And if you already owe a payday loan that you can’t afford to repay, your situation may be even more dire.
If you’re reading this and thinking “but I need money now,” don’t turn to a payday lender. Here are 42 legitimate ways to get the money you need — fast.
Table of Contents
- 77% of American households have debt
- The average debt per adult in the U.S. is $58,604
- If you’re struggling for food or utilities, look for government help first
- If you’re between jobs, file for unemployment benefits
- Contact a food pantry and your utility company
- Search for local aid programs and assistance
- Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help
- Don’t use a payday loan or title loan — there are much better options
What Can You Do To Get Cash — or Government Assistance — Now?
The options on this list that will work best for you depend on how quickly you need help, whether you need long-term or short-term assistance and what resources you’re starting with. For example, food pantries are an almost-immediate solution, while the process to sign signing up for food stamps can take some time.
Pro tip: Apply for as many government assistance programs as possible. Application processing isn’t always instant, so exploring every possible option is best.
1. Check for Government Resources or Assistance Programs That Can Help
Though the government won’t make your loan or credit card payments, some programs can help you through a financial crisis, covering food aid, children’s health care and energy costs.
If you need immediate food assistance, contact a local food pantry. Feeding America offers a searchable database. Don’t be embarrassed; many families are suffering right now.
- SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food.
- CHIP: The Children’s Health Insurance Program provides coverage to low- and moderate-income children for families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid.
- LIHEAP: The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps keep families safe and healthy through initiatives that assist families with energy costs. LIHEAP provides federally funded assistance to reduce the costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization, and minor energy-related home repairs.
Here are a few more resources that may help.
- Benefits.gov: This offers a nearly comprehensive guide to the benefits you may receive, including medical and food assistance
- Oblito.com: Provides information on emergency services such as medical, housing, and food assistance
- Community action agencies: These provide child care, utility, and other grants for people in need
Other Resources for Immediate Help
Contact a local church, shelter, or food bank/drive if you need immediate assistance. Other options include:
- Need Help Paying Bills
- Senior Resources for Professionals and Consumers
2. Find a Local Food Pantry or Food Bank
Many communities have a local “food pantry,” which is different from a “food bank.” Most of these community food pantries are sponsored by local area churches and/or community coalitions. A community food pantry will directly serve local residents who suffer from hunger and food insecurity. They usually distribute food to clients once a month.
A food bank stores millions of pounds of food and other products that are distributed to the community.
Feeding America is a nationwide network of food banks and programs that helps millions of people find food and grocery help in their communities. Connect with your local food bank to learn about upcoming free food distributions and for help with SNAP and WIC applications. Find resources in your area at feedingamerica.org.
3. Nonprofit Resources
Nonprofits will sometimes offer one-time assistance with utilities, food expenses or other housing costs to help struggling families get back on their feet. These include:
- 211 Program: This program offered through the United Way provides an array of services, including utility assistance, free referrals and information to people who need human and health services You can dial 2-1-1 for help 24 hours a day.
- Modest Needs: This group offers financial help for short-term needs. The organization provides “self-sufficiency grants” to help with housing and utility expenses.
- Community Action Partnership: This group helps families access affordable and safe housing and provides valuable training and referrals to other aid programs.
- Volunteers of America: This nonprofit group helps to house over 25,000 senior citizens, veterans and others in need across the U.S.
- The HealthWell Foundation: This nonprofit help underinsured households pay medical costs, including insurance premiums.
- The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC): This group offers assistance for families who don’t have access to affordable health care. The group has 1,200 clinics across the United States.
4. Does the Government Owe You Money?
Approximately 10% of Americans have unclaimed property. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) will help you find it.
NAUPA operates in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. To date, it has returned more than $3 billion in unclaimed property—the average claim of $1,780.
Go to their website and search for any unclaimed property. If you find any, send in a claim. Once you’ve proven the property is yours, you should receive it within 30 days of filing.
READ MORE: Easy ways to make $500 fast
5. Take Some Items to a Pawn Shop
Pawning some items allows you to get your belongings back after payday. Or, if you have some things you know will retain some value but don’t mind ever getting them back, starting with these items is another great option. It will alleviate the stress of trying to get back the items on your next payday.
6. Apply for a Payday Alternative Loan
A Payday Alternative Loan is a short-term loan offered by federal credit unions as an affordable alternative to expensive payday loans if you need money to make ends meet on short notice. The National Credit Union Administration sets the guidelines with better terms and capped interest rates.
7. Use a Credit Card Cash Advance or Balance Transfer
A cash advance lets you borrow a certain amount of money against your credit card’s line of credit. Make sure you don’t exceed your credit limit and be aware that you will have a transaction fee and a higher annual percentage rate (APR).
8. Get an Installment Loan
The personal loan application process is quick. Some are approved instantly; you can have the money in your bank account by the next business day. There will, however, be a credit check. The loan terms will be better than most short-term loans.
Upstart, Upgrade, Personalloans.com and Badcreditloans.com offer installment loans with flexible credit requirements and quick loan funding.
READ MORE: Best installment loans for bad credit
9. Consolidate Your Debts
Debt consolidation involves getting one larger loan with a lower interest rate and using that loan to pay off your higher-interest debts. This leaves you with one monthly payment. You can control the loan term, so you can roll your loans into a longer-term loan to lower your monthly payments to help make ends meet. Just remember that the longer the loan term, the more you’ll pay in interest over the life of the loan.
READ MORE: Step-by-step guide to debt consolidation
10. Contact a Payday Loan Consolidation or Debt Settlement Company
These for-profit companies will help you consolidate all your debts, including any payday loan debt you have. Many offer a free initial consultation, so it might be worth giving one a call to find out whether they can help you.
Debt settlement involves a negotiation process in which a third-party company contacts your creditors and offers to “settle” your debts for a total amount that’s less than you owe. You won’t get immediate relief (the process will take at least a few months,) but it can get you a financial reset so you don’t feel constantly overwhelmed.
READ MORE: Best debt settlement companies
11. Use a Cash Advance App
Use a cash advance app like Albert that allows borrowers to get small paycheck advances. These apps offer fast cash, are cheaper than a payday loan, there’s no interest, and are typically paid with tips or maybe a small monthly fee. The only drawback is the loan amount will be small. There’s no credit check, so you’ll qualify even with bad credit. Some other apps that offer cash advances include Dave, Brigit and Cleo.
12. Get a Quick Cash Advance from Cash App Borrow or Venmo
Cash App Borrow is a short-term loan offered through the platform Cash App. Eligible borrowers can advance themselves funds ranging from $20 to $200. They have four weeks to pay it back, plus a 5% flat fee. Venmo allows cash advances up to $5,000 and allows payments with American Express cards. There is a fee to advance yourself money. However, it likely will be cheaper than a payday loan.
Pro tip: You may find articles stating that Venmo loans are a scam because Venmo doesn’t offer loans. That is technically true. These are cash advances, and some banks or credit cards will charge a fee for these advances. Others do not. If you have an American Express card, you can use that with no fee and simply pay the Amex bill when it’s due.
READ MORE: How Venmo cash advances work
13. Peer-to-Peer Lending
Peer-to-peer lending is growing in popularity. Platforms like Kiva or Prosper will match your loan application with lenders and/or investors who are willing to loan money to borrowers who may be too high risk for traditional banks. This can be an ideal option for borrowers whose credit scores are less than perfect.
READ MORE: Best peer-to-peer loans for bad credit
You may not think about the social media platform as a place to borrow money, but the r/borrow subreddit allows Redditors to post loan requests and specify the repayment date and amount you will repay (so basically you set your own interest rate.) Then strangers will weigh whether the risk of loaning you the money is worth the amount they earn through repayment. You’ll need a certain amount of Reddit “karma” to be eligible. Loan requests are not accepted from new users. But you’ll find that there are a lot of people on the platform who are willing to help people through a crisis.
15. Call Your Credit Card Company and Ask if it Offers a Hardship Program
Some offer repayment assistance if you’re going through a tough time, like a job loss or health crisis. Some lenders expanded their hardship programs due to the coronavirus pandemic, and some of the expanded COVID-19 programs are still in place today. Call your credit card company and ask if they offer one.
READ MORE: Hardship loans for bad credit
16. Call Your Mortgage Company
Many mortgage companies still have relief programs in place after the COVID-19 pandemic. Explain your current hardship and ask if it might be possible to skip a payment.
17. Sell Unused Items
Sell unused or unwanted items on Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, etc., Or have a garage sale. Promote it for free on social media or post signs in and around significant thoroughfares in your neighborhood. Don’t have time to do the extra work? Companies like ThredUp will list your items and sell them, then pay you a commission. They’ll take a hefty cut for that convenience, though, and you may be better off working with a local consignment shop.
Pro tip: Steer clear of any buyer who wants to send you a verification code or a “test” payment, or pay you by check or gift card. If possible, meet the buyer at a neutral spot and only accept cash, Venmo or Paypal for payment.
READ MORE: How to sell shoes online
18. Drive for Uber or Lyft
There are plenty of side hustle opportunities with ride-share companies. Note that you will need to update your car insurance if you’re taking on passengers. If your car doesn’t meet the company’s requirements for ride-share, you can still take on meal deliveries.
19. Take On a Side Hustle or Do Odd Jobs
Maybe you have a particular crafting skill and can sell your wares on eBay or Etsy. Or if you love cooking, some elderly people might be willing to hire you to prepare some meals for them. And while some multi-level marketing companies have earned a bad reputation, a few legitimate ones could help you earn a little extra cash. The key is to be a skilled networker and gather about $100 in startup money. Choose a product you believe in, and don’t hand over any money until you’ve thoroughly researched the company’s earning structure. You don’t want to get roped into a pyramid scheme or sign up for a company that rewards you for recruiting rather than sales. A few MLM companies include Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Avon, Scentsy, Tupperware, Amway, Norwex and Rodan + Fields.
20. If You Already Have a Full-Time Job, Ask for Overtime
Even a couple of extra hours a week can help when your financial situation spirals out of control. Also, see if your employer participates in a payroll service that allows you to access your pay early. Apps like PayActiv and DailyPay allow paycheck advances when you need emergency cash — if your employer participates.
21. Become a Professional Shopper
Sign up to work for Instacart, Shipt, or another service. Instacart and Shipt shoppers make money by buying groceries at local stores that the company has partnered with and delivering those items to customers’ homes. You can also pick up work as a “mystery shopper,” checking out facilities for cleanliness, customer service and speed. There are a lot of mystery shopper scams, though, so make sure to check out any companies before you send them your personal information.
22. Work as a Freelancer
Check Fiverr or Upwork. These online marketplaces connect freelancers (sellers) to people or businesses looking to hire (buyers). Everybody has a useful skill set for someone willing to pay for it.
Babysitting can be a big business. Care.com offers childcare, senior care, tutoring, housekeeping, daycare and even pet care.
The average cost of childcare in the U.S. is a little over $10,000 a year.
24. Pet Sit
Pet sitting is the equivalent of $609/week or $2,641/month. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $15.24 an hour. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average for a pet sitter is around $31,694 a year in 2022.
25. Rent Your Extra Space Through Airbnb or VRBO
If you have an extra bedroom or converted garage apartment, this is a great way to offset some homeownership expenses and make friends with a stranger. It’s a win-win for your bottom line and mental well-being. You could even take in a roommate if you’re willing to make a long-term commitment.
26. Sell Unused Gift Cards
Almost two-thirds of Americans have unspent gift cards. Companies like Raise and CardCash let you sell gift cards for as much as 92 percent cash back. While you won’t walk away with 100 percent of the card’s value, you can use these sites to turn old gift cards into cash.
27. Complete Online Surveys
It is possible to complete online surveys for money. Sign up for Swagbucks, Amazon Mturk, Survey Monkey, Opinion Outpost, etc. The payouts won’t gain your financial freedom overnight, but completing surveys for cash can earn you a little bit of spending money.
If you need help with medical bills or to get through a crisis, try asking friends and family for help. You can even request help from strangers directly or through a platform like GoFundMe or Kiva.
29. Look for Community Loans and Other Assistance
Local churches and grassroots community organizations may offer short-term help or loans. One Dallas church acquired a bank to offer a better alternative to payday loans. In Memphis, the Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis and Hope Credit Union partnered to offer low-income loans. Look for community centers and nonprofits that offer needs-based assistance.
30. Sign Up for a Cash Back Shopping App
Apps like Ibotta, Rakuten and TopCashBack can help you save on groceries, shopping from big-name stores and brands and gift cards. The platform sometimes doubles your savings from in-store discounts. Sites like Cashback Monitor and Cashbackholic will even tell you which site will pay the most.
READ MORE: Here are the best receipt-scanning apps
31. Play Games Online
Many online games pay real money. These games are available on different platforms, including mobile devices or a computer. Some are free to play, though others cost money to sign up or require in-app purchases. From cards to word puzzles to competitive online tournaments, there’s the potential for anyone to win real-world cash.
READ MORE: Best game apps that pay real money
32. Sign Up for Zogo
Zogo is an app that pays you for completing tasks to improve your financial literacy and learn how money really works in real life. You can earn “pineapples” that are redeemed for gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart by completing brief quizzes. It’s available for iOs (iPhone) and Android. You won’t get rich doing this, but you can earn some quick grocery money and learn more about money management.
33. Sell Your Plasma
Plasma is the liquid portion of your blood. Even one donation can save three lives. Because of this, many donation centers will offer lucrative bonuses for first-time donors.
After that, compensation is usually around $50 to $75 per appointment. Donors can schedule up to eight monthly visits (and earn thousands of dollars.) Payments are loaded onto a reloadable debit card, so the money is available instantly. The process can take one to two hours, and many donors say the pain is similar to a “mild bee sting.”
READ MORE: How to donate plasma for money
34. Shop at Salvage Grocery Stores
Salvage stores often sell food for significantly lower prices because they’re selling:
- Damaged items (dented cans, missing labels, etc.)
- Discontinued items
- Imperfect fruits and vegetables
- Overstock items
- Outdated seasonal items
Your options will be better if you live near a city, but even if you don’t, places like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet offer some salvage foods.
This map can help you find a salvage store near you.
35. Time Your Grocery Shopping (and Get to Know the Managers of Your Local Stores)
Ask the managers of your local grocery stores what time and days they discount food items that are near expiration. Time your shopping to maximize those discounts. Even billionaire Mark Cuban used to use this strategy. Also, try visiting farmer’s markets just before closing. You may be able to negotiate a discount on items that haven’t sold.
36. Do Your Kids Qualify for Free School Lunches?
The National School Lunch Program provides free or reduced lunches for more than 30 million children a year in both public and private schools. The United States Department of Agriculture publishes a list of eligibility criteria at usda.gov.
37. Recycle Valuable Materials
You can earn some spare cash by recycling items like car parts or scrap metal.
Items like scrap metal or car parts can be surprisingly profitable, and items that may seem worthless (old wine corks, empty toilet paper rolls, empty paper towel rolls, scraps of ribbon or fabric and bits of gift wrap) can be sold to crafters on eBay or through Facebook Marketplace. There are places like Boxcycle where you can get money for your empty cardboard boxes
38. Sell Your Old Tech Gear
Got old phones, gaming devices, printers, laptops or other electronics just lying around? Resell them. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of reselling them yourself, try one of these sites:
39. Sign Up for NextDoor and/or a Local “Buy Nothing” Site
Neighbors will often give away items they no longer need but don’t want to sell. Grills, furniture, tech items and even food items they can’t use will be offered. If your community offers scheduled “bulk trash” pickup, take a drive through the neighborhood to look for items that you can use or resell.
Did you excel at one specific subject in school? You may be able to help out local students, or some websites will match you with students nationwide for virtual tutoring. You can make up to $50 an hour. All you need is a degree, wifi and a computer.
41. Shop Estate Sales
Estate sales are notorious for slapping a price label on every single item in the house, so you can often find cleaning supplies, packaged food, home canned goods, storage bags, pots, pans, dishware, chest freezers (sometimes even still full of frozen food) and other practical goods at low prices, particularly on items that are remaining in the final hour of the sale. Estate sale agents will often prefer to make money off of these items rather than pay to have them hauled off.
42. Cancel All Unnecessary Subscriptions
You might be shocked to add up the amounts you pay each month for streaming services, satellite radio, magazines, newspapers, food delivery services and so on. Once consumers sign up for a service and set up autopay, the majority never remember to cancel. Add up all of your monthly fees and cancel everything that isn’t essential. You can always sign up again later. Use the local library for access to books, newspapers and magazines.
READ MORE: How to make $500 fast
Avoid Predatory Loans
If you need money fast, the key is not to panic. Don’t turn to payday lenders or title lenders. These lenders may promise that they can solve your problems. Don’t fall for it. They aren’t a viable long-term solution and could worsen your financial situation. Many creditors will offer extensions if you call and explain that you’re experiencing hardship. They will respond much more positively than if you simply stop making payments.
- Payday loans: These short-term loans don’t involve credit checks and regularly target people in desperate situations. But the fees and interest rates charged on a two-week loan can be in excess of 600%. They’re considered so predatory that they are illegal in several states.
- Tribal loans: These are like payday loans, but with longer repayment terms. You’ll probably see them advertised as “no-credit-check installment loans.” A $1,000 loan repaid over two years at 400% APR will cost $333 a month, and you’ll pay more than $7,000 in interest.
- Title loans: These are short-term loans similar to payday loans, only you must hand over your vehicle’s title as collateral, and if you don’t make the payments, your car could be repossessed.
To learn more about how to find out if the government owes you money, check out this video:
If You Can, Try More Than One Option
If you have the extra money in your checking account once you’ve covered your immediate needs, stash it away in an emergency fund. That way, you have some flexibility the next time you have emergency expenses.
If you’re short on cash, sit down and figure out which expenses are most important. These likely will include food, utilities and gasoline, among other expenses. Determine if there is any way to cut those essential expenses (check out food pantries, search for programs that help pay utility bills, reduce energy usage, etc.) Don’t skip any essential payments. If you can’t pay the full amount, contact the company and explain your situation. If you can’t afford your cell phone plan, get a cheap phone with no contract and buy minutes as needed. If your financial situation is dire, skip your nonessential payments and call your creditors. See if they offer any hardship programs. This won’t offer much relief but will buy you time to get money through some of the other alternatives.
Build Your Credit Score
If your score is less than ideal, you aren’t alone. Take some time to focus on boosting your credit score. If you’re scrambling for instant cash, you probably have a less-than-ideal credit history. Sign up for a service like Experian Boost, which helps you build credit through monthly subscriptions by reporting standard monthly payments to the Big Three credit bureaus; Experian, Transunion and Equifax.
The Bottom Line
Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but these measures don’t have to feel dire. You can turn the current economic uncertainty into an opportunity to assess where your money goes and where it comes from. Assess your spending habits and ensure they match your priorities for yourself and your family.
Learning to reduce your spending now can make your life easier if you’re forced to live on less later on.
A Payday Alternative Loan from a credit union is a great option. Credit unions offer these loans and they cost considerably less than a payday loan. It allows 12 months to repay, and loans can be up to $2000. The maximum APR is 28%, with an application fee of no more than $20. You must be a credit union member for at least one month or six months, depending on the credit union. You can receive a maximum of 3 loans within six months. Most don’t require good credit but the borrower’s income and ability to repay the loan.
Another option is to get a cash advance from your credit card. You are borrowing money against your card’s line of credit, and it can be as simple as heading to the ATM. You will pay a higher interest rate than what you pay for purchases, but it is better than any payday lender charges you.
Cash advance apps are another great way to tap into earnings you already worked for.
Another alternative is applying for a home equity loan or line of credit. This loan uses a percentage of equity in your home to get cash and is a line of credit secured by your home.
You need at least to qualify for any loan in the 500 and 600 range. A credit score lower than 500 may not be eligible for anything. Higher credit scores will always get you better rates and terms. Credit scores in the 700s and 800s will get the lowest interest rates so aim for that.
READ MORE: 10 possible reasons why your credit score suddenly dropped
Receipt apps, games, etc., are easy ways to earn quick cash but won’t help much if you need money now. It takes some time to build up enough for redemptions. Instead, you’re better off signing up for the apps now and letting money build, so you have some flex if you need some quick cash later.