Having a financial safety net can get you through tough times. Experts typically suggest saving three to six months of spending for an emergency fund. But unexpected situations can arise, sometimes before you have built up a fund for rainy days.
If you are facing a big unforeseen expense, there are a few types of emergency loans that could help you. Keep reading to learn more about four types of emergency loans and who they are best for, as well as alternatives.
4 types of emergency loans
1. Personal loans
Personal loans are offered by lenders such as banks, credit unions, and online financial institutions. With a personal loan, you receive funds as a lump sum that you pay back in monthly installments. In addition to paying off the principal you borrowed, you pay interest and fees.
One of the advantages of a personal loan is that it allows you to repay a large amount over a longer period. Repayment terms vary by lender, but can generally be as short as one year or as long as seven years for qualified borrowers.
Who is it best for: Borrowers who are looking for lower interest rates than credit cards and high borrowing limits that don’t require collateral.
2. Cash advances by credit card
Credit cards, when used responsibly, can be useful tools in an emergency. Many credit cards offer a cash advance feature that allows you to easily access cash from an ATM or bank branch. The amount of money you can borrow is limited either by a percentage of your card limit or by a set maximum amount.
Credit card cash advances have higher interest rates than your card’s variable APR. Since the cash advance is tied to your existing card’s credit limit, it does not require an additional credit check.
Who is it best for: Cardholders who already have active credit cards in good standing and need to borrow small amounts. It could also be an option for existing cardholders whose credit score might not qualify them for a new line of credit.
3. Payday loans
Payday loans are a type of instant loan that allows you to borrow a small amount (usually a few hundred dollars). The repayment tenure for these types of emergency loans is extremely short, often within two weeks or before your next pay period.
This type of emergency loan is generally considered predatory because it charges exorbitant interest rates. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, payday loans typically charge interest of up to 400%.
Who is it best for: Borrowers who need small amounts of money and can repay the loan in full within a short period of time. Whenever possible, payday loans should be avoided; consider emergency loan alternatives instead. See below for more options.
4. Securities lending
Another type of emergency loan is the title loan. These are secured loans that use the title of your vehicle as collateral (hence the name). If you are unable to repay the loan before the end of the loan term (usually 30 days), the lender can repossess your car to settle the outstanding debt.
In addition to using your car to secure the short term loan, title loans have high interest rates similar to payday loan rates. According to the Federal Trade Commission, title loans charge rates as high as 300%.
Who is it best for: Consumers who want to borrow small amounts and can pay off their loans in a month. A title loan can be an option for borrowers who do not have access to other types of emergency loans, but it should be viewed as a last resort.
What emergency loan should you get?
Of the four types of emergency loans described above, personal loans offer the lowest cost of borrowing.
Although the interest rate you are approved for depends on your credit history, the interest rates for personal loans are still incredibly lower than for payday or title loans. Currently, personal loan rates start at around 5.99% APR for borrowers with strong credit.
If an unsecured personal loan is not a viable option, consider turning to emergency loan alternatives.
Alternatives to emergency loans
1. Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)
If you’ve built up enough equity in your home, you may be eligible for a Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). Depending on the appraised value of your home and how much you have left on your first mortgage, you may be able to borrow thousands of dollars.
A home equity loan is an installment loan that offers lump sum financing, a fixed interest rate, and repayment terms of up to 30 years. A HELOC is a revolving line of credit on which you can withdraw funds for a fixed term, say 10 years, with a repayment period of up to 20 years thereafter.
Both types of loans use your home as collateral, which puts it at risk of foreclosure if you cannot repay the loan.
Who is it best for: Homeowners who need large loans for necessary expenses such as home renovations or repairs or school fees.
2. Payment plans
If your urgent need for a loan is the result of an unexpected bill, a payment plan is an alternative to an emergency loan. For example, let’s say you have a big medical bill that you can’t pay directly. You may be able to negotiate a manageable payment plan with your vendor’s billing or accounting department.
Who is it best for: People who can pay large expenses with lower monthly payments over longer repayment terms. This alternative is ideal because it prevents you from getting into more debt.
3. Payday advance
Some employers offer payday advances, also known as payday advances, through the company’s human resources department. A payday advance provides you with initial funds from your future income. Depending on your employer’s payday advance agreement and the laws of your state, the loan may be automatically deducted from your paychecks in installments.
If your employer offers this benefit, they may have limits on how much and how often payday advances are allowed.
Who is it best for: People who need small, short-term loans who work for employers who offer this loan option.
4. Friend or family member
Borrowing money from a friend or family member can be a difficult decision. However, it is an option that can be useful for settling unforeseen bills. If you have a family member or friend willing to give you an emergency loan, sit down with them to be on the same page about repayment expectations.
Discuss if they want to be paid in a lump sum or if installment payments are acceptable. If the latter, how long are they willing to give you to repay the full loan and how much are they waiting for each payment? It is also wise to ask them if they expect interest in addition to the principal.
Who is it best for: Those who have strong relationships with trusted family members or friends who are willing to help.
Taking on more debt to pay for a sudden expense can be a tricky situation to deal with if you are unable to repay the emergency loan. Before determining what types of emergency loans are right for you, consider whether there is a way to save for the expense as a first option.
If it’s not possible to save, look for an emergency loan with the lowest interest rate and borrow only what you need.