Cash advances are offered by different establishments, including charge and credit card issuers. Basically, this is a way to withdraw money from your credit card over the counter or from an ATM up to the available credit limit. Another option is to use a convenience check. The problem with cash advances is that interest charges begin to accumulate immediately. When you charge purchases on your card, on the other hand, you have 15 to 25 days to pay the balance before interest begins to accumulate.
There are different types of advances offered by issuers. Some companies allow customers to tap into their credit line. This type comes with a lower limit and enables cardholders to transfer cash from their card to their bank account and to write checks.
Does It Affect Your Credit Score?
The answer to this question is “it depends”. One problem with cash advances is that issuers charge significantly higher interest rates and interest accrues from the moment you withdraw cash from your account. Thus you will pay more in interest charges. If high interest payments affect your ability to cover the minimum, then your credit score may suffer. Cash advances may affect your score indirectly by increasing your utilization ratio and hence your balance. When your credit utilization exceeds 53 percent, your credit score is likely to get affected. Depending on the issuer, the credit limit for advances and purchases may be different and it pays to ask. For instance, your card may have a limit of $5,000 on purchases and $1,500 on cash advances. You may want to inquire about this so that you don’t get overextended. The more you borrow in cash, the more difficult it is to pay it back and your score may plummet. This will make it even more difficult to put your finances under control and back in order.
Issuers usually charge a fee in the range of 3 to 5 percent. They normally assess fees on the amount drawn against the credit limit. With many issuers the amount charged is shown as a percentage. Thus, if your credit card company charges 3 percent, this means that you will pay $3 per each $100 borrowed. If you get more in cash, for example, $500 and your bank charges 5 percent, you will pay $25 back. Some financial institutions add this fee to the customer’s monthly bill while others deduct it from the advance. There are three types of fees involved, ATM usage fees, interest charges, and transaction fees. ATM usage fees vary but are around $2 – $2.50 on average.
Interest charges vary from one issuer to another, but the rate is usually 5 – 6 percent higher compared to the bank’s standard rate. The average interest rate on advances is 25 percent but charges vary widely – from 10 to 36 percent. There are financial institutions that offer the same rate on advances and card purchases. The interest charges depend on the number of days interest has accrued. To calculate the charges on your advance, first divide the rate by 365 (number of days in a calendar year). Use this number and multiply it by the amount withdrawn and the number of days interest has accrued. For instance, if you get $800 in cash, the rate is 25 percent, and you paid back in 20 days, your bank will assess $10.96 in charges (25 percent / 365 days = 0.0684 x $800 x 20 days = 1,095.89 /100 percent = $10.96). This means that you will pay about $11 for 20 days.
Alternatives to Cash Advances
There are different alternatives to cash advances, and probably the best option is to ask your parents or family for a small low or no interest loan. Another option is to use cash in your Roth IRA. There are other alternatives to credit card cash advances such as a salary advance from your company, a collateral or secured loan, or a consumer loan from your local bank or credit union. Some borrowers also opt for payday and title loans but the interest charges are significantly higher. This is a good choice for borrowers with tarnished credit who need urgent cash. Payday loans are convenient and easy to get, and finance companies often advertise online application and instant approval. Peer to peer loans are also offered to individual borrowers. The good news is that private lenders have more lenient approval criteria compared to banks. Some lenders should be avoided at all costs because they use blackmail, threats of violence, and other illegal practices. Loan sharks are one example.
What Not to Do
Obviously, it is best to avoid cash advances altogether and use money in your savings account to meet urgent expenses. Using advances on a regular basis makes you a risky borrower in the eyes of potential creditors. It is quick and simple to withdraw money from an ATM which can lead to a downward debt spiral. The problem is that many customers find cash advances too convenient and use their credit cards to get quick cash. Some borrowers also use their cards to pay existing balances such as consumer and student loans. This is a bad idea because unsecured loans go with a significantly lower rate compared to advances on your credit card. There are circumstances, however, when tapping into your credit line makes sense. This is the case when you have utility bills or medications to pay for and there are no other ways to meet these expenses. In other words, this is a borrowing solution to use in emergencies if you have exhausted all other options.
Cash advances are offered by many credit card issuers, including finance companies, unions, and banks. This is a useful option in case of emergency when you need cash immediately. However, it is also quite expensive and should be used as a last resort. In addition to the higher interest rates, there is no grace period. Lenders offer high rates because they know that borrowers who tap into their line are desperate for money. Given the many alternatives available, it pays to shop around and contact local financial establishments for a small loan. If you get an advance, however, keep in mind that this is not a long-term solution to your financial worries. You should pay back as quickly as possible. Better open a savings account and use it as a rainy day fund for emergencies.