How to get an emergency loan

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Ideally, you’d be able to plan for every expense that comes your way. The reality, however, is that unexpected expenses are bound to pop up. If you don’t have the cash on hand to cover them, an emergency loan can be a great option. Let’s dive into what an emergency loan is and what factors you should consider before getting one.

What is an emergency loan?

An emergency loan is an unsecured, small-dollar loan you can take out on short notice to cover a sudden expense like a car repair or medical bill. There are various types of emergency loans, including personal loans, credit card cash advances, and payday loans.

5 factors to consider before applying for an emergency loan

Not all emergency loans are created equal, so it’s a good idea to do your research and compare all the options at your disposal.

1. Credit score

Most lenders will look at your credit score before they decide whether to approve you for an emergency loan. The higher your credit score is, the easier it will be for you to get an emergency loan and secure the interest rate and terms you want. Some lenders are open to borrowers with fair and poor credit, so don’t worry if your credit score isn’t in the best shape.

2. Repayment time

Repayment time is the amount of time you have to repay an emergency loan. It can range from a few months to several years. While a longer repayment time means lower monthly payments, it also means you’ll pay more interest in the long run. To reduce the cost of the loan, opt for a shorter repayment time. Just make sure you can comfortably afford the monthly payments.

3. Interest rate

Since the interest rate will determine the overall cost of your loan, it’s important to lock in the lowest rate you qualify for. If you don’t have the best credit, you may have to settle for a higher interest rate than you’d like. The good news is that you can improve your credit score by making your payments on time, which could open the doors to better rates in the future.

4. Funding time

Once you get approved for an emergency loan, you’ll likely want the funds as soon as possible. Online lenders tend to pay out quickly, often the same day you apply, within 24 hours or in a few days. Traditional lenders such as banks and credit unions, however, may take longer to approve your loan and distribute the funds.

5. Loan features

There are a number of other loan features to consider, such as discounts for enrolling in automatic payments or free monthly credit score statements. Other features that may benefit you and lower the overall cost of your loan include no late fees and no prepayment penalties for paying your loan off early. Also, if you’d like to build or improve your credit, opt for a loan that will be reported to the major credit bureaus.

How do I apply for an emergency loan?

To apply for an emergency loan, follow these steps:

  • Compare emergency loans: Check out the interest rates, repayment time, funding time, features and credit score requirements for several emergency loans. This way, you can choose the best option for your needs.
  • Read customer reviews: Read customer reviews and check lenders’ ratings with the Better Business Bureau. Make sure the one you choose is a reputable lender with a positive track record.
  • Get prequalified: Most lenders will allow you to prequalify within minutes. By prequalifying, you can avoid a hard credit pull on a loan application where your chances of approval are low or interest rates are too high. This is important because a hard credit pull can temporarily lower your credit score.
  • Fill out the application: If possible, fill out an online application; they usually come with fast approval decisions. You’ll need to provide basic information about yourself, as well as details about your income and employment. The lender may also require you to share documents like a government-issued ID and paystubs.
  • Wait for a decision and funding: Depending on the emergency loan and lender you chose, you shouldn’t have to wait long for an approval decision and funding. While most lenders will distribute your money via direct deposit, some will do so through a check or prepaid card.

Should I apply for an emergency loan?

An emergency loan can be a good option if you have an emergency expense. It’s a type of financing that you should only use every once in a while. Don’t rely on an emergency loan to cover everyday expenses on a regular basis. If you often struggle to pay for your rent or mortgage, utilities and groceries, you may have an income or budgeting issue that you need to address.

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Written by
Anna Baluch
Contributing writer
Anna Baluch is a personal finance freelance writer from Cleveland who enjoys writing about debt, mortgages, student loans, personal loans and auto financing.
Edited by
Associate loans editor