3 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 say they may be able to get you money quickly.

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 to apply online or over the phone, and 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.

  • Co-applicants allowed — If you think applying with someone else will give you a better chance of qualifying or improving your interest rate, you can add another person to your application.
  • No prequalification option — If you want to see what estimated terms you may qualify for without a hard credit inquiry, you’re out of luck with Wells Fargo. The bank does offer a calculator where you can explore a potential rate by inputting your preferred terms and credit score tier — but there’s no guarantee how accurate that information will be.

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 (the lender may offer different terms on Credit Karma).

  • 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 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: At least half of your paycheck must be sent as direct deposit to a checking account, you have to be on a regular pay cycle, and you need to have a fixed work location or electronic time-keeping system.
  • Optional tips — Earnin doesn’t charge interest or fees — instead it asks customers to tip what they think is fair to support the service.
  • 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.

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.

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.