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 strapped for 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 nine alternatives to consider when you need a quick buck.
Local nonprofits and charities
Best for: Free help to cover essential expenses.
Local funding sources, like community centers and nonprofits, are especially helpful if you are balancing groceries, gasoline, and other expenses with a new emergency. Some of these organizations can be a resource for donating food, clothing, or bus tickets for medical appointments or job interviews.
Speed: 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 easier to reimburse.
There are a handful of options which you can try before you turn to a payday lender for medical bills.
Payment plans: Ask your doctor’s office if you can set up a payment plan that splits a big bill into smaller monthly payments.
Advocates of the medical bill: Medical bill advocates negotiate bills after an expensive procedure or a hospital stay. They can also spot costly mistakes and challenge them.
Medical credit card: Some medical credit cards offered by doctor’s offices have interest-free promotional periods that can help cover expenses.
Speed: Each option varies in speed, but you may be able to set up a payment plan with the doctor’s office over the phone.
Keep in mind: Each option may be chargeable. Calculate how much you will save and compare it to the amount you will pay to make a positive decision.
Best for: Obtain money with a credit score below 690 FICO.
Some online lenders tailor their loans to borrowers with bad credit. These lenders can approve applicants with a high debt to income ratios and bad or fair credit scores.
If you are not sure if you qualify for a bad credit loan, you can pre-qualify to see what lenders can offer you. It doesn’t hurt your credit score, and prequalifying with multiple lenders allows you to compare loan offers.
Speed: Many online lenders offer quick financing and can deposit the money into your bank account within a day or two of approval.
Keep in mind: Online and bank lenders report missed and on-time payments to credit bureaus, which affects your credit score.
Best for: Members in good standing of a credit union.
If you are already a member of a credit union or if you are eligible to become one, you already have an option available to you.
Credit unions consider your credit score on a loan application, but they also look at your relationship with the credit union, your income, and your credit history.
If your credit union offers alternative payday loans, you 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.
Speed: Large 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, like most online lenders, report late and on-time payments to the credit bureaus, which will affect your credit score.
Best for: Create a temporary or permanent side business – or find extra money where you haven’t looked yet.
You can make extra money by selling your clothes, driving for a rideshare business, or turning a hobby into an online store.
Some of the options in our guide to making money take longer than others, but many of the jobs can be done on your own or at home.
Speed: How quickly this earns you money depends on how you choose to make money. Selling things online can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, while Uber drivers get paid weekly.
Keep in mind: The internet is full of scams for getting money fast. Avoid job postings that require you to pay money or ask for personal or financial information.
Best for: Get money at low interest or no interest, as long as you are willing to contribute to help someone else as well.
A loan circle consists of a group of people who lend each other money for free or at a very low price. This is a long-term commitment, as lender circles usually fundraise for one person each month, but attending one of them can help you fundraise for something like a repair. car or going through a rough patch.
Some websites work with lender circles to report payments to the three major credit bureaus, which can help you improve your credit.
Speed: It depends on when the payments cycle comes to you, but it’s a slower funding option.
Keep in mind: You must have a stable source of income in order to regularly contribute to the Loan Circle Fund.
Best for: Get money without interest, if you are close enough to someone to ask for it.
Asking someone you trust to help you pay a bill or find you a month’s rent won’t hurt your credit score, but it can impact your pride.
You and your lender can set terms that define when the loan will be paid off and whether you will pay it back in installments or all at once.
Speed: 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 a 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 have a job and you need cash urgently.
If you have a predictable income and need a payday advance, you may want to consider a cash advance application.
These apps usually confirm your earnings and when you’re paid, and offer an advance between $ 20 and $ 500 on your next paycheck.
They charge little or no fees, but they can ask for a voluntary tip for the service.
Speed: These applications can take a few hours to a few days to deliver the money. Some charge a small fee for faster service.
Keep in mind: Payday advances are a temporary solution. If you find yourself paying regularly to access the money you’ve already earned, you may need to revisit your budget.
Best for: Get money without a credit check and without having to sell an item.
A pawnshop is a no credit check option that falls short of actually selling your business. To get one, you hand something you own to the employees of a pawnshop, and they assess its value and determine if they will give you a loan in exchange for your item.
You and the pawnshop agree on when you will repay the loan – and any other interest or charges – in order to get your item back.
Speed: A pawnbroker will usually tell you on site if he will lend you money and how much.
These loans are also not a long term solution. If you find yourself taking out pawn shops on a regular basis, you will need to find a different solution.