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Bottom Line Up Front

  • Credit card advances are a convenient way to get cash from your line of credit quickly, but they can be very costly.
  • You’ll typically pay an extra fee, a high interest rate or both if you take a cash advance.
  • Unlike a credit card purchase, interest and fees usually start adding up immediately with no grace period.

Time to Read

4 minutes

April 24, 2022

With all the easy payment methods around today—credit or debit card, Apple Pay®, “buy now, pay later” providers PayPal®, Affirm™ and more—there are still times when nothing but cold, hard cash will do. You may need an unplanned amount of cash to pay for a surprise taxi ride or a traffic ticket in a town that doesn’t accept credit cards. 

When you must have cash but don’t have enough money in your checking account to make a withdrawal, a cash advance from a credit card is another option. However, it’s an option you should think long and hard about and avoid using for regular purchases because of the cost of a cash advance. You’ll want to be sure it’s really the best option available or save it for a last resort.

How Cash Advances Work

On the surface, a cash advance on a credit card is like a withdrawal with a debit card from a bank account. You use your card at an ATM and receive cash, but the similarities end there. With a debit card, you withdraw your own money and often won’t even pay a bank fee. With a credit card, you receive borrowed money, which becomes part of your credit card debt you must pay back. 

Here are 3 ways a cash advance may be more costly than you realize:

  • Most credit card issuers charge a cash advance fee every time you take a cash advance. It’s often around 2 to 5% of the transaction amount and may also have a flat minimum, such as $10. 
  • The interest rate charged by credit card companies on cash advances is typically higher than the rate for credit card purchases, even if you have good credit. The average cash advance APR (Annual Percentage Rate) is about 21.2%, according to WalletHub.
  • There’s usually no grace period for repayment. For purchases, you may have 25 days (or another number of days) to pay off the balance before interest charges accrue. Interest starts accruing immediately on most cash advances.

Most card issuers charge fees on cash advances. Depending on who issues your card, cash advance fees are determined using one of the following:

  • A flat rate transaction fee 
  • A percentage of the advance amount—usually between 2 and 5% 
  • A mix of the first two. Many financial institutions charge either a minimum flat rate or a percent of the amount withdrawn—whichever is higher.
Pros Cons
Instant access to cash for cardholders Usually no grace period—interest begins accruing immediately
Convenient—as close as your nearest ATM Typically higher interest rate than for purchases
Access to available credit without an additional loan application or credit check Generally, there’s a cash advance fee (on top of any ATM fees)
Easy way to get local currency in a foreign country Cap for cash advances may be well below your credit limit

Next Steps Next Steps

  1. You can see how long it will take to pay off various credit card scenarios with Navy Federal’s Card Payoff Calculator.
  2. One way to avoid the need for a cash advance is to have an emergency fund available for unplanned needs.

Disclosures

All product and company names and logos are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.