How to get an emergency loan

Emergency Personal Loans | Discover Personal Loans

How to get an emergency loan

Dealing with an emergency can put stress on your physical, emotional and financial well-being. While insurance and savings can help, they are not always sufficient. And even with advance planning, an emergency can feel overwhelming and could also be too much for your current finances to handle all at once. In this case, you can apply for an emergency personal loan.

Let’s explore the potential financial impact of emergencies, some protections you can put into place in advance and the option of getting a personal loan to help you during a crisis. If this option makes sense, we can show you how to get a loan to help cover your emergency expenses.

Financial emergency situations

An emergency situation requiring financial assistance typically involves some unexpected expenses that require immediate attention. Often, part of the immediate action includes paying for damages that may have occurred. Let’s say, for example, you’ve returned from vacation to find a leaking hot water heater.

This isn’t a life-threatening emergency, but it does mean taking quick action to stop the leak, arrange a replacement and clean up the mess. The fix may require more than just paying for a new water heater. It may involve replacing carpeting and drywall or repairing flooring that has had flood damage. Costs can add up quickly, even if covered by insurance.

The same is often true for most emergencies.

How to deal with a financial emergency

When emergencies happen, more than just money gets spent. Your time and attention are most ly focused on resolving the issue. Often, you’re not focused on costs, but mounting financial pressure can quickly become a sobering reality.

Gaining access to money as soon as possible could be important. For those who’ve planned ahead and been able to build an emergency savings account, this may be the time to draw from it.

For those who don’t have the savings, it could be the time to consider pursuing emergency loans that will help you get the money you need quickly with a streamlined process.

The best way to handle a financial emergency is to try and be prepared in advance.

  • Set up an emergency fund. Experts recommend that you have the equivalent of three to nine months of expenses saved as an emergency fund. The thinking is that an emergency can include the loss of income. If that happens, paying for everyday living expenses can become difficult. However, if you have an emergency fund, you have given yourself some time to get back on your feet financially. If you don’t have an emergency fund, you’ll need to seek other options now and use this experience as a prompt to start saving as soon as you’ve recovered. But if your emergency fund isn’t a total solution, don’t worry. You still have options.
  • Rely on a support network. Consider calling on family and friends for emotional support and advice. Most people have faced financial emergencies at one point or another in their lives. They might have learned something that could be helpful for navigating your current challenges. If you feel uncomfortable talking about finances with loved ones, remember that money issues are only one part of what you’re facing. An emergency demands your full attention; you might need a hand with some other basics of life while you deal with it. Friends and family offer time, attention and emotional support, all of which are as valuable as funds in your bank account. You might have someone close who would be happy to bring a meal over. Maybe you need help watching your kids or taking care of your pets. Just having an attentive ear can sometimes work wonders. 
  • Look into other support systems. Depending on the situation, you may be eligible for government assistance, as many have been during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, you can reach out to your creditors to explain your situation and ask for help. Or maybe you can find some extra cash by rethinking your budget. Read more.
  • Check your insurance coverage. Damage to your home, car or other property may be covered by your insurance policies. Be sure to look them over and talk to your agent or insurance company.
  • Get an emergency personal loan. When you need additional funds, a loan can be a viable option. With a loan from a reliable financial institution, you can get fast access to needed money, you have a reliable and predictable process, plus you’re dealing with financial professionals. Discover has personal loans that can be used for emergencies or any expenses that comes up unexpectedly. It’s a straightforward loan with a simple application process and same-day decisions in most cases. And funds can be sent as soon as the next business day after acceptance, which comes in handy when dealing with emergencies.

It’s always good to be prepared for the worst by knowing your options. Put your emergency plan in place.

Begin saving now, if you don’t have insurance, get it and know that you can apply for a loan designed around you and your needs from Discover for added security.

A fixed interest rate and a set monthly payment for the life of your Discover personal loan helps simplify your repayment. You can check your rate for a potential loan at any time without impacting your credit score.

Check Your Rate


Emergency Loans: Where to Get a Fast Loan

How to get an emergency loan

Upstart is an online lending platform that considers alternative data on an application, including where you live and went to school, in addition to credit and income information. The company says it funds 99% of loans within one business day after approval.


Avant has a low minimum credit score requirement and says it can fund a loan one business day after approval. Its annual percentage rate includes an administrative fee up to 4.75%. The company reports payments to the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — which can help you build credit.

» COMPARE: See your bad-credit loan options


OneMain offers personal loans to borrowers with low credit scores, but they come with high APRs and an origination fee. The lender can fund loans quickly by check, but you have to visit a branch to complete the process.


LendingPoint lends to borrowers with low credit scores and little existing debt. The company says it can fund a loan the business day after approval, but in some cases it could take longer.

Rocket Loans

Rocket Loans says 85% of borrowers get funds by the business day after an application is approved; the longest it takes is about three business days. Rocket Loans also lets borrowers pre-qualify online to see loan offers without affecting their credit score.

» MORE: Best online lenders for fast cash

Best Egg

Best Egg says its application takes minutes to complete, and loans are funded one business day after approval, in some cases. Though the lender approves applicants with fair credit, the average credit score is 700, which falls in the good range on the FICO scale.


Oportun offers small installment loans to borrowers with little or no credit history at rates that are high compared to other bad-credit lenders. It operates in only a few states and sometimes funds loans within hours, whether you apply online or in person.

How to choose an emergency loan

Funding speed: If you urgently need funds, consider a lender that offers fast funding, Rocket Loans or Upstart. While some lenders offer same-day funding, typical funding times are two to seven days. Online lenders often disclose how long it takes, so you’ll know what to expect before applying.

Gather the required documents — such as W-2s, pay stubs and bank account statements — before you apply for a loan, and promptly answer the lender's questions to speed up the loan process.

» MORE: Learn how to get a personal loan with bad credit

Loan costs: Speed may seem more important than loan cost, but it’s still important to compare fees and annual percentage rates from multiple lenders. Most online lenders offer pre-qualification, which involves a soft credit check and allows you to preview your rate and term without impacting your credit score.

The loan with the lowest APR is the cheapest and usually the best choice, as long as the monthly payments are affordable. Use a personal loan calculator to estimate your total interest and monthly payments on a new loan.

Lender features: In addition to the rates and fees, consider payment options and other features. Some lenders let you choose your payment due date, forgive late fees or allow you to skip a payment if necessary. Lenders may also provide financial education on their websites.

» MORE: Pre-qualify with multiple online lenders on NerdWallet

Credit union loans for emergencies

You can also get emergency loans from a local credit union. These not-for-profit lenders are often good options for borrowers with bad credit because they consider your entire financial picture — not just your credit — and may provide lower rates and terms. Some offer short-term payday alternative loans in amounts up to $2,000.

Becoming a credit union member typically requires you to live, work or study in a particular area, or be associated with a particular group. You'll need to purchase a share in the credit union to open an account ($5 to $25).

» MORE: NerdWallet's picks for best credit unions

No-credit-check emergency loans

Be wary of lenders that don’t check your credit when they offer you an emergency loan. Some no-credit-check installment loans share characteristics with conventional payday and auto-title loans, including sky-high interest rates and additional fees that make the loan less affordable than you initially thought it would be.

Some online lenders, such as Rise and OppLoans, offer emergency loans and are positioned as low-cost alternatives to payday loans. However, their rates are still high, and you should consider these lenders only after you've ruled out other lower-cost options. Capital Good Fund is another no-credit-check lender that offers lower rates, but is available in only a handful of states.

» MORE: NerdWallet's picks for best bad credit loans

Emergency loan alternatives

Cheaper alternatives to borrowing are not always fast or convenient, and sometimes they require asking for help. But NerdWallet strongly recommends exhausting alternatives first, even in an emergency. Here are some possible alternatives to an emergency loan.

» MORE: Learn about alternatives to payday loans

Build an emergency fund

Once your emergency passes, do what you can to build an emergency fund that can help you avoid taking high-cost loans in the future.

Most financial experts recommend saving between three and six months’ worth of living expenses. If that seems a lot, start small with savings of $10 to $20 per week. Set a goal to save at least $500, which can usually cover small emergency expenses minor car repairs.

» MORE: Emergency fund calculator: How much to save


Emergency Loans: What They Are & Where To Get One

How to get an emergency loan

Editorial Note: Forbes may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn't affect our editors' opinions or evaluations.

If you’ve ever had to cover a major medical bill, an unexpected car repair or another emergency, you know it’s not easy to come up with cash right away.

While having an emergency fund is one of the best financial cushions you can have, most Americans don’t have any extra cash—let alone enough to cover an emergency.

Luckily, emergency loans can help cover big expenses if you don’t have enough cash when you need it most.

What Are Emergency Loans?

An emergency loan is an unsecured personal loan that you can borrow to cover the costs of unexpected expenses.

The amount you borrow will vary how much you need to cover costs, but emergency loans tend to be relatively small—between $250 and $1,000.

 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 ly 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— 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.

What Can I Use an Emergency Loan For?

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

  • 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 lihood 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). wise, 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.

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 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 APRs can be 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, 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 APR 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.

Where To 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.


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.

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.

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 pre-qualification 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.

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 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.

Emergency Loan Alternatives

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:

  • Consolidating high-interest credit cards. Consider a consolidation loan or a 0% balance transfer credit card.
  • Covering home repair expenses. Tap into your home equity through a HELOC or loan. 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.
  • Paying off a medical bill. 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.

If you’re really hurting for cash, consider asking family and friends for money. There are also nonprofits that can provide financial assistance your needs, 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, friends, family or negotiating with lenders, before turning to emergency loans. If you’re running 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.


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