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Best Credit Cards for a Cash Advance

Best Credit Cards for a Cash Advance

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Sep 16, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

When you need emergency cash and don’t have enough in your checking account, taking a cash advance from your credit card can be a quick solution. But unless you have a way to pay off what you borrow quickly, it’s usually a bad idea, as cash advances rack up expensive fees and interest charges immediately.

We’ll walk you through some options that might be better, as well as six cards worth considering if you absolutely need a cash advance.

How a credit card cash advance works

Using your credit card to get cash, rather than putting a purchase on your credit card, is called a cash advance. Some of the ways you may be able to get cash with your card are as follows:

  • By visiting a bank branch.
  • At an ATM (you’ll need to have a PIN set up).
  • From a convenience check received by mail.

But just because it might be easy doesn’t mean taking a cash advance out is a smart move. Some of the drawbacks to getting a credit card cash advance include:

  • There’s typically a cash advance fee.
  • The card’s cash advance APR is likely higher than its regular purchase APR.
  • There’s no grace period, so interest begins accruing as soon as you take the advance.

That last point is especially important. When you charge something to your credit card, you can typically avoid accruing interest by paying the card off in full before the due date. But with a cash advance, you start accruing interest (at a high APR) from the day you take it out.

Also, note card issuers limit the amount of cash you can take out as a cash advance during a given period and you cannot access your full credit limit.

Best credit cards for a cash advance

Many credit cards charge a 3% to 5% cash advance fee and have cash advance APRs around 25%. We’ve selected six cards with no cash advance fees and reasonable APRs, three from Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) and three from Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU).

Read: Best Credit Union Credit Cards

Ways to qualify for PenFed membership include:

  • Past or present military service.
  • Your employer.
  • Where you live.
  • Family relationship to a current PenFed member.

If none of the above apply, you can qualify for PenFed membership by joining Voices for America’s Troops (a $15 donation) or the National Military Family Association (a $17 donation).

Ways to qualify for DCU membership include:

  • The company you work for or retired from.
  • Where you live, work, worship or attend school.
  • Family relationship to a current DCU member.

If none of the above apply, you can qualify for DCU membership by joining a partner organization such as Reach Out for Schools, a nonprofit that raises money for schools and programs that benefit students. Membership in Reach Out for Schools starts at $10.

PenFed Gold Visa® Card

This card is relatively no-frills, but it does offer a very reasonable regular purchase APR. There’s also a sign-up bonus of a $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days.

  • Cash advance fee: None
  • Cash advance APR: 17.99% variable
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular purchase APR: 7.49% to 17.99% variable

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

This card is good for heavy spenders on gas and groceries. Earn 5X points on gas at the pump, 3X points on groceries, 1X points on all other purchases. And for the sign-up bonus, earn a $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days.

  • Cash advance fee: None
  • Cash advance APR: 17.99% variable
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular purchase APR: 13.49%to 17.99% variable

PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card

With the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card, you can earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases made with your card (2% total cash back for all PenFed HonorsAdvantage members). There’s also a sign-up bonus in the form of a $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days.

  • Cash advance fee: None
  • Cash advance APR: 17.99% variable
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular purchase APR: 14.99% to 17.99% variable

Read our review of the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card.

DCU Visa® Platinum Credit Card

This is another card that’s relatively no-frills, but offers a low starting APR.

  • Cash advance fee: None
  • Cash advance APR: 8.50% - 18.00% variable
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular purchase APR: 8.50% - 18.00% variable

DCU Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card

The DCU Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card does offer rewards, but the rate is quite low. Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on everyday purchases.

  • Cash advance fee: None
  • Cash advance APR: 11.25% - 18.00% variable
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular purchase APR: 11.25% - 18.00% variable

DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card

If you’re working to rebuild your credit, the DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card can help you do that. It’s a secured credit card, meaning you have to put down a security deposit in the amount you want for your credit limit. There’s a minimum deposit required of $500.

  • Cash advance fee: None
  • Cash advance APR: 11.50%- 18.00% variable
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular purchase APR: 11.50%- 18.00% variable

Alternatives to a credit card cash advance

Apply for a personal loan

If you’re not facing a cash emergency, you may want to look into a personal loan. APRs for personal loans can range from 3% to 36%. If you have a good credit score (670 or higher), you’re likely to be offered an interest rate lower than what you’d pay on a credit card cash advance. Plus, personal loans offer set monthly payments and repayment dates.

You may be able to apply for a personal loan with a bank, a credit union or an online lender. And you can shop around for your best interest rate by signing up for a free My LendingTree account.

Note that you may be charged an origination fee, and some lenders also charge a fee if you decide to pay the loan off early.

Read: Personal Loan vs. Balance Transfer Credit Card for Debt Consolidation

Use an app to get money from your paycheck early

Rather than pay interest on a credit card cash advance or a personal loan, you may be able to use a mobile app to get money from your paycheck before payday. Depending on the specific app, you might be charged a fee such as a membership fee or a fee per transaction.

Three apps worth considering:

  • Earnin. To use Earnin, you’ll need to link a checking account and add your employment info. You’ll start out able to get $100 per pay period, and your limit has the potential to increase to $500 per pay period as you demonstrate responsible use of the app. Earnin does not charge fees or interest, and relies on users to tip what they feel is fair.
  • Branch. With Branch, you have options for free transactions, such as the three-day standard delivery to an external bank account. If you need the money transferred to an external account faster, there’s an instant delivery fee — from $2.99 to $4.99 depending on how much you transfer. On payday, Branch automatically takes the advance amount from your bank account.
  • DailyPay. Using DailyPay is an option if your employer signs up and offers it as a benefit. There’s a $1.99 fee for next-day transactions and a $2.99 fee for instant transactions. Employers can choose to pay these fees or leave them for employees.

While you may end up paying a tip or a small fee to use one of the above apps, you’ll likely pay less than what you’d accrue in interest if you were to get a credit card cash advance.

Save for an emergency fund

If you need cash urgently, building an emergency fund probably isn’t an option. But if you’re planning ahead for a rainy day, earmarking money for an emergency fund – and keeping it in a separate account than the one you use for everyday expenses – is a wise move.

When determining how much to save in your emergency fund, consider the following:

  • What’s your household size? If you’re supporting children or other dependents, a larger fund will be needed than if you’re only saving for your own expenses.
  • Do you have a partner with a steady income? Those in dual-income households may find a smaller fund sufficient if their partner’s income provides a safety net.
  • Are you in a traditional full-time position? If you’re self-employed or a freelancer, it may be wise to save a larger emergency fund due to having a less predictable income.

Possible target sizes for an emergency fund include three to nine months of income. When deciding how much you want to save, map out your monthly expenses on paper or a budgeting app — then evaluate which expenses are essential and which could be cut if you needed to operate on a skeleton budget for a period of time.

Rather than keeping your emergency fund in your everyday checking or savings, one option is to keep it in a high-yield online savings account. Interest rates for these accounts are typically higher than what’s offered by brick-and-mortar institutions, meaning you can earn a few dollars on what you’ve stashed away. And by keeping the money in a separate account, you’ll have to transfer it to access it, ensuring you’ll be less tempted to use it for spontaneous purchases.

Is a credit card cash advance bad?

In general, credit card cash advances should be avoided whenever possible. Because interest starts accruing as soon as you take the cash advance, and because the APR might be higher than your regular purchase APR, cash advances are extremely expensive.

However, there are times when a cash advance can really come in handy, for example, if you’re traveling and your car breaks down and the repair shop only takes cash. Just make sure you make it a priority to pay off the cash advance as quickly as possible.

Plus, credit cards offer protections in the event of fraud or when an item doesn’t match the seller’s description — you lose those protections when paying with cash from a cash advance.


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