to see if they’ll grant you a bill extension.

And start thinking about your next unexpected expense. If you can save a little bit each month in an emergency fund, you’ll be better off the next time you need quick cash.

How we picked these loans

We reviewed more than two dozen personal loan lenders, taking into account the quickest amount of time you could potentially receive funding, as well as other factors such as loan amounts, terms, interest rates and any lender fees.

FAQs about quick cash loans

How fast can I get a loan?

You may be able to get a loan on the same day that you apply for it. To get a loan quickly, look for lenders that advertise “instant” or “same-day” funding. Certain factors, like what time of day you apply, whether you’re applying on a business day and when your bank accepts the funds into your account, may affect when you actually receive the cash. For example, your lender is more likely to send the money on the same day if you’re applying in the morning on a business day.

How can I get a fast loan with bad credit?

Certain lenders that offer same-day funding offer loans to people with bad credit. Lenders that offer prequalification are a good place to start — that’ll give you an idea of whether you’ll qualify with a lender before submitting a full application. Additionally, consider cash advance apps as a way to get money — these may not require a credit check.

About the author: Erin Dunn is an editor at Credit Karma who specializes in personal loans and is passionate about financial literacy and budgeting. She’s an award-winning business journalist and editor whose work has appeared in Busin… Read more.