How to Get an Emergency Loan

Emergency loans are a type of personal loan that offers fast funding when you need a quick infusion of cash to cover an unexpected expense. Common reasons to consider an emergency loan include car breakdowns or home repairs that need to be fixed immediately.

Although borrowing money always comes with a cost of interest, emergency loans, which are a type of personal loan, could be a less expensive option compared to some alternatives. The key is to do your research to find a reputable lender with loan rates and terms that fit your needs.

How to Get an Emergency Loan

To get an emergency loan, you will choose a lender and typically go through an online application process.

  1. Check your credit score: The higher your credit score, the more lending options you will have available to you.
  2. Get some lender quotes: Many lenders offer pre-qualification with no hard credit check, so start there. Once you have your quotes, compare the costs and other factors important to you.
  3. Choose a lender and fill out the online application: This will usually consist of your personal contact information, income information, and permission to perform a credit check.
  4. Gather your documents: Expect to also upload photos of your identification, proof of address, and proof of income (such as W-2 forms or pay stubs).
  5. Wait for approval: You can sometimes get an approval decision within a few minutes, but depending on the lender, it may take a day or two.
  6. Receive your funding: Within a day or two of approval, sometimes within an hour, your loan amount should be deposited in your bank account. Your first payment will be due the next month.

When Is It a Good Idea to Get an Emergency Loan?

An emergency loan can serve as a financial lifeline when you have an unexpected or necessary expense. Some examples include:

  • Repairing a leaky roof (or some other home system or major appliance): Letting it go for too long will lead to more damage and higher costs, so the sooner you fix it, the better.
  • Car maintenance that keeps you safe: Driving in a vehicle that needs new brakes or tires is unsafe. You’ll want to make those repairs quickly, especially if you need your car to get to work or school.
  • Bills that piled up during a period of no income: Carrying high-interest debt might be weighing down your finances. If you can qualify for a lower-rate emergency loan, you could potentially save money and pay off your debt faster.
  • Emergency dental work: Even if you have dental insurance, dentist bills can be high. Working out a payment plan with the office might be the best route, but if that option isn’t available, an emergency loan could work well.
  • Travel for family obligations: There might be times when you need to be with your family even if your budget doesn’t allow for it. You may need to visit a sick loved one or attend a funeral, for example.

When Is It Not a Good Idea to Get an Emergency Loan?

Though personal loans can be used for almost any reason, there are some non-emergency situations for which borrowing money isn’t ideal.

  • Vacations: Vacations are not considered a necessity, so think carefully before you go into debt to pay for one. You’ll live with that loan for a number of years, paying monthly interest.
  • Celebrations: Many people take out loans for weddings, Sweet 16 parties, or other celebrations, but it’s often better to save the cash to pay for such events.
  • If you have less costly options: As with the dentist example above, some bills can be worked out with payment plans, so explore those options with your service providers before you borrow. Or, if you know that you will be able to pay off the balance in a couple of months, using a credit card might be better than taking a loan in some situations.

What You Need to Get an Emergency Loan

Qualifying for an emergency loan depends on your ability to repay the loan (your income) and your creditworthiness (your credit score). As such, lenders usually have a set of minimum criteria that all borrowers must meet. These can include:

  • Age: Most loans require you to be at least 18 years of age.
  • Citizenship: Some lenders work only with U.S. citizens, so be mindful of that requirement if that’s not your status.
  • Income/employment: Expect to show proof that you are currently working, as well as what your earnings are. The lender wants to make sure you have the means to make your payments.
  • Minimum credit score: Requirements will vary by lender, but in general, having a score that’s considered “good,” which is 670 or above, means you should have no problem qualifying. Some lenders will work with borrowers with scores as low as 580, though interest rates will be higher.

In addition, you should expect to upload some combination of the following documents during the application process:

  • Government-issued ID (i.e. birth certificate, driver’s license, passport)
  • Proof of address (utility bill, mortgage statement, lease agreement, property tax bill, etc.)
  • Contact information (phone, email address)
  • Bank statements
  • W-2 form, 1099s, and/or pay stubs
  • Tax returns

If you have stronger credit, you will usually qualify for more favorable rates and terms. For example, an emergency loan interest rate could range from around 6% to 36%, making the lower part of the range much less costly.

Choosing an Emergency Loan

Finding a service provider for an emergency loan requires some research on your part to ensure that you’re getting the best deal. You’ll want to think about all of the key loan terms as well as evaluate the lender. Start by comparing these factors.

Turnaround Time

If you need money quickly, pay special attention to how long the lender says it typically takes to get approved and receive funding. Some can take as long as several business days while others can close in a day or two.

Interest Rate

Emergency loans can have a wide interest rate range and your credit score will directly influence the rate you qualify for.


Some lenders charge an upfront origination fee or monthly administrative fees that are taken from the loan amount, and others do not. The loan disclosure should list all of the fees and how they are triggered.

When comparing loans, it’s better to look at the annual percentage rate (APR) versus the interest rate. That’s because the APR factors in any additional mandatory fees so you have a closer comparison of the borrowing costs.

Customer Service

Online applications are convenient, but you want to know that if you have an issue or question, you will be able to get a person to assist you via chat or phone call in a timely manner.


Look at lender reviews online and check lenders’ status with the Better Business Bureau, especially if it’s a company you aren’t familiar with. Especially when you need cash fast, you want to be sure you’re not dealing with a predatory lender.

What’s Negotiable

You may be able to negotiate certain aspects of an emergency loan, such as the interest rate or administrative or origination fees, if your credit is strong. You can also leverage rate quotes that you receive from other lenders to see which ones are willing to compete for your business.

Alternatives to an Emergency Loan

Taking out an emergency loan isn’t your only option when you need money fast. Here are some others to consider:

  • Credit card with 0% APR offer: Some credit cards have an extended 0% introductory purchase APR, which can give you several months to pay off the balance. This strategy is helpful since you might end up not paying any interest at all. Just note that it may take a few days to receive your card.
  • Borrow from family or friends: If you have someone in your life who can afford to help you out in a pinch, this could be worth trying. Just be sure that you have a plan to pay them back that they are comfortable with, and don’t jeopardize your relationship.
  • Payday loan: This option essentially gives you an advance of your paycheck, which can be good in a pinch, but payday loans are very costly and should only be used as a last resort. The only positive is that you won’t have to worry about long-term installments.
  • Ask for emergency assistance: If you have an emergency as the result of a natural disaster or some type of personal tragedy, reach out to your lenders and service providers to ask about assistance or hardship programs before you borrow money to meet your obligations.
  • Emergency fund: The best option of all is to create an emergency savings account that’s only used for true emergencies. Without having to rely on borrowing or credit, you can have peace of mind knowing that funds are available if you need them.

What Is the Minimum Credit Score Needed to Get an Emergency Loan?

Every lender has its own credit score minimum, but there are some that offer loans even to people with “bad” credit (580 or even less in some cases). To qualify for the best rates, you’ll probably need a score in the mid-700s.

How Quickly Can You Get an Emergency Loan?

You can get an emergency loan in a day or two if you use a lender that has a fast, digital application process. Some may even offer same-day funding if you start early enough.

How Quickly Do You Need to Pay Back an Emergency Loan?

Emergency loans work like other personal loans in that they are paid back in monthly installments. Terms can range from two to seven years. The longer the term, the lower your monthly payment, but the more you’ll pay overall.

Are There Any Restrictions on What You Can Use an Emergency Loan For?

An emergency loan can be used for just about any purpose, but there are a couple of exceptions. You can’t use an emergency or personal loan for college tuition, as a down payment on a house, or to cover business expenses.

What Are the Risks of Getting an Emergency Loan?

Any time you borrow money, including an emergency loan, you are taking on a new debt obligation. The risk is that you overextend yourself and can’t afford to pay back your loan. Being past due will result in a lower credit score and a potential lawsuit from the lender.

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