Getting quick access to cash can be difficult at the best of times. It can be even more difficult when times are tough.
If you’re short on cash, a payday loan might seem like the only option, but there’s rarely a good reason to get one.
Even if it’s just a small amount of money to cover an emergency, a payday loan could leave you worse off than before you borrowed.
Here are 10 alternatives to consider when you need cash fast.
Local charities and nonprofits
Best for: Free help to cover essential expenses.
Local funding sources, like community centers and nonprofits, are especially helpful if you’re balancing grocery, gas, and other expenses with a new emergency. Some of these organizations may be a resource for donations of food, clothing, or bus tickets for medical appointments or job interviews.
The rapidity: How quickly you can get help depends on your needs and the organizations in your area. Call them to find out.
Keep in mind: Charities may require proof that you need help, such as recent pay stubs.
Best for: Reduce a large medical bill or make it more manageable to repay.
Payment plans: Ask your doctor’s office if you can set up a payment plan that splits a large bill into smaller monthly payments.
Medical bill advocates: Medical bill advocates negotiate bills after an expensive procedure or hospital stay. They can also spot costly mistakes and challenge them.
Medical credit card: some medical credit cards offered by doctors’ offices have interest-free promotional periods that can help you cover expenses. Read the terms carefully to avoid high interest charges.
The rapidity: Each option varies in speed, but you may be able to work out a payment plan with the doctor’s office over the phone.
Keep in mind: Each option can be paid. Calculate the amount you will save and compare it to the amount you will pay to make a positive decision.
Best for: Getting money with a credit score below 690.
Some online lenders tailor their loans to borrowers with bad credit. These lenders can approve applicants debt to income ratios and bad or fair credit scores.
If you are unsure whether you qualify for a loan for bad credit, you can pre-qualify to see what lenders will offer you. It does not affect your credit score and pre-qualifying with multiple lenders allows you to compare loan offers.
The rapidity: Many online lenders offer quick funding and can deposit the money into your bank account within a day or two of approval.
Keep in mind: Online lenders report payments to three major credits offices. On-time payments can help you build credit, while missed payments will hurt your score.
See if you’re pre-qualified for a personal loan – without affecting your credit score
Just answer a few questions to get personalized rate quotes from multiple lenders.
Best for: Members in good standing of a credit union.
If you are already a member of a credit union or eligible to become one, you already have an option available to you.
credit unions consider your credit score and income when applying for a loan, but they also look at your membership history.
If your caisse offers alternative payday loansyou can borrow a small amount — usually up to $1,000 or $2,000 — with a maximum interest rate of 28% and repayment terms of up to 12 months.
The rapidity: Larger credit unions may be able to fund and approve a loan within days. If you are a member of a local credit union or need to become one to apply, the process may take longer.
Keep in mind: Credit unions report late and on-time payments to the credit bureaus, which will affect your credit score.
Payment plans for monthly expenses
Best for: Temporary waiver of full or partial bill payments while you cover an emergency.
Ask for a payment extension or installment plan from your landlord, utility company, mortgage lender or other creditor to temporarily alleviate these expenses while you cover another more pressing expense.
Some creditors and utility companies have online forms where you can request an extension or hardship plan, but you may need to make an informal request to someone like a landlord.
The rapidity: Depending on when your bills are due, you may get payment relief before your next payment.
Keep in mind: It can be difficult to keep up with payment plans with multiple creditors or billing agencies. Add the payments to your budget or schedule and make sure you have enough money to pay them.
Best for: Create a temporary or permanent side hustle – or find extra cash where you haven’t looked before.
You can make extra money by selling your clothes, driving for a ride-sharing company, or turning a hobby into an online store.
Some of the options of our guide to making money more time consuming than others, but many of these jobs can be done alone or from home.
The rapidity: How quickly it will earn you money depends on how you choose to earn money. Selling things online can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, while rideshare drivers are usually paid weekly.
Keep in mind: The internet is full of scams to get quick cash. Avoid job postings that require you to pay money or ask for personal or financial information.
Best for: Get money with low or no interest, as long as you are willing to contribute funds to help someone else as well.
A lending circle consists of a group of people who lend money to each other at no or very little cost. This is a long-term commitment because Lending Circles typically raise money for one person each month, but participating can help you raise money for something like a car repair or help you through a hard time.
Some websites work with lending circles to report payments to credit bureaus, which can help improve your credit.
The rapidity: It depends on when the installment cycle comes to you, but this is a slower funding option.
Keep in mind: You must have a stable source of income in order to regularly contribute to the Lending Circle fund.
Best for: Getting interest-free money, if you’re close enough to someone to ask for it.
Asking someone you trust to help you pay a bill or pay you a month’s rent won’t hurt your credit score, but it can hurt your pride.
You and your lender can set terms that define when the loan will be repaid and whether you will repay it in installments or all at once.
The rapidity: It depends on the terms you and the lender agree to.
keep in mind: A loan from a family member or friend doesn’t require physical collateral, but you could put a relationship at risk, so make sure both parties are comfortable with the loan before borrowing.
Best for: When you are employed and need emergency cash.
If you have a predictable income and need a payday advance, you may consider a cash advance app.
These apps typically confirm your earnings and when you get paid, and offer an advance between $20 and $500 on your next paycheck.
They generally charge a low fee, but most ask for a voluntary tip for service.
The rapidity: These apps can take a few days to deliver the money, but most will send your advance within hours for an additional fee.
Keep in mind: Payday advances are a temporary solution. If you pay regularly to access the money you’ve already earned, you may need to review your budget.
Best for: Get money without a credit check and without having to sell an item.
A pawnbroker is a no credit check option that is one step away from selling your stuff. To get one, you hand something you own to the staff of a pawn shop, and they assess its value and determine whether they’ll give you a loan in exchange for your item.
You and the pawnbroker agree when you will repay the loan – and any other interest or fees – in order to get your item back.
The rapidity: A pawnbroker will usually tell you on the spot if they will lend you money and how much.
These loans are also not a long-term solution. If you find yourself regularly taking out pawnbrokers, look for another solution.