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Best emergency loans of 2021

Our goal here at Credible Operations, Inc., NMLS Number 1681276, referred to as "Credible" below, is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we do promote products from our partner lenders, all opinions are our own.

Credible-emergency-loan-iStock-1001477692.jpg

Emergency loans are typically unsecured personal loans that you can apply for and receive within a few business days. (iStock)

When you’re facing a financial emergency, a personal loan can help you get the cash you need quickly. Whether you need to fix water damage from a flooded dishwasher or pay an urgent bill, an emergency loan with fast funding may be a great option. This article covers the best emergency loans, how quickly you can get them and how they affect your credit.

With Credible, you can easily compare personal loan rates to find the best emergency loan for you.

What are emergency loans?

An emergency loan is an unsecured personal loan that you can get quickly to cover unexpected expenses. Unsecured loans don’t require collateral, meaning your property won’t be at risk if you fail to make your payments. Personal loans are typically paid back with fixed interest rates, so your monthly payment will stay the same for the life of the loan. While interest rates may be higher than those for secured loans, like a home equity loan, they’re generally lower than what you’d pay on a credit card. And you typically don’t have to pay a prepayment penalty if you repay the loan ahead of schedule.

You can get an emergency loan from banks, credit unions and online lenders. After accepting an emergency loan, the loan funds are typically deposited directly into your bank account. If your loan has an origination fee, it’ll be deducted from the total loan amount you receive.

Best emergency loans 

The following 11 Credible partner lenders offer emergency loans.

Avant: Best for bad credit borrowers

You can get a personal loan with Avant even if your credit score isn’t great, but be aware that the lender charges some fees.

  • Loan amounts: $2,000 to $35,000
  • Loan terms (years): 2 to 5
  • Minimum credit score: 550
  • Time to fund: As soon as the next business day
  • Fees: Administration fee of up to 4.75%; late payment; dishonored payment

Axos: Best for good credit borrowers

Axos Bank has a fast application process, but you’ll need good credit to qualify for a loan.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $50,000
  • Loan terms (years): 3 to 6
  • Minimum credit score: 700
  • Time to fund: Within 2 days
  • Fees: Does not disclose

Best Egg: Best for larger loans

Best Egg offers both unsecured and secured personal loans of up to $50,000.

  • Loan amounts: $2,000 to $50,000
  • Loan terms (years): 3 or 5
  • Minimum credit score: 600
  • Time to fund: 1 to 3 business days
  • Fees: Origination fee of 0.99% to 5.99%; late payment

Discover: Best for longer repayment terms

Discover offers loan terms of up to seven years, which is ideal if you need more time to repay your loan.

  • Loan amounts: $2,500 to $35,000
  • Loan terms (years): 3 to 7
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Time to fund: As soon as the next business day
  • Fees: Late payment

LendingPoint: Best for fair credit borrowers

LendingPoint has a simple online application and can offer you a rate quote with no effect on your credit score — even if you only have fair credit.

  • Loan amounts: $2,000 to $36,500
  • Loan terms (years): 2 to 5
  • Minimum credit score: 580
  • Time to fund: As soon as the next business day
  • Fees: Origination fee of up to 6%

LightStream: Best for same-day funding

LightStream may be able to fund your loan as soon as the same day you’re approved, making it a good option if you’re in a tight spot.

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $100,000
  • Loan terms (years): 3 to 6
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Time to fund: As soon as the same day
  • Fees: None

OneMain Financial: Best for borrowers without credit

With no credit score requirement, OneMain Financial might be a good option for people with little to no credit history.

  • Loan amounts: $1,500 to $20,000
  • Loan terms (years): 2 to 5
  • Minimum credit score: None
  • Time to fund: As soon as the next business day
  • Fees: Origination fee (flat fee of $25 to $500 or 1% to 10% of loan amount); late payment; insufficient funds

Prosper: Best for joint borrowing

If you don’t qualify for a personal loan on your own, Prosper allows you to apply with a cosigner with better credit. This might also improve your rate.

  • Loan amounts: $2,000 to $40,000
  • Loan terms (years): 3 or 5
  • Minimum credit score: 640
  • Time to fund: As soon as the next business day
  • Fees: Origination fee of 2.41% to 5%

Universal Credit: Best for small loans

Universal Credit has a minimum loan amount of just $1,000, making it a good option if you only need a small loan to cover an emergency.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $50,000
  • Loan terms (years): 3 to 5
  • Minimum credit score: 560
  • Time to fund: Within 1 business day
  • Fees: Origination fee of 4.25% to 8%; late payment

Upgrade: Best for building credit

Upgrade is a great option if you’re working on building credit — the lender has a low minimum credit score requirement and offers free credit monitoring. 

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $50,000
  • Loan terms (years): 2 to 7
  • Minimum credit score: 560
  • Time to fund: Within 1 day
  • Fees: Origination fee of 2.9% to 8%; late payment

Upstart: Best for early repayment

Upstart doesn’t charge a prepayment penalty and offers fast funding.

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $50,000
  • Loan terms (years): 3 or 5
  • Minimum credit score: 580
  • Time to fund: As soon as the next business day
  • Fees: Origination

Use Credible to compare personal loan rates from multiple lenders.

Other personal loan lenders to consider

The following three lenders are not Credible partners, so you won’t be able to easily compare your rates with them on the Credible platform. But they may also be worth considering if you’re looking for an emergency loan. 

Figure

Figure says you can be approved for one of its loans in minutes. 

  • Loan amounts: $5,000 to $50,000
  • Loan terms (years): 3 or 5
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • Time to fund: Within 1 to 2 business days
  • Fees: Origination fee of up to 3%

Rocket Loans

Rocket Loans says its technology can give you a pre-approval decision in seconds, and you can get your loan funds as soon as the same day you accept the loan.

  • Loan amounts: $2,000 to $45,000
  • Loan terms (years): 3 or 5
  • Minimum credit score: Does not disclose
  • Time to fund: As soon as the same day
  • Fees: Origination fee of 1% to 6%; late payment; insufficient funds

Wells Fargo

With Wells Fargo, you may be able to get your loan funds as soon as the same day, and you can get a discount if you have a checking account with the bank and make automatic payments from it.

  • Loan amounts: $3,000 to $100,000
  • Loan terms (years): 1 to 7
  • Minimum credit score: Does not disclose
  • Time to fund: As soon as the same day
  • Fees: Late; insufficient funds

Methodology

Credible evaluated the best emergency loan lenders based on factors such as customer experience, minimum fixed rate, maximum loan amount, funding time, loan terms and fees. Credible’s team of experts gathered information from each lender’s website, customer service department and via email support. Each data point was verified to make sure it was up-to-date.

How fast can I get an emergency loan? 

This varies by lender, but in many cases you can receive your money as soon as the next business day if you qualify for the loan after a credit check. Some personal loan lenders can even fund the loan on the same day. But you’ll need to move quickly to send in all required documentation of your income and assets and sign the paperwork required to accept the loan.

Before applying for a personal loan, you may want to check your credit report and credit score to make sure everything is in order. Errors on your application may affect your loan approval. 

How to get an emergency loan with bad credit

If you have bad credit, it can be more difficult to get an emergency loan. Most personal loan lenders have minimum credit score requirements. But you’re not necessarily out of options if you have bad credit. Here are a few:

  • Check your credit report. Review your credit report and ensure all the accounts and balances are accurate, especially if you already know you have a low credit score. Sometimes errors can appear on credit reports, artificially lowering your score below what it should rightly be. If you discover incorrect information on your report, you can dispute it with the credit-reporting agency and have it corrected.
  • Add collateral. Most personal loans are unsecured, requiring no collateral, like a house or car. This poses a bigger risk to the lender and can make it more difficult to get a loan with bad credit. But some lenders offer secured personal loans you can apply for in a financial emergency. Adding collateral may help you get approved for these loans.
  • Add a cosigner. If your credit score isn’t good enough to qualify for an emergency loan, you may be able to apply with a cosigner with better credit. A cosigner is equally responsible for the loan and will be on the hook if you fail to make your payments. Lenders take your cosigner’s credit score into account when underwriting the loan, so you may also get a better interest rate with a cosigner.

Will emergency loans affect my credit score?

You can typically shop for an emergency loan without affecting your credit score. Most lenders will prequalify you for a loan using only a soft pull, which doesn’t harm your credit. Once you fully apply for the loan, your credit score will take a small hit — usually around five points for a short period of time.

Making on-time payments on your loan will boost your score, likely outweighing the temporary negative effect of applying for a loan.

Check out Credible to compare personal loan rates from various lenders in minutes.

How much money should I have in an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is cash that you set aside in a checking or savings account to pay for unexpected expenses. If you can afford to have one, this is a better alternative than taking out an emergency loan. Ideally, your emergency fund should be large enough to cover three to six months’ worth of your household’s typical living expenses. But even having $1,000 on hand could make a big difference.

Having an emergency fund will help you be better prepared when a financial emergency arises. About 60% of families will face such a situation each year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Unfortunately, one-third of Americans don’t have money set aside and nearly half would struggle to meet an unexpected $400 expense.

Are there emergency loan alternatives? 

You have options beyond a personal loan to meet a financial emergency. Here are a few alternatives:

  • Savings In an ideal situation, you’ll have money set aside in an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses.
  • Credit cards A credit card can be a convenient option for covering emergency expenses if your credit limit is large enough. Keep in mind that credit cards often have much higher interest rates than personal loans, so make sure you can afford to pay your bill.
  • Home equity loans If you own your home, you may have built up equity through your monthly payments. Home equity is the difference between what you owe on your mortgage and what your home is worth. Lenders may allow you to borrow against the equity in your property, but these loans can take longer to receive. And since you secure the loan with your property, you could lose your home if you aren’t able to make your loan payments.
  • 401(k) loans If you have money saved in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you may be able to borrow from the balance. But failure to repay these loans can have significant tax penalties, and the loan can come due quickly if you leave your job.
  • No-credit-check installment loans or payday loans These short-term loans offer cash quickly regardless of your credit score. You may need to repay them within a few weeks or months. But you’ll pay fees that equate to astronomically high interest rates, making it difficult to climb out of debt. These loans are much riskier than your other options, so you should only consider them as a last resort.