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Best emergency loan rates for February 2024

Feb 21, 2024

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PERSONAL LOANS

Upstart: BEST EMERGENCY LOANS FOR RANGE OF LOAN AMOUNTS

4.7

Est. APR
7.80- 35.99%
Loan term
3-5 yrs
Loan amount
$1k- $50K
Min credit score
Not disclosed
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PERSONAL LOANS

OneMain Financial: BEST EMERGENCY LOANS FOR SMALL LOAN AMOUNTS

4.1

Est. APR
18.00- 35.99%
Loan term
2-5 yrs
Loan amount
$1.5k- $20K
Min credit score
500
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PERSONAL LOANS

Avant: BEST EMERGENCY LOANS FOR FAIR CREDIT

4.5

Est. APR
9.95- 35.99%
Loan term
1-5 yrs
Loan amount
$2k- $35K
Min credit score
550

PERSONAL LOANS

Upgrade: BEST EMERGENCY LOANS FOR FAST FUNDING

4.7

Est. APR
8.49- 35.99%
with AutoPay
Loan term
2-7 yrs
Loan amount
$1k- $50K
Min credit score
600
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PERSONAL LOANS

Best Egg: BEST EMERGENCY LOANS FOR GOOD CREDIT

4.7

Est. APR
8.99- 35.99%
Loan term
3-5 yrs
Loan amount
$2k- $50K
Min credit score
600
See offersArrow Right

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PERSONAL LOANS

Prosper: BEST FOR NO PREPAYMENT PENALTIES

4.7

Est. APR
8.99- 35.99%
Loan term
2-5 yrs
Loan amount
$2k- $50K
Min credit score
600
See offersArrow Right

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PERSONAL LOANS

Discover: BEST FOR GOOD CREDIT AND FAST FUNDING

4.8

Est. APR
7.99- 24.99%
Loan term
3-7 yrs
Loan amount
$2.5k- $35K
Min credit score
Not disclosed

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How to compare emergency loans

While it may be tempting to go with the first lender you qualify with, try to prequalify with at least three before deciding on one. When looking for an emergency loan, there are a number of factors to consider. These are a few of the most important to keep in mind.

  • Approval requirements: Each lender has its own requirements for loan approval. They consider your credit score, debt-to-income ratio and overall financial health. Some lenders consider things like area of study and job history. If you have fair credit or lower, it’s a good idea to look for lenders with lower minimum credit requirements or that allow joint applications.
  •  Calculate monthly payments: Determine your monthly payments by reviewing your budget. You can then use a personal loan calculator to see what loan amount, interest rate and repayment terms you can afford to choose the right lender. 
  • Interest rates: The lowest advertised interest rate is never guaranteed, and emergency loans may carry higher interest rates than regular personal loans. Make sure to incorporate any added fees the company charges when calculating your interest rate.
  • Loan amounts: Make sure the lenders you consider offer the amount of money you need to borrow. Some lenders offer loan ranges better suited for small purchases, while others offer loans up to $100,000.
  • Repayment options: Personal loan lenders typically offer several different repayment term options. If you are borrowing a larger sum of money, it might make sense to choose a longer repayment period to decrease your monthly payment. If you take out a smaller loan, a shorter repayment period makes sense to cut down on the overall interest.
  • Unique features: Keep an eye out for perks offered by lenders, such as interest rate discounts, unemployment protection and online financial tools.

Compare emergency loan rates from Bankrate’s top picks 

LENDER BEST FOR CURRENT APR RANGE LOAN AMOUNT MINIMUM CREDIT SCORE
Upstart Range of loan amounts 7.80%-35.99% $1,000-$50,000 No requirement
OneMain Financial Small loan amounts 18.00%-35.99% $1,500-$20,000 Not specified
Avant Fair credit 9.95%-35.99% $2,000-$35,000 550
Upgrade Fast funding 8.49%-35.99% $1,000-$50,000 600
Best Egg Good credit 8.99%-35.99% $2,000-$50,000 600
Prosper No prepayment penalties 8.99%-35.99% $2,000-$50,000 560
Discover Good credit and fast funding 7.99%-24.99% $2,500-$40,000 660

A closer look at our top emergency loan lenders

Here's a deep-dive into each lender, why is the best in each category and specifically who would benefit most from borrowing from the lender.

Upstart: Best emergency loans for range of loan amounts

Upstart
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7

Overview: Founded in 2012 by ex-Googlers, Upstart is headquartered in San Mateo, California and has originated more than $34 billion in personal loans. If you’re looking to consolidate debt, make a large purchase or cover some personal expenses, an Upstart personal loan may be able to help you do it.

Est. APR
7.80%–35.99%
Loan amount
$1k– $50k
Min credit score
Not specified

OneMain Financial: Best emergency loans for small loan amounts

 

OneMain
Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1

Overview: OneMain Financial provides personal loans to borrowers with fair to poor credit. While the average loan size tends to be small, borrowers who might not qualify at other online lenders or banks may find it easier to be approved for a loan through OneMain.

Est. APR
18.00%–35.99%
Loan amount
$1.5k– $20k
Min credit score
500

Avant: Best emergency loans for fair credit

Avant
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
4.5

Overview: Avant offers unsecured personal loans for borrowers with less-than-perfect credit scores. If you qualify, you’ll receive quick funding, often by the next business day.

Est. APR
9.95%–35.99%
Loan amount
$2k– $35k
Min credit score
550

Upgrade: Best emergency loans for fast funding

Upgrade
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7

Overview: Personal loans from Upgrade come with the benefit of competitive, fixed rates, a simple application, quick funding process and flexible borrowing amounts. These loans can be used to refinance credit cards, consolidate debt, take on home improvement projects or finance major purchases.

Est. APR
8.49%–35.99%
Loan amount
$1k– $50k
Min credit score
600

Best Egg: Best emergency loans for good credit

Best Egg
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7

Overview: Founded in 2014 and headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, Best Egg has made a name for itself as a reputable and affordable personal loan solution. Best Egg has funded over 1.1 million loans.

Est. APR
8.99%–35.99%
Loan amount
$2k– $50k
Min credit score
600

Prosper: Best for no payment penalties

Prosper
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7

Overview: Prosper is a personal loan pioneer — the company became the first firm to enter the peer-to-peer lending arena when it launched in 2005. Prosper offers unsecured personal loans through WebBank to customers with a variety of credit profiles. It also offers home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

Est. APR
8.99%–35.99%
Loan amount
$2k– $50k
Min credit score
600

Discover: Best for good credit and fast funding

Discover
Rating: 4.8 stars out of 5
4.8

Overview: Discover is a financial institution with a wide reach that provides a variety of services. The Discover global network extends across more than 200 countries with over 400,000 ATM locations. Known for its credit cards, Discover also offers personal loans among other financial services.

Est. APR
7.99%–24.99%
Loan amount
$2.5k– $35k
Min credit score
Not specified

How we made our picks for the best emergency loan lenders

To select the best personal loans, Bankrate’s team of experts evaluated over 30 lenders. Each lender was ranked using a meticulous 20-point system, focusing on four main categories:

  • Checkmark
    Affordability
    The interest rates, penalties and fees are measured in this section of the score. Lower rates and fees and fewer potential penalties result in a higher score. We also give bonus points to lenders offering rate discounts, grace periods and that allow borrowers to change their due date. 
  • Checkmark
    Availability
    Minimum loan amounts, number of repayment terms, eligibility requirements, ability to apply using a co-borrower or co-signer and loan turnaround time are considered in this category.
  • Checkmark
    Customer experience
    This category covers customer service hours, if online applications are available, online account access and mobile apps.
  • Checkmark
    Transparency
    For this factor, we consider how well information is presented to the borrower on the lender’s website. This includes listing credit requirements, rates and fees, in addition to offering prequalification.
Clock Wait
47
years in business
Credit Card Search
30+
lenders reviewed
Loan
20
loan features weighed
Rates
665
data points collected

What to know about emergency loans

Emergency personal loans can be a great alternative for those who are tight on cash and need to cover an urgent expense. This is especially true if your only other options are credit cards or payday loans, as both of these products tend to have higher interest rates than personal loans. 

However, emergency loans should only be used for needs, not wants, and only if you can afford to repay them — you could put yourself in a risky financial position if you default on your loan.

What is an emergency loan?

An emergency loan is a type of personal loan. It functions identically to any other personal loan except that it's branded for emergencies. Typically the personal loans branded as emergency loans have fast turnarounds — sometimes as soon as one business day.

Don't simply rely on loans branded as emergency loans. If you need to take out a personal loan for an emergency, your best bet is to find a lender that advertises fast approval and fast funding for a loan amount that suits your needs. 

Because emergency loans don't typically have rules about what you need to use them for, you could get a loan for situations like the following:

  • Broken home appliances.
  • Hospital bills.
  • Household expenses.
  • Medical bills.
  • Vehicle repairs.

While you can use an emergency loan for nearly anything, make sure that you only borrow as much as you need and what you can repay.

How do emergency loans work?

Once you've gotten quotes from a few lenders, you'll send in your application to the one with the best interest rate and terms. You'll likely need to provide identity and income verification during this stage of the application process. Once you're approved, funds can be sent directly to your bank account.

Pros and cons of emergency loans

Green circle with a checkmark inside

Pros

  • You can use the funds on just about any emergency expense.
  • You may get the money very quickly, sometimes the same day you apply.
  • You can split a big-ticket expense in manageable, monthly payments.
  • Interest rates are fixed, so your payment won’t go up.
Red circle with an X inside

Cons

  • You might have to pay a high interest rate, which can increase the overall cost of what you're fixing.
  • You may have to settle for a smaller loan amount than you want.
  • Your credit score will be negatively affected if you miss payments.

Types of emergency loans

There are many ways to get funds in an emergency. Some of the most common types of emergency loans include the following.

Caret Down

Personal loans are a good option for emergencies because they can be disbursed quickly, sometimes within the same day of approval. They can also be less expensive to use than credit cards — while many credit cards have interest rates upwards of 20 percent, the average personal loan interest rate hovers above 11.5 percent, and people with excellent credit and a strong income can score rates as low as 6 percent.

  • Best for: This option works best for borrowers who can meet the lender’s approval requirements. In addition, it might be best for those who are in a financial position to score the lowest interest rate.

Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) are less common for emergency uses since they're typically slower to disburse funds. However, they will usually offer the lowest rates since they're secured by your home.

  • Best for: Home equity loans and HELOCs are best for borrowers who have enough equity in their homes to meet the lender’s qualifications — typically at least 15 percent to 20 percent. If you can afford to repay the loan and avoid having your home foreclosed on, this might be a good emergency option.

Your credit card company may extend you a short-term loan in the form of a cash advance. This type of loan is one of the fastest ways to access money, but the interest rates and fees can be higher than they are for standard purchases with your card.

  • Best for: A cash advance can be a good option for borrowers who can’t wait until the next day to receive funds from a personal loan. It could also be useful if you can repay the debt within a few months, but be mindful of potentially high interest rates.

Payday loans are short-term loans that don't require a credit check and will typically need to be repaid with your next paycheck. Payday loans are extremely risky and not recommended if you can avoid them. They charge triple-digit interest rates and high fees, and failing to make payments could send you deeper into debt.

  • Best for: This type of loan is best used as a last resort for borrowers who can’t qualify for a loan with a lender who has a lower maximum interest rate.

Just like payday loans, title loans are a type of short-term loan that is typically repaid within 15 to 30 days after getting the funds. These loans typically carry high interest rates and fees, and use your car as collateral. That means that the lender could seize your vehicle if you default on your loan.

  • Best for: Borrowers who can’t qualify for an emergency loan with a traditional lender and that need the funds urgently.

Where to get an emergency loan

You can get an emergency loan from any lender that provides personal loans. This includes banks, credit unions and online lenders. However, some of these are better options than others.

  • Banks and credit unions can offer several advantages in rates and loan terms, but their loan processes tend to take longer than other options. If you need money right away, you may not have the time to wait. 
  • If you need money quickly, an online lender may be your best option. Some lenders offer immediate, same-day or next-day approval. Even if the funding isn't available on the same day, several offer funding within a day or two.

Alternatives to emergency loans

If your credit score is holding you back from qualifying for an emergency loan, there are still some alternatives.

  • Local nonprofits and charities: Some states and local municipalities have grants or interest-free loans you can take advantage of when you’re in a pinch. Try calling 211 and explaining your financial hardship to get matched up with resources in your area. You might also qualify for state or federal relief.
  • Payment plans: Instead of paying a sum of money in full, ask if you can set up a payment plan. Whether it’s for an old medical bill or a credit card, lenders will usually work with you on alternative repayment. Try to do this as soon as you can — the longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to get assistance.
  • Help from family and friends: If you don’t qualify for an emergency loan or you don’t feel comfortable taking out a loan, ask friends and family for help. Some may let you pay them back whenever you can, and may be more understanding than a lender. No matter your situation, get your agreement in writing so you know what’s expected from both parties.
  • Paycheck advances: If you’ve been at your job for a while, consider borrowing money from your future self and asking your employer for a paycheck advance.
  • Early withdrawal from a bank CD: Taking money from a CD before it matures will cost you a penalty equal to the interest earned over a certain number of months.
  • Loan or hardship distribution from your 401(k) plan: If you have a 401(k) through your job, you may want to ask about a 401(k) loan or about taking money out of your 401(k) for hardship assistance.
  • Local credit unions: Our featured best emergency loans consist mostly of online lenders. If you belong to a local credit union, reach out to see if you qualify for a personal loan. Both options are friendlier toward current account holders, and you may have an easier time accessing a loan.

Importance of building an emergency fund

Unemployment, an urgent medical procedure, emergency repairs and sudden death or disability can easily put your finances under pressure. While you can't completely prepare for unexpected hardship, you can at least build yourself a buffer. 

An emergency fund can help you better recover from unplanned expenses in the future. Putting aside even a little bit of money at a time into a dedicated savings account can help you prepare for any future setbacks.

Dangers of emergency loans

When it comes to borrowing, a quick decision is often not the best decision. You may forego shopping around for the best rates if you need cash due to an emergency. Some inherent dangers of emergency loans include:

  • Spending more than you owe due to interest charges and fees. Financing an emergency expense usually comes with interest charges and origination fees. If you can’t pay the loan off quickly, you’ll pay much more than the original emergency bill. 
  • Turning a one-time expense into a long-term debt. Although an emergency loan may meet an urgent need, your monthly payment will be a reminder of the emergency event for the term you choose. Choose the shortest term your budget will allow. 
  • Not dealing with poor spending or savings habits. Fast money emergency loans can give you a false sense of security. The easier it is to borrow money, the less likely you are to do the financially hard stuff — like adjusting your spending so you can build up an emergency savings account to avoid emergency borrowing. 
  • Sending you into a debt spiral. If your only option in an emergency is to borrow money, it could become a pattern that can be hard to break out of. You could even lose your car or home if you tap equity with a title or home equity loan, so avoid secured emergency loans if possible. 

Emergency loan scams

If you need an emergency loan, be cautious of lenders that might be out to scam you or take advantage of your difficult time. Pay attention to:

  • No credit checks: A loan that does not require a credit check may be attractive for someone with poor credit, but these lenders often mitigate their risk by charging exorbitant APRs.
  • State registration: Not all lenders are registered in every state since states set their own loan requirements. Before you apply, make sure your potential lenders are registered in your state.
  • Upfront fees: A company that promises loan approval regardless of your credit and requires upfront fees might be running an advance-fee loan scam. This is when scammers collect money that’s supposedly for processing applications but never issue any loans.

Emergency loans to avoid

You should avoid any emergency loan that affects your ability to earn money or could result in losing an asset like a car or a home. Before you consider a payday loan, title loan or home equity loan or HELOC, consider the substantial financial risks. 

  • Payday loans. Payday loan rates and fees are exorbitant and tied to your regular paycheck. They are one of the most predatory loan products in existence, which is why some states have chosen to outlaw them or enforce strict limits on payday lending terms. 
  • Title loans. With a title loan, you risk creating a future emergency of losing your mode of transportation to repossession if you can’t repay a title loan. The higher rate on a bad credit personal loan may be worth it to prevent this risk. 
  • Home equity loans and HELOCs. Although the rates are lower and you choose much longer terms than other types of emergency loans, avoid converting your home’s equity into debt to pay for an urgent expense. You could lose your home to foreclosure if you can’t repay the loan. 

What is the relationship between emergency funds and loans?


Senior Loans Writer

Emergency loans exist because most consumers don’t keep enough cash in an emergency fund to pay for unexpected expenses. The balance in an emergency fund should grow with every asset you acquire. If you buy a new car, you should stash cash to pay for a tire blowout, a check-engine light repair or regular maintenance items like oil changes. If you own a home, consider adding funds for an unexpected plumbing or air conditioning crisis, to avoid turning to credit cards or loans. The beauty of an emergency fund is that it allows you to pay in full for those rainy day moments. Monthly payments on emergency loans are like constant reminders of a one-time crisis.

Nationally recognized student financial aid expert

An emergency fund provides money to cover the cost of unforeseen expenses, such as car repairs or unemployment. You should save half a year’s salary in an emergency fund in case you need it. A loan, on the other hand, is borrowed money that must be repaid. The difference is with an emergency fund, you save in advance, while with a loan, you pay afterwards. But, you may not always be able to get a loan in an emergency, and a loan costs more than an emergency fund.

Frequently asked questions