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Compare Personal Loan Rates

Best Emergency Loans of March 2024

Related: Compare Personal Loan Rates

Best Overall Personal Loan for Emergencies


APR range

7.49% to 25.49%

with autopay

7.49% to 25.49%

with autopay

Why We Picked It

LightStream is a consumer lending division of Truist—which formed following the merger of SunTrust Bank and BB&T. The platform offers unsecured personal loans from $5,000 to $100,000. Loan amounts vary based on the loan purpose. Although a number of lenders offer smaller loans than the LightStream minimum, few lenders offer a higher maximum loan. Repayment terms are available from two to seven years, making it an excellent option for those who want to spread out the payment of large expenses over time.

In addition to offering appealing and flexible terms, LightStream charges no origination, late payment or prepayment fees. The lender also offers a 0.50% rate discount for borrowers who enroll in autopay—higher than most lenders with the same perk—as well as a 30-day loan experience guarantee to ensure borrower satisfaction, Covid-19/hardship assistance and a rate-beat program. LightStream will beat a competitor’s interest rate by 0.1 percentage point for applicants who meet certain criteria.

LightStream offers loans in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and applicants can contact the lender’s customer support team seven days a week; current borrowers have access to customer support from Monday through Saturday. While LightStream doesn’t offer a mobile app for loan management, customers can access their account through

Pros & Cons

  • No origination, prepayment or late fees
  • Low, competitive rates
  • Fast approval and funding
  • No prequalification process
  • No due date flexibility
  • Limitations on use of loan proceeds


Eligibility:  LightStream recommends applicants have good to excellent credit before applying for a personal loan. To increase their chances of approval, applicants also should have several years of credit history, including multiple account types, as well as an income that is stable enough to service current debts and a new LightStream loan.

LightStream doesn’t give prospective borrowers the ability to prequalify for a loan. This fact—combined with the minimum credit score requirement—makes the platform a better fit for those with a strong credit profile. Applicants with excellent credit also are more likely to get favorable terms. LightStream does not allow co-signers, but prospective borrowers can submit a joint application.

Loan uses:   LightStream’s personal loans can be used for a wide range of purposes, from purchasing a new car, RV or jewelry to paying for home improvements. However, LightStream really stands out, because loans can be used to finance land, timeshares and so-called tiny homes. As with other top lenders, LightStream prohibits use of its personal loans for post-secondary education costs, business purposes and illegal activities. Borrowers also are prohibited from using LightStream loan funds to refinance an existing LightStream loan.

Turnaround time:   LightStream borrowers can receive funds as soon as the same day if the loan is approved before 2:30 p.m. Eastern time on a banking business day. To receive same-day funding, the applicant also must review and electronically sign the loan agreement; provide LightStream with funding preferences and relevant banking information; and complete the final verification process—all before 2:30 p.m. on the day the loan is approved.

Best for Few Qualification Requirements

Rocket Loans

APR range

9.116% to 29.99%

minimum rate includes autopay discount

9.116% to 29.99%

minimum rate includes autopay discount

Why We Picked It

A sister company to Rocket Homes and Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, Rocket Loans offers personal loans through Cross River Bank. The lender’s availability in most states and low minimum credit score requirement (580 ) make Rocket Loans an accessible option. However, borrowers will face origination fees and repayment terms limited to three or five years.

Rocket Loans scored high on our list of personal loans for emergencies, however, because borrowers can receive funds as soon as the same day they apply. To qualify for this fast funding, approved applicants must complete their applications and sign the promissory note before 1 p.m. Eastern time on a business day. If same day funding is not possible, the average time to receive funds is two to four days.

Keep in mind that funding speed and accessibility come with a price—Rocket Loans charges an origination fee of up to 9% of the loan amount and APRs range from 9.116% to 29.99% (minimum rate includes autopay discount). So, if you have a high credit score, or can wait a little longer to receive funds, cheaper loan options may be available. You can qualify for loan amounts of $2,000 to $45,000.

Pros & Cons

  • Prequalification process only requires a soft credit check
  • Offers same-day approval, and same-day funding may be possible
  • Does not impose a prepayment penalty
  • Rate discount available with autopay
  • Fees for origination, late payment and insufficient funds
  • Does not offer direct payment for debt consolidation loans
  • Doesn’t allow co-signers or co-applicants
  • Limited loan repayment terms


Overview: A sister company to Rocket Homes and Rocket Mortgage, Rocket Loans offers personal loans through Cross River Bank. With Rocket Loans, borrowers can receive funds as soon as the same day they apply.

To qualify for this fast funding, approved applicants must complete their applications and sign the promissory note before 1 p.m. ET on a business day. If same day funding is not possible, the average time to receive funds is two to four days.


  • Minimum credit score: 580
  • Minimum income: $24,000
  • Doesn’t allow co-signer or co-borrower

Loan uses:

  • Home improvements
  • Large expenses
  • Travel and vacation

Best for a Range of Repayment Terms


Why We Picked It

Founded in 2012 and based in Chicago, Avant is a consumer lending platform that offers secured and unsecured personal loans through a third-party bank (WebBank). Unsecured loans are available in Washington, D.C. and every state but Hawaii, Iowa, New York, Vermont, West Virginia and Maine. The platform specializes in middle-income borrowers with fair to good credit and only requires a minimum score of 580 to qualify.

Maximum loan amounts are low compared to other lenders, but the low minimum amount and flexible repayment terms (two to five years) make it an accessible option for borrowers. However, as with many loans for subprime borrowers, Avant personal loans come with a price. In addition to charging an administrative fee of up to 4.75% of the loan amount, Avant’s APR range (9.95% to 35.99%) is on the high end for applicants with a good to excellent credit score—and there is no autopay discount. Still, the platform earns top marks for borrowers with less than stellar credit who need quick access to funds.

It’s also worth noting that Avant agreed to a $3.85 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in April 2019. According to FTC documents, the lawsuit was filed in response to allegations that, among other things, Avant charged consumers late fees and interest they didn’t owe and collected payments from customers without permission or in amounts larger than authorized. We reached out to Avant to find out what they’ve done to adjust practices since the settlement but did not receive a response. Even so, Avant has a high 4.7 star rating on Trustpilot.

Pros & Cons

  • Secured and unsecured loan options available
  • Low credit score requirement (580)
  • Loan terms available up to 60 months
  • Charges an upfront administrative fee
  • High starting APR for prime borrowers
  • Co-signers and co-applicants not allowed


Eligibility:  Avant aims to provide credit services to a range of customers, including those with fair credit. For that reason, Avant has a minimum credit score requirement of 580, with the average borrower score between 600 and 700. Likewise, Avant focuses on low- to middle-income borrowers and has a minimum income requirement of just $20,000, though most borrowers have an average household income of $40,000 to $100,000.

To expand eligibility, Avant also will consider more than just your employment income, including alimony and child support, and may include the income of other people within your household. That said, Avant does not allow co-signers or co-applicants.

Loan uses:  As with many other personal loan providers, Avant loans can be used to consolidate debt and pay for things like medical expenses, auto repairs, home improvements moving or vacations and travel. Avant borrowers cannot use personal loan funds to cover business expenses, but the platform does allow current borrowers to refinance their existing Avant loans with another loan—possibly with a lower APR.

Turnaround time:  Avant applicants who are approved for an unsecured loan before 4:30 p.m. Central time Monday through Friday may receive their funds the next business day. However, as with other lenders, the funding timeline varies depending on the borrower’s bank. It can also take longer for borrowers who take out secured loans.

Best for Loans Up to $100,000


APR range

8.99% to 29.99%

with autopay

8.99% to 29.99%

with autopay

Why We Picked It

SoFi is an online lending platform that offers unsecured fixed-rate personal loans in every state. Founded in 2011, SoFi has extended over $50 billion in loans and stands out for allowing high loan amounts and its availability of extended loan terms.

Loans are available from $5,000 to $100,000, making SoFi a great option for those with excellent credit who need to borrow a large amount of money. Loan amounts available may vary by the state you live in. Repayment terms range from two to seven years, making SoFi an incredibly flexible option for those with sufficient credit (minimum 650) and annual income (at least $45,000). SoFi also lets prospective borrowers submit joint applications—although co-signers are not permitted.

Approved borrowers are rewarded with comparatively low APRs. What’s more, SoFi doesn’t charge origination fees, late fees or prepayment penalties—a stand-out feature because personal loan lenders often charge origination or late payment fees at a minimum.

However, if you’re considering a debt consolidating loan from SoFi, keep in mind that the lender does not offer direct payment to a borrower’s other creditors. This means the loan proceeds will be deposited to your bank account and you’ll have to pay off your other lenders individually. The platform does offer customers a number of other perks and discounts, including unemployment protection and the ability to change their payment due date once a year.

Pros & Cons

  • Prequalification with soft credit check
  • Funding in as little as one to two days
  • High loan amounts and lengthy terms
  • Does not offer direct payment to third-party creditors for debt consolidation
  • Some applicants report difficult qualification standards
  • Co-signers are not permitted


Eligibility:  Personal loan applicants should have a minimum credit score of 650. However, many successful applicants have a score of 700 or higher. Applicants also must have an annual income of at least $45,000, though the average income of a SoFi borrower is over $100,000.

Loan uses:  In general, SoFi personal loans are limited to use for personal, family and household purposes. This means a borrower can use loan funds to cover things like medical costs, credit card consolidation, home improvements and relocation costs. However, SoFi loans cannot be used to fund a new business venture, the purchase of real estate, investments and securities, post-secondary education or short-term bridge financing.

Turnaround time:  Borrowers typically receive funds within a few days—or as soon as the next business day after approval and acceptance of terms. However, funding times may be longer than a few days—especially for loans over $20,000.

Best for Loans as Low as $1,000


Why We Picked It

Upstart has made a mark on the personal loan space because of its artificial intelligence- and machine learning-based approach to borrower qualification. In fact, Upstart estimates that it has been able to approve 27% more borrowers than possible under a traditional lending model. With competitive APRs, Upstart is not a top lender for borrowers who can qualify for more competitive rates. Even so, the platform’s minimum 300 credit score makes it an accessible option to those with fair credit.

Upstart also offers a pretty flexible range of loan options, with amounts ranging from $1,000 to $50,000 so you don’t have to borrow (or pay interest on) more than you really need. And, while Upstart’s loan cap is lower than some lenders—this is likely to be enough for many prospective borrowers.

Even though Upstarts three-, five-, seven-year loan terms are more restrictive than other lenders, it’s likely to be an acceptable tradeoff for applicants who might not be approved in a more traditional lending environment. Plus, it’s available in every state except West Virginia and Iowa, so it’s as widely available as many other top lenders.

Pros & Cons

  • Accessible to borrowers with fair credit
  • Offers prequalification with a soft credit check
  • Ability to choose a custom payment date
  • Charges an origination fee up to 8% of the loan amount
  • No secured or co-signer option
  • Loans only available for three-, five-, seven-year terms


Eligibility:  Upstart stands out because it uses an AI-based platform to consider a range of non-conventional variables when evaluating borrower applications. And, while the platform advertises a minimum credit score of 300, Upstart may even accept applicants who don’t have enough credit history to have a score. When evaluating prospective borrowers, Upstart considers college education, job history, residence, debt-to-income ratio, bankruptcies and delinquencies and number of credit inquiries.

Borrowers also must have a full-time job or offer starting in six months, a regular part-time job or another source of regular income—with a minimum annual income of $12,000. Co-signers and co-applicants are not permitted.

Loan uses:  Upstart’s personal loans can be used for credit card and other debt consolidation, special events, moving and relocation, medical and dental costs and home improvements. In contrast to many other traditional and online lenders, Upstart also lets borrowers use personal loan funds to cover educational expenses (except in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Washington and the District of Columbia).

Upstart borrowers cannot use personal loans to finance illegal activity or purchase weapons, firearms or illegal drugs.

Turnaround time:  Upstart provides next-business day funding for borrowers whose loans are accepted before 5 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday. Loans that are approved after 5 p.m. are typically funded the following business day, or the day after that. That said, Upstart reports that 99% of loan applicants receive their money one business day after accepting their loan terms. Loans for education-related expenses may take up to an additional three business days after loan acceptance.

Best for Bad Credit


Why We Picked It

Upgrade was launched in 2017 and provides accessible online and mobile credit and banking services. Since that time, the platform has made more than $3 billion in credit available to over 10 million applicants and continues to expand its online and mobile services. Although maximum APRs are on the high end compared to other online lenders, Upgrade makes loans available to those with poor credit history.

Loans amounts, which range from $1,000 to $50,000. Upgrade has two- to seven-year terms  available. Upgrade charges an origination fee between 1.85% and 9.99% of the loan, and borrowers will encounter a $10 fee if their payment is more than 15 days late or if the payment does not go through; there are no discounts for autopay. That said, Upgrade borrowers are not subject to a prepayment penalty, so you can reduce the overall cost of the loan if you’re able to pay it off early.

Beyond offering accessible personal loans, Upgrade streamlines the lending process with a mobile app that lets borrowers view their balance, make payments and update personal information. Upgrade’s Credit Heath tool also makes it easy to track your credit score over the life of your loan.

Pros & Cons

  • Low minimum credit score requirement
  • Borrowers can use loans to cover business expenses
  • Offers direct lender payoff for debt consolidation loans
  • High APR range
  • Charges fees for origination, late payment and insufficient funds


Overview: Upgrade was launched in 2017 and provides accessible online and mobile credit and banking services. Since that time, the platform has made more than $3 billion in credit available to over 10 million applicants and continues to expand its online and mobile services.

Upgrade charges an origination fee between 1.85% and 9.99% of the loan, and borrowers will encounter a $10 fee if their payment is more than 15 days late or if the payment does not go through; there are no discounts for autopay. That said, Upgrade borrowers are not subject to a prepayment penalty, so you can reduce the overall cost of the loan if you’re able to pay it off early.

Beyond offering accessible personal loans, Upgrade streamlines the lending process with a mobile app that lets borrowers view their balance, make payments and update personal information. Upgrade’s Credit Heath tool also makes it easy to track your credit score over the life of your loan.


  • Minimum credit score: 580
  • No minimum income requirement
  • Allows co-applicants

Loan uses:

  • Debt consolidation
  • Home projects
  • Large expenses
  • Business expenses

Best for Credit Scores As Low As 600


Why We Picked It

Prosper is a peer-to-peer lending platform that was founded in 2005. It offers flexible personal loan amounts ($2,000 to $50,000) and somewhat accessible borrower qualifications. The platform also offers a prequalification process so you can see what rates you’ll qualify for without damaging your credit. What’s more, borrowers can receive their money in as few as three days after accepting a loan offer, so you’re more likely to get loan proceeds when you need them.

Loans terms are available for 24 to 60 months and APRs range from 8.99% to 35.99%, with the lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. These aren’t the lowest rates you’ll encounter in the personal loan space, but Prosper may still be a good choice if you’re in a pinch.

Prosper loans also include origination fees ranging from 1% to 7.99% of the total loan amount, and borrowers are charged a late fee of the greater of $15 or 5% of the unpaid loan amount; there is also an insufficient funds fee of $15 per instance. Even so, there are no prepayment penalties, so you can pay off your loan as soon as you’re able without incurring extra costs.

Pros & Cons

  • Flexible loan amounts
  • Accessible minimum credit score
  • Funding in as few as three days
  • Charges origination fees and late fees
  • Only available for 1% to 7.99% terms
  • High maximum APR


Eligibility: To qualify for a Prosper personal loan, applicants should have fair credit (a minimum credit score of 560)—although the average score of approved borrowers is 717. Applicants also should have a minimum credit history of two years (11 years, on average), as well as a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 50%, excluding mortgages. Prosper doesn’t impose a minimum income requirement, but the average borrower has an income of $89,000. What’s more, co-applicants and co-signers are permitted, so you may be able to qualify even with a weak credit history.

Loan uses: Prosper personal loans can be used for a range of purposes, including debt consolidation. However, in the case of an emergency, the most beneficial uses of a Prosper loan is perhaps for unexpected home repair costs, medical and dental expenses and auto-related expenses. As with many other lenders, Prosper personal loans cannot be used for postsecondary education expenses.

Best for Peer-to-peer Lending


Why We Picked It

LendingClub is a peer-to-peer—or marketplace—lender founded in 2007. As the largest online lending platform for personal loans, LendingClub has worked with over 3 million customers and funded more than $55 billion in loans. It’s also one of the most geographically widespread options, with lending capabilities in every state except Iowa and the U.S. territories.

While LendingClub imposes high APRs and no autopay discount, applicants can choose to borrow between $1,000 to $40,000. This is a higher maximum loan cap than some other lenders. That said, LendingClub’s loan terms are limited to two to five years, which is less flexible than other lenders on our list. Borrowers also are charged an origination fee between 3% to 8% of the total loan amount, which is taken from the loan proceeds at funding.

LendingClub also makes debt consolidation easier by offering a balance transfer loan. With this type of loan, LendingClub offers direct payment to third-party lenders, including over 1,700 creditors. Not only does the platform take care of payments for you, you can choose exactly how much of your new loan amount you want LendingClub to pay toward each creditor.

Pros & Cons

  • Will directly pay off third-party creditors as part of balance transfer loan
  • Co-applicants permitted
  • Available to borrowers with fair to excellent credit
  • Origination and late fees
  • Limited loan term availability
  • High APR range


Eligibility:  Applicants must have a minimum credit score of 600 and a minimum credit history of three years to qualify for a LendingClub loan. Furthermore, applicants should have a debt-to-income ratio of less than 40% for single applicants and 35% for joint applicants. These factors, including proof of income, help LendingClub’s platform of investors decide who they want to lend to. Co-applicants are permitted but co-signers are not an option for LendingClub borrowers.

Loan uses:  Loans issued through LendingClub can be used for more major expenses, including debt and credit card consolidation, home repairs, medical bills and special events. LendingClub also makes it easy to consolidate debt by offering direct payment to third party creditors. Borrowers are restricted from using funds for postsecondary education, the purchase of investments, gambling and illegal activities.

Turnaround time:  LendingClub borrowers typically receive their loan funds as soon as four days after loan approval. However, this timeline may vary if an application is complete or if the lender requires additional documentation or verification.


We reviewed 15 popular lenders based on 13 data points in the categories of loan details, loan costs, eligibility and accessibility, customer experience and the application process. We chose the 10 best lenders based on the weighting assigned to each category:

  • Application process: 30%
  • Eligibility and accessibility: 25%
  • Loan details: 20%
  • Loan cost: 15%
  • Customer experience: 10%

Within each category, we also considered several characteristics, including available loan amounts, repayment terms, APR ranges and applicable fees. We also looked at minimum credit score requirements, whether each lender accepts co-signers or joint applications and the geographic availability of the lender. Finally, we evaluated each provider’s customer support tools, borrower perks and features that simplify the borrowing process—like prequalification options and mobile apps.

Where appropriate, we awarded partial points depending on how well a lender met each criterion.

To learn more about how Forbes Advisor rates lenders, and our editorial process, check out our Loans Rating & Review Methodology.

Tips for Comparing Emergency Loans

Personal loans often are available through traditional banks, credit unions and online lending platforms so you can apply quickly and conveniently, without having to visit a bank branch. Many of these lenders also offer competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms, meaning you won’t have to sacrifice cost for speed.

Consider these tips when comparing personal loans:

  • Where possible, prequalify. Many personal loan providers offer prospective borrowers the ability to prequalify for a loan. This means the applicant can submit details about their financing needs, income, housing situation and other relevant information to find out what kind of loan amounts, rates and repayment terms they are likely to qualify for. Even better, this process typically only requires a soft credit inquiry so you can shop around without hurting your credit score. If you need to access loan funds quickly, the prequalification process can save you time by ruling out lenders with more stringent requirements.
  • Consider the purpose of your loan. While personal loans can be used for a broad range of purposes, they are limited to things like consumer debt consolidation, home improvements, vacations, weddings, funerals, large purchases and other personal expenses. For that reason, lenders often restrict the use of personal loans for postsecondary education expenses, business purposes and illegal activities, at a minimum. When considering a lender, confirm that your intended use is permissible under its borrower agreement—especially if you’re on a tight timeline and need money fast.
  • Keep an eye out for additional fees. Some lenders offer fee-free personal loans that don’t require borrowers to pay origination fees, late payment fees, prepayment penalties or other common loan costs. However, this is more the exception than the rule, so it’s important to ask about fees when shopping for the best loan terms. Keep in mind that you may end up paying more in fees to qualify for a lender with fast funding. If a lender charges an origination fee, find out whether it’s built into the APR or taken out of the loan amount prior to funding, as this may impact the loan amount you need to request.
  • Evaluate the lender’s customer support options. If you’ve found a lender that’s prepared to quickly offer the money you need at acceptable terms, there’s one more thing to consider before signing the loan agreement. While customer support may not seem like a big deal in the honeymoon phase of your loan, it can make a huge difference if you encounter issues with payments or face a financial hardship during your repayment period. Review the lender’s customer service resources and read reviews from past and current borrowers to make sure it’s a good fit.

Related: Compare Personal Loan Rates

Pro Tip

Before applying for a loan, check borrower eligibility requirements. Sometimes lenders will list minimum income, credit and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio requirements on the website that you can review to determine whether you’re a good candidate for a loan. Reviewing requirements can help you pinpoint loans you have the best chance at qualifying for.

Complete Guide to Emergency Loans

What Are Emergency Loans and How Do They Work?

The most common emergency loan is an unsecured personal loan that you can borrow to cover the costs of unexpected expenses. They are usually quick, with deposits coming within a day or two of when you get approved for a loan. Some lenders can even fund loans on the day you apply.

Because emergency loans are generally unsecured, you likely won’t need to put up any collateral to get one. However, some lenders offer secured personal loans that require borrowers to put up assets—like home equity and savings account funds—to borrow money. You also can obtain emergency loans through payday loans and credit card advances, but we recommend avoiding these options where possible.

Personal loan standards vary by lender, so you’ll need to evaluate each option on a case-by-case basis. When comparing lenders, consider how much you can borrow, fees and minimum credit score and income requirements.

Types of Emergency Loans

Emergency loans can come in a few different forms, including:

  • Personal loans. You can get an unsecured personal loan, which uses your credit score and history to determine eligibility, interest rate and the amount you can borrow. Some lenders also offer secured personal loans that are collateralized by personal assets like cars, investments and real estate.
  • Payday loans. Payday loans are low-amount, high-interest loans. They don’t typically require a credit check but have a fast turnaround, usually requiring repayment by your next payday. These loans are usually $500 or less and come with fees equivalent to APRs as high as 400%. If possible, we recommend avoiding this option.
  • Title loans. A title loan is when you hand over the title to your vehicle, like your car, in exchange for cash. If you don’t repay the loan, your lender can keep your vehicle.
  • Credit card advances. If you have a credit card, you can borrow cash through your available credit balance. Interest rates for credit card cash advances tend to be higher than APRs for regular purchases, and you can expect fees on top of that (for instance, transaction and processing fees). Interest starts accruing when you take money out—there’s no grace period—and will increase how much you need to pay back

Pros and Cons of Emergency Loans

Before taking out an emergency loan, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons so you know you’re making the right decision for your money.

Pros of Emergency Loans

  • Fills income and savings gaps. When you’re short on cash, funds from an emergency loan can pay unexpected expenses so you can stay current on bills.
  • Provides quick funding. Many lenders let you apply for emergency loans quickly online. Once approved, you may get money deposited into your bank account within one to three business days.
  • Offers low rates. Depending on your credit, emergency personal loans can be a cheaper way to borrow money than using credit cards.
  • Requires no collateral. Often, personal loans don’t require collateral, so you don’t need assets like property or cash in savings on hand to back the loan.

Cons of Emergency Loans

  • Could worsen your financial situation. Borrowing to pay bills is a quick fix that won’t solve the underlying cause of an ongoing budget deficit. Beyond that, adding a loan payment to a tight budget could make a bad financial situation worse.
  • May cause a credit hit. Lenders typically do a hard credit check when you apply for a personal loan, which may reduce your credit score temporarily. Missing loan payments can also damage your credit.
  • Often involves upfront fees. Lenders may charge an origination fee of 1% to 10% to process an emergency personal loan, which reduces the amount you receive from the lender. 
  • May have high payments. Depending on how much you borrow and the interest rate, payments for personal loans can be higher than minimum payments for credit cards.

What Can I Use an Emergency Loan For?

As a type of personal loan, you can use an emergency loan for almost anything, like:

  • Medical bills. If you’ve been to the emergency room or had an unexpected medical expense, an emergency loan can cover those costs.
  • Rent and mortgage payments. If your home payment is due soon and you don’t have the cash to pay on-time, an emergency loan can tide you over until you get paid again.
  • Utilities. Keep the lights on and make sure your phone doesn’t get shut off by using an emergency loan to pay utility bills on time. Staying current on your bills ensures you don’t fall behind on expenses and reduces the likelihood of a drop in credit score.
  • Funeral expenses. If a loved one passed away and didn’t provide for funeral costs or other end-of-life expenses, you may need to take out an emergency loan.
  • Home or car repairs. While you might find a better interest rate and terms with a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or home equity loan, some home repairs need immediate attention (and payment). Likewise, auto repairs have a tendency to pop up at the most inopportune times. If you need to fix your car or finance home repairs—and can’t afford to wait—an emergency loan can cover these costs, too.

Some personal loan lenders have restrictions on how you can use emergency loans. For instance, you might not get to use them to pay for postsecondary education costs. Review the terms and limitations of your potential lender before completing an application.

How To Choose an Emergency Loan

When you’re exploring many different emergency loan lenders, it’s important to avoid picking the first one you find. Shop for the best lender by considering:

  • Funding time. How soon can you get your money into your account? Within one to two days is ideal. Some lenders may take upwards of a week to deposit funds while others can do it as soon as the same day.
  • Interest rates. While having excellent credit can get you the lowest interest rate available, you should also consider what lenders charge for less-than-stellar credit. Then compare lenders to see how much you’d pay with each based on your own credit score.
  • Repayment terms. Do you want to make larger monthly payments and pay off your loan sooner? Or do you need smaller payments over a longer term? Emergency loan terms vary by lender but some require a minimum dollar amount to be repaid each month. So, if you’re borrowing about $500, you may only get a few months to pay it back.
  • Fees. Read the fine print to see what fees each lender charges. Common emergency loan costs include origination fees and late payment penalties.
  • Credit score requirements. Most lenders have a credit score threshold you must meet to apply for a loan. Your credit score will ultimately impact your interest rate and how much you can borrow.

Each lender has different standards and requirements so review as many as you can before applying for an emergency loan.

How To Get an Emergency Loan

While the process varies by lender, follow these general steps to apply for an emergency personal loan:

  • Check your credit score. Check your credit score for free through your credit card issuer or another website that offers free scores. This will help you understand your creditworthiness and qualification chances. Aim for a score of at least 610; however, a score of at least 720 will yield the most favorable terms.
  • If necessary, take steps to improve your credit score. If your score falls below 610 or you want to boost your score to receive the best terms possible, take time to improve your score before applying, such as lowering your credit usage or paying off unpaid debts.
  • Determine how much debt you need to consolidate. Once you check your credit score, calculate how much money you need to borrow to consolidate all of your debts. Remember, though, you’ll receive your money as a lump sum, and you’ll have to pay interest on the entire amount—so only borrow what you need.
  • Shop around for the best terms and interest rates. Many lenders will let you prequalify prior to submitting your application, which lets you see the terms you would receive with a soft credit inquiry that won’t hurt your credit score.
  • Submit a formal application and await a lending decision. After you find a lender that offers you the best terms for your situation, submit your application online or in person. Depending on the lender, this process can take a few hours to a few days.

How to Get an Emergency Loan With Bad Credit

If you have bad or poor credit as defined by FICO (a score of 350 to 579), you won’t be able to qualify for a personal loan unless you take one of the following action steps:

  • Add a co-signer. Applying for an emergency loan with a co-signer can improve your approval odds. A co-signer is someone who helps a prospective borrower qualify for a loan by pledging to repay the loan if the borrower does not; the lender typically relies more heavily on the co-signer’s credit score during the application process.
  • Utilize available collateral. Some personal loan lenders offer secured options, which means you can pledge collateral—something of value like real estate, vehicles, cash and investments—to help reduce the risk you pose on the lender as a bad-credit borrower. However, if you fail to meet your repayment obligations, the lender can repossess the collateral.
  • Apply through a credit union. Some credit unions offer more flexible qualification requirements to their members than traditional banks or lenders. Check with a local credit union in your community and ask about options for bad-credit borrowers.

Related: Best Emergency Loans For Bad Credit

Where Can I Get an Emergency Loan?

While you can get an emergency loan from your credit card issuer or a payday loan lender, we recommend getting a traditional unsecured personal loan from a bank, credit union or online lender.

1. Banks

If you have a traditional bank account at a brick-and-mortar institution, you may have luck getting a personal loan from there as well.

Banks have different processing methods compared to other lenders. For instance, many banks have higher credit score or income requirements before you qualify for a personal loan. And you may not get the money as fast as you need it, so check how long it takes for funds to get deposited into your account before applying.

2. Credit Unions

If you have a credit union account instead of a bank account, you can get an emergency loan from a credit union. Credit unions are community-based and are more friendly toward borrowers with fair and poor credit.

Credit union emergency loans vary in amount, but many offer payday alternative loans between $200 and $1,000. Keep in mind, though, that some credit unions only lend to their members—or to people who have been members for a certain amount of time. If you don’t meet those requirements or need to borrow more, you may want to explore other options.

3. Online Lenders

Online lenders offer a wide variety of emergency loans and most don’t require you to be a member or current account holder. What’s more, many offer prequalification options so you can see if you’re qualified to borrow an emergency loan before actually applying for one. This can help you avoid a hard credit check that can negatively impact your credit.

While you might not feel comfortable taking out a personal loan from an online lender, keep in mind that many traditional banks also offer online applications and processing. Just be sure that it’s a reputable online lender with a secure website and a strong offering.

5 Alternatives To Emergency Personal Loans

Emergency loans aren’t your only option when it comes to borrowing money fast. Depending on the intended purpose of your emergency loan, consider these alternatives before applying for an emergency loan:

  1. Zero interest credit card. If you need to cover a small unexpected expense and have good to excellent credit, a 0% APR credit card could be a great emergency loan alternative. These cards typically offer interest-free financing for up to 21 months on purchases and/or balance transfers. Interest begins to accrue once the introductory period ends, so be sure to repay your balance before then.
  2. Home equity loan or HELOC. Tap into your home equity through a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). These are secured, using your home as collateral. Interest rates for HELOCs and other secured loans tend to be much lower than unsecured loans and repayment terms are long enough that you may be able to afford low monthly payments.
  3. Family loans. If you’re hurting for cash and don’t qualify for a traditional emergency loan, consider a family loan. However, borrowing money from family members can come with its own risks. Be sure to set clear expectations and repay them on time.
  4. Medical repayment plans. If you need to cover medical expenses, talk to the hospital about setting up a repayment plan. Some have interest-free repayment plans, setting up monthly payments that work for you. If you’re struggling, consider a settlement option. If you can pay a portion up front, some hospitals will settle your bill for the lower amount because they are getting paid right away.
  5. Nonprofit organizations. There are also nonprofits that can provide financial assistance based on your needs, like if you fall behind on your home payment and want to avoid getting a lien on your home or evicted if you rent.

Borrowing money is never easy, but try to exhaust your other options like friends, family or negotiating with lenders before turning to emergency loans. If you’re running out of options, emergency loans are a less expensive choice compared to payday loans, title loans and credit card advances. Weigh all your options and decide what’s best for your situation.

Building an Emergency Fund

If you’re in the market for an emergency loan, you most likely don’t have enough time to build an emergency fund. However, it’s never too late to start building one for future emergencies. As a benchmark, aim to have at least three to six months of living expenses saved. However, the Covid-19 pandemic proved that this may not be enough if you experience an extended drop in income.

If you don’t know where to start, these are some common ways to find extra money to build an emergency fund.

  • Automating your savings when you get paid can help remove the temptation to spend extra money in your budget.
  • Saving instead of spending tax refunds, economic impact payments and rebates can help boost your emergency fund.
  • If you have a cash back credit card, you can utilize your cash rewards as a way to access extra money to bolster your emergency savings.
  • If you receive a tax refund, it may be because your employer is withholding too much money from your paycheck. While adjusting your tax withholding can increase your monthly income, it will result in a smaller refund come tax time.

Ideally, it’s best to keep your emergency fund in an account that is liquid and provides some interest, such as high-yield savings accounts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the easiest place to get a personal loan?

Personal loans can typically be obtained from traditional lenders like banks and credit unions as well as online lenders. That said, online lenders frequently offer the faster, more streamlined application and lending processes. This means that if there’s an emergency and you need to access personal loan funds quickly, an online lender is likely your best bet.

Can you get emergency loans for veterans?

Veterans can apply for personal loans to access emergency cash. Funds can be used to cover car repairs, home improvements or to bridge the gap between pay periods. Veterans can apply through traditional banks and online lenders, or they can consider lenders that cater to veterans and military members.

How to get an emergency loan with no job?

Unless you have secondary income that your preferred lender can use to qualify you, getting an emergency loan with no job may be unlikely. Your income is one of the most important factors when it comes to your eligibility because it demonstrates your ability to afford your loan. If you aren’t eligible for an emergency loan, consider alternatives like a family loan.

Related: Can You Get A Personal Loan Without A Job?

How much money should you have in an emergency fund?

An emergency loan could possibly be avoided if you build and maintain a strong emergency fund. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to build your emergency fund up to six months’ worth of living expenses—or more, depending on your needs and goals.

However, it’s okay to begin by saving a minimal emergency fund first, like starting with $1,000. This is enough money to cover any minor emergencies that may come your way.

What is the difference between an emergency fund and a loan?

An emergency loan is money you borrow from a lender that’s repaid with interest. On the other hand, an emergency fund is cash you have set aside in savings to cover emergency bills or surprise expenses.

The purpose of an emergency fund is to help you avoid borrowing money for expenses you don’t expect, like a car battery failure or last-minute root canal. The general rule of thumb is to have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved to cover financial emergencies. However, $1,000 can be a good first goal to work towards when building emergency savings from scratch.

Will emergency loans impact my credit score?

Applying for an emergency loan typically has a temporary negative impact on your credit score. The lender will usually run a hard credit check, which results in a hard inquiry on your credit report, to understand your creditworthiness. Hard credit inquiries can ding your credit score by up to five points for one year but will stay on your report for two years.

How fast can I get an emergency loan?

Emergency loans are typically quick and provide deposits within a day or two of approval. Some lenders may even fund loans on the day you apply.

Next Up In Personal Loans

Information provided on Forbes Advisor is for educational purposes only. Your financial situation is unique and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer financial advice, advisory or brokerage services, nor do we recommend or advise individuals or to buy or sell particular stocks or securities. Performance information may have changed since the time of publication. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

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