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Best emergency loans

Use one of these lenders if you need funds fast

Author picture
Written by Lee Huffman
Edited by Jana Lynch
LightStream and Upgrade
cash in glass jar labeled emergency fund

When you need money quickly, an emergency loan could help solve your problems. Online lenders offer fast approvals and can deposit money into your bank account as soon as the same day. However, it can be difficult to compare all of your available options, especially if you’re in a rush to get money now. Check out our top picks to get a head start on your search.


Key insights

  • Emergency loans tend to be for amounts up to $100,000, and repayment terms often range from two to seven years (though some last longer).
  • You’ll likely get a better interest rate if you have good credit and select a shorter loan term.
  • Even if you need money fast, it’s a good idea to avoid payday loans — these often lead to cycles of unmanageable debt.

Our recommendations for emergency loans

To make our choices for the best emergency loans, we collected 806 data points (26 individual data points for 31 lenders), including customer reviews and overall ratings from ConsumerAffairs readers, for popular lenders. We used these data points to evaluate factors that have the most impact on borrowers, including time to funding, APRs, loan minimums and repayment terms, to make our final selections.

Our picks may be Authorized Partners who compensate us — this does not affect our recommendations or evaluations but may impact the order in which companies appear.

Upgrade AUTHORIZED PARTNER
  • $50,000 max loan amount
  • 24- to 84-month repayment terms
  • Undisclosed minimum credit score
  • User star rating: 4.8

Upgrade is an online financial services company that launched in 2017. Its headquarters are in San Francisco, but it also has offices in Phoenix, Montreal and Atlanta. In addition to personal loans, the company also offers credit cards, checking accounts and other services.

Loan amounts range from $1,000 to $50,000, with APRs between 7.96% and 35.97%. Upgrade loans also have fees, including origination fees of up to 8.99%. Repayment terms of up to 84 months are available, and funds can take anywhere from one day to two weeks to be deposited.

  • Loans amounts up to $50,000
  • Multiple loan options
  • Checking your interest rate won’t affect your credit
  • Funding available within a day of verification
  • Loans are made by bank partners, not Upgrade itself
  • All personal loans have origination fees of up to 8.99%
  • Potentially high interest rates

What do reviewers say?

Customer feedback for Upgrade on ConsumerAffairs has been overwhelmingly positive. Customers complimented Upgrade for fast approvals, quick funding and positive impacts on their credit scores. The major customer complaint is that the origination fees can be high, which reduces how much borrowers receive from their loans.

Darnell, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from Fresno, California, told us: “Everything went smooth and fast, the application was easy to fill out, the approval was fast and the funds deposited. Everything was explained clearly and there were no hidden fees or sudden changes to the original approval. Everything was secure which made me feel confident.”


LightStream AUTHORIZED PARTNER
  • $100,000 max loan amount
  • 24- to 144-month repayment terms
  • Requires “good-to-excellent” credit profile
  • User star rating: 3.9

LightStream is an online lender that's part of Truist Bank, a publicly traded financial services company. LightStream offers loans for a variety of purposes, including home remodeling, debt consolidation, swimming pools and medical expenses. Interest rates and repayment terms vary depending on the loan purpose, the amount borrowed and the borrower's credit history. Eligible customers can also open savings accounts with LightStream.

LightStream loans are available for $5,000 to $100,000, which is a higher maximum than most other personal loan lenders offer. Its interest rates range from 5.24% to 19.99% (including a 0.5% automatic payment discount), and repayment terms go up to 144 months for certain loans. LightStream does not charge any fees or prepayment penalties on its loans.

Borrowers with low credit scores might need to look elsewhere, however; LightStream only approves good- to excellent credit profiles. For reference, you’d need a credit score of at least 670 to fit FICO’s definition of a “good” credit score.

  • $100,000 maximum loan amount
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
  • Some loans funded the same day you finish your application
  • Low rate range (5.24% to 19.99% with automatic payment discount)
  • $5,000 minimum loan amount
  • Not transparent regarding some credit requirements

What do reviewers say?

Reviews for LightStream on ConsumerAffairs are mixed. While some customers love LightStream's customer service and its pledge to plant a tree for every loan originated, other reviews detail frustrations with getting loan applications denied. Customers also complain about reaching the company during business hours and having their accounts properly reported to credit bureaus.

Julie, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from Cape Coral, Florida, said: “Lightstream could not be any more user friendly and customer driven! They plant a tree for every loan! They offer lots of repayment options and allow you to change payment time and amount whenever you need to make it more convenient.”


Avant
  • $35,000 max loan amount
  • 12- to 60-month repayment terms
  • Undisclosed minimum credit score
  • User star rating: 3.9

Avant is an online lender based in Chicago. It was founded in 2012 and focuses on offering loans, credit cards and mobile banking to middle-income consumers. It has helped more than two million customers get the cash they need. Applicants can apply for a loan through its website and receive a decision within minutes. Loans are available for debt consolidation, emergencies, home improvement and other purposes.

Borrowers can get $2,000 to $35,000 deposited into their accounts as quickly as the next business day, with repayment terms of 12 to 60 months and APRs ranging from 9.95% to 35.95%. The company charges late fees, but it doesn’t have prepayment penalties.

  • Checking loan options won't affect credit score
  • Loan decisions within minutes of submitting an application
  • Money deposited as soon as the next business day
  • May deduct an administration fee from loan proceeds
  • Potentially high interest rates

What do reviewers say?

Because Avant offers both loans and credit cards, its profile on our site contains a mix of reviews for both types of products. Negative reviews often mention high interest rates. Positive reviews offer praise for how quickly customers received their money and that there are no prepayment penalties if you want to pay off your loan early.

Karmilla, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from Huntington Park, California, said: “The customer service were always polite when I called to make a payment. My payment was always on time and I honestly would rather get another loan through them Than any other place. I felt they were honest and I was able to make payments via phone instead of direct deduction from my account. I never felt they were screwing me over.”


Credit Direct
  • $47,500 max loan amount
  • 12- to 60-month repayment terms
  • Undisclosed minimum credit score
  • User star rating: 4.1

Credit Direct is an online lender and loan marketplace. That means when you submit an application, you’ll receive loan offers from Credit Direct as well as its partners. It’s also worth noting that Credit Direct’s services are not yet available in all 50 states. If you qualify for a loan and live in one of the 11 states where they’re available, you can get a loan in as little as 24 hours, though.

  • Loan amounts up to $47,500
  • Rates as low as 4.99% on loans up to $40,000
  • No prepayment penalties
  • Loan may be issued by another lender
  • Only available in 11 states
  • Terms and rates not fully disclosed online

What do reviewers say?

Credit Direct has a very positive overall satisfaction rating at the time of publishing. Borrowers with positive experiences often received their funds quickly and enjoyed working with their customer service agents. Negative reviews frequently complain about the lack of transparency on rates and terms for those who don’t complete an application.

Aaron, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from Florida, told us: “I applied for the loan one day and it was funded within two days. Any time that I had a sticking point in the process, I would text Marco and he would respond almost instantly. He was always in contact with me through the whole process. The loan was funded, even though I didn't think I had a shot at it.”


Pentagon Federal Credit Union
  • $50,000 max loan amount
  • Up to 60-month repayment terms
  • Undisclosed minimum credit score
  • User star rating: 4.0

Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) was founded in 1935 and has grown to become the second-largest federal credit union in the United States. It offers members deposit accounts, credit cards and a variety of loan products.

You must be a member to get a loan from PenFed, but if you are, you can get a personal loan for up to $50,000 that you can use for any purpose. You can also receive funding within one to two business days if you opt for an ACH transaction or direct deposit. There are no origination fees, and the repayment terms range up to 60 months.

  • Loan amounts up to $50,000
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
  • Membership comes with other advantages
  • Must become a member to get a loan
  • Undisclosed credit score requirement

What do reviewers say?

Because PenFed is a full-service credit union, many ConsumerAffairs reviews feature comments about its other banking products. Happy customers have shared glowing reviews of PenFed's customer service and celebrated being customers for many years. Negative comments have described frustration with the time it takes to get a decision and troubles with customer service.


How to get an emergency loan

When you need to apply for an emergency loan, the more prepared you are, the quicker the application process should be. Choose a reputable lender that meets your needs, then visit its website to apply. Most applications can be completed within a few minutes, but you must provide certain information before submitting your application for approval.

You’ll often need to provide the following to complete a loan application:

  • Full name
  • Contact information (address, phone number, email address, etc.)
  • Housing status (whether you rent or own, your monthly payment and how long you've lived there)
  • Social Security number
  • Monthly income and place of employment
  • Desired loan amount

If you're facing an emergency, try to avoid taking out a payday loan or a loan against your 401(k) retirement account. Payday loans can trap borrowers in cycles of debt, and 401(k) loans can be difficult to repay if you leave your job before paying back the loan.

FAQ

How can I borrow money for an emergency?

When an emergency happens, people often use their existing credit cards to cover the expenses. If those aren't available, applying for an emergency loan is a relatively fast way to pay for unexpected bills, and you may get a better interest rate than you would with your credit cards.

What credit score do I need for an emergency loan?

The minimum credit score required for an emergency loan varies by lender. You're more likely to receive the best interest rates and terms if you have excellent credit, though. Lenders typically charge higher interest rates to borrowers with lower credit scores.

What can I use an emergency loan for?

In most cases, there are no restrictions on what you can use the money from an emergency loan on. Borrowers often apply for emergency loans when they face surprise car repair bills, unexpected medical expenses or other important expenditures they don't currently have the money for.

How long will it take to get an emergency loan?

Many online lenders can approve your loan within minutes of submitting an application. Once approved, the lender may deposit money into your account as soon as the same day.

Bottom line

When you're facing a cash crunch, an emergency loan might be the answer to your financial problems. Before applying for a loan, compare your options to find a lender that offers a low rate, no prepayment penalties and minimal fees. While your APR is generally based on your credit score, you may be able to secure a lower rate by signing up for automatic payments or choosing a shorter repayment term.

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