Best Emergency Loans for Bad Credit

Upgrade offers low credit score requirements and flexible loan amounts

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Financial emergencies come in many shapes and sizes. Perhaps your car breaks down, and the repairs you need to get it back on the road are expensive. Other financial emergencies could stem from a job loss, an illness, a funeral, or any number of unexpected circumstances. If you’re facing one of these situations without enough savings to get through it, and you need to borrow money in a hurry, an emergency loan could help you cover the cost. 

Finding the right loan can be stressful when you need fast access to cash, but if you have the added complication of bad credit, getting an emergency loan may seem impossible. Fortunately, that’s not the case. You may still have emergency loan options even if you have credit problems.

Emergency Loans for Bad Credit of January 2022

Below are Investopedia's top-rated lenders, loan amount and availability may vary by state.

Best Overall : Upgrade

Investopedia's Rating
4.5

Upgrade
  • APR: 5.94% - 35.97%
  • Days To Receive Loan: 1 Days
  • Loan Amount: $1,000 - $50,000
Why We Chose It

Upgrade can help people with credit scores as low as 550 get approved for emergency loans of up to $50,000 with long repayment terms of 84 months. Plus, if you need help qualifying or want a better rate, Upgrade might offer you a secured personal loan instead of an unsecured loan, a feature that sets it apart from the competition.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Credit score requirements are low

  • Maximum repayment terms are long

  • Secured personal loan option is available

Cons
  • Unavailable to residents of the District of Columbia and West Virginia

  • Must meet lots of criteria to get lowest APRs

  • Origination fees of up to 8%

Overview

Not only is Upgrade able to approve people with credit scores as low as 550 for emergency loans, but it may offer you a secured option if you can’t qualify without collateral or you’d like a better rate. These value-added features make it stand out from the other emergency loans we reviewed. 

Upgrade offers loans in the vast majority of U.S. states, with the exception of West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Eligible borrowers can get a personal loan of $1,000 to $50,000, with terms of 24 to 84 months and APRs of 5.94% to 35.97%. These rates are inclusive of origination fees of 2.9% to 8%. 

As is typical, Upgrade’s lowest APRs are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. It also offers an APR discount to those who enroll in autopay and use their loan proceeds to directly pay off some existing debt. If approved, you can get funding as soon as one business day.

Read our full Upgrade personal loans review.

Best Urgent Loan : LendingPoint

Investopedia's Rating
4.4

Lending point logo
  • APR: 9.99% - 35.99%
  • Days To Receive Loan: 1 Days
  • Loan Amount: $2,000 - $35,600
Why We Chose It

If you need emergency loan funding quickly, LendingPoint can give you a loan offer in seconds, without impacting your credit. It also offers funding as soon as the day after you’re approved, which is fast relative to the competition.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Minimum credit score is low

  • Next-day funding available

  • Check if you qualify without impacting your credit score

Cons
  • Origination fees of up to 6%

  • APR range is relatively high

  • Loans aren’t available in Nevada and West Virginia

Overview

LendingPoint is a great option if you need an emergency loan quickly. It offers a simple application that allows you to see the rates and terms you might qualify for in seconds without hurting your credit. This is because it uses a soft credit check to see if you’re likely to qualify, though a hard credit inquiry will be used if you decide to proceed with the loan. If approved, you can get funding as soon as the next business day, which is fast compared to much of the competition. 

LendingPoint offers loans of $2,000 to $36,500 with terms of 24 to 60 months. You may pay an origination fee of 0% to 6%, which is factored into its APR range—9.99% to 35.99%. Although LendingPoint APRs are relatively high, you might qualify with a credit score as low as 580. Plus, LendingPoint has a large lending footprint, offering personal loans in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Its loans aren’t currently available in Nevada and West Virginia. 

Read our full LendingPoint personal loans review.

Best for Repayment Flexibility : Avant

Investopedia's Rating
4.4

Avant
  • APR: 9.95% - 35.99%
  • Days To Receive Loan: 1 Days
  • Loan Amount: $2,000 - $35,000
Why We Chose It

If you need more emergency loan funds in the future or want to see if you qualify for a better rate, Avant may allow you to refinance your loan. This type of repayment flexibility isn’t offered by many of its competitors.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Loan can be refinanced for better rates and terms

  • Pre-qualification available

  • Next-day funding available

Cons
  • Only available in 42 states

  • Origination fee of up to 4.75% may be charged

  • Maximum loan amount of $35,000 is relatively small

Overview

Besides allowing applicants with credit scores as low as 580 to potentially qualify for an emergency loan, one thing that sets Avant apart from competitors is that it offers loan refinancing. This is beneficial if you want to extend or shorten your repayment term, get more money, or see if you can qualify for a lower interest rate. Avant offers loans ranging from $2,000 to $35,000 with flexible repayment terms of 24 to 60 months to borrowers in 42 states. 

Avant charges an origination (administration) fee of up to 4.75% if you decide to proceed with the loan. This fee is factored into the loan’s APR range of 9.95% to 35.99%. Although this APR range is relatively high, the ability to get approved for a loan even if you have bad credit is a plus. Avant will use a soft credit check to see if you’re likely to qualify for a loan (a hard inquiry will be submitted if you decide to proceed). If approved, you can get funded as soon as the next business day. 

Read our full Avant personal loans review.

Best for Low-Interest Rates : First Tech Federal Credit Union

Investopedia's Rating
4.3

First Tech Federal Credit Union Logo
  • APR: 6.70% - 18.00%
  • Days To Receive Loan: 0 Days
  • Loan Amount: $500 - $50,000
Why We Chose It

First Tech Federal Credit Union offers some of the lowest rates on emergency loans of the lenders we evaluated, even for people with less-than-perfect credit.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • No origination fees

  • Minimum loan amount is low

  • Same-day funding available

Cons
  • Must be a credit union member

  • Credit score requirements aren’t disclosed

  • Membership criteria is more exclusive than some competitors

Overview

The rates offered by First Tech Federal Credit Union on emergency loans are lower than most of the competition, ranging from 6.7% to 18%. Plus, you won’t pay an origination fee. To apply, you need to be a First Tech Federal Credit Union member. Membership is open to people in all 50 U.S. states working for certain employers (e.g., Microsoft or Google). You may also be eligible for membership if you belong to the Financial Fitness Association (cost $8 a year), are related to a member, or meet other criteria. 

Although First Tech Federal Credit Union doesn’t disclose its minimum credit scores, you don’t need to have perfect credit to qualify. Rather, it will evaluate your overall creditworthiness during the loan decision process. If approved, you can get a loan from $500 to $50,000 with repayment terms of 24 to 84 months. You may get funding the same day, but it could take up to two to three days.

Credit unions, in general, offer some of the best rates on personal loans. If you aren’t eligible to become a First Tech Federal Credit Union member, see if you’re eligible for membership at your local credit union. Or, for members of the armed forces, Navy Federal Credit Union also offers low rates on personal loans to people without perfect credit.

Read our full First Tech Federal Credit Union personal loans review.

Best Credit Union Emergency Loan : PenFed

Investopedia's Rating
3.8

PenFed Credit Union
  • APR: 4.99% - 17.99%
  • Days To Receive Loan: 1 Days
  • Loan Amount: $600 - $50,000
Why We Chose It

Not only is PenFed’s membership open to anyone in the United States, but even people with less-than-perfect credit could get qualified for one of its emergency personal loans. Plus, you can apply for a PenFed personal loan before you become a member.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Anyone in the U.S. can become a member

  • APRs are relatively low

  • No origination fees

Cons
  • Personal loans only offered to credit union members

  • Relatively high credit score requirements

  • Repayment terms up to 60 months only

Overview

PenFed Credit Union is our pick for the best credit union for emergency loans for bad credit. It’s simple to become a member, and you don’t need a membership to see if you’ll qualify for a loan. Plus, you might be able to get approved with a credit score as low as 620. 

Most credit unions restrict membership to individuals who meet certain criteria, such as living in a certain place or working for a specific employer. PenFed Credit Union membership is open to people in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as well as individuals living on military bases in Guam, Okinawa, and Puerto Rico. 

Through PenFed, you can get a personal loan of as little as $600 up to $50,000, with repayment terms ranging from 12 to 60 months. If approved, you may get funded as soon as the next business day. Plus, PenFed doesn’t charge origination fees, and it offers relatively low APRs ranging from 4.99% to 17.99%.

The maximum interest rate credit unions can charge on loans is 18% through at least March 10, 2023. This interest rate ceiling, combined with the flexible underwriting criteria used by most credit unions, means you may be able to get a lower interest on a personal loan from a credit union than another type of lender. Even so, shop around to ensure you find the best possible rates and terms.

Read our full PenFed Credit Union personal loans review.

Best for Limited Credit History : Upstart

Investopedia's Rating
3.0

Upstart logo
  • APR: 3.22% - 35.99%
  • Days To Receive Loan: 1 Days
  • Loan Amount: $1,000 - $50,000
Why We Chose It

Compared to competitors, Upstart offers less stringent qualification criteria for its emergency loans. It might approve applicants with credit scores as low as 300 or those with a limited credit history.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Next-day funding available

  • Credit scores not necessarily required

  • Debt-to-income (DTI) requirements are high

Cons
  • Has origination fees

  • Maximum APR is relatively high

  • Repayment terms go up to 60 months only

Overview

Unlike much of the competition, Upstart could potentially approve borrowers for emergency loans with a limited credit history or with a score as low as 300, so long as its other creditworthiness criteria are met. These criteria are flexible and include an evaluation of your credit history, debt-to-income ratio, and personal information—for instance, you must have a Social Security Number and Upstart loans aren’t available in Iowa and West Virginia. 

To get approved for a personal loan with Upstart, your credit report can’t show any currently past due accounts, and you can’t have any bankruptcies or public records on your credit report (excluding paid tax liens and paid civil judgments) in the last 12 months. Also, there must be less than six inquiries on your credit report in the last six months. Your debt-to-income ratio (excluding rent and mortgage payments) generally can’t exceed 45% to 50% of pre-tax income.

You may be able to get approved by Upstart for a personal loan of $1,000 to $50,000 with terms of 36 to 60 months even if you have bad credit. If approved, you could get funded as soon as the next business day. You can expect to pay an APR ranging from 3.22% to 35.99%, including an origination fee of 1% to 6%.

Read our full Upstart personal loans review.

Compare the Emergency Loans for Bad Credit of January 2022

Overall Rating Best For APR* Origination Fee Late Payment Fee Time to Receive Loan Loan Amount Latest Repayment Joint Application Allows Cosigner
Reset All
Upgrade
4.5
Best Overall 5.94% - 35.97% 2.90% - 8.00% $0.00 - $10.00 1 Days $1,000 - $50,000 84 Months Yes Yes Learn More
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LendingPoint
4.4
Best Urgent Loan 9.99% - 35.99% 0.00% - 6.00% $0.00 - $0.00 1 Days $2,000 - $35,600 60 Months - - Learn More
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Avant
4.4
Best for Repayment Flexibility 9.95% - 35.99% 0.00% - 4.75% $25.00 - $25.00 1 Days $2,000 - $35,000 60 Months - - Learn More
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First Tech Federal Credit Union
4.3
Best for Low-Interest Rates 6.70% - 18.00% 0.00% - 0.00% $15.00 - $15.00 0 Days $500 - $50,000 84 Months Yes Yes Learn More
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PenFed
3.8
Best Credit Union Emergency Loan 4.99% - 17.99% 0.00% - 0.00% $29.00 - $29.00 1 Days $600 - $50,000 60 Months Yes - Learn More
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Upstart
3.0
Best for Limited Credit History 3.22% - 35.99% 0.00% - 8.00% - 1 Days $1,000 - $50,000 60 Months - - Learn More
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*APR ranges for some companies include a discount for automatic payments or existing bank customers.

Final Verdict

Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to get a personal loan even if you have bad credit. This is why it’s important to consider all loan options before turning to high-cost, predatory loans like payday loans when you face an emergency. You may be able to find a more affordable option, even if you have bad credit.

We chose Upgrade as our top lender for the best emergency loan for bad credit because it offers a competitive rate of 5.97% to 29.99%, loans up to $50,000, and repayment terms up to 84 months. Plus, you could qualify with a credit score as low as 550 and you have the option to apply with a co-borrower. What’s more, Upgrade can get you the emergency loan funds you need as quickly as one business day after your loan is approved. 

Guide for Choosing the Best Emergency Loans for Bad Credit

Do You Qualify for an Emergency Loan If You Have Bad Credit? 

Having bad credit doesn’t mean you can’t qualify for an emergency loan. Rather, you’ll need to be able to show that you have income sufficient to repay the loan, usually measured by your debt-to-income ratio. Plus, your credit reports will need to show that whatever caused your bad credit score has been resolved (e.g., you’re not delinquent on any of your loans and you’ve resolved any tax liens or other judgments.)

If your credit issues haven’t been resolved or you don’t have enough income to repay the loan on your own, then you might consider applying for an emergency loan with a co-applicant. This is because you’ll be able to rely on your co-applicant’s good credit history rather than your own to get qualified. If you choose this option, make sure to repay the loan or you could damage your relationship with your co-applicant. Remember, delinquencies will affect their credit scores. 

Comparing Emergency Loan Lenders for Bad Credit

When considering an emergency loan, some of the most important factors to consider include how much the loan will cost, the terms you can get, and how quickly you can apply and get funded. Some of the most important factors to consider when comparing emergency loan lenders for bad credit are:

  • How much the emergency loan will cost. The cost of an emergency loan is made up of the interest rate you’re charged and the fees you’ll pay to get the loan. A loan’s APR, or annual percentage rate, represents the sum of these two costs. For this reason, the APR is the most useful cost to evaluate when comparing lenders.
  • What terms you can get on the loan. Before choosing a lender, ensure it offers the repayment terms you need. Shorter repayment terms will result in higher payments since you’ll pay the loan off more quickly. This means you’ll also end up paying fewer interest charges over time. Look for a lender that offers the shortest repayment term you can comfortably afford.
  • How quickly you can apply and get funded. It’s also important to evaluate how easy it is to apply for the loan and how quickly you’ll get funded. These two factors are often related since lenders that offer an easy online application process may also offer fast funding. Many of the best lenders offer approval in minutes and funding in as few as one to three business days (sometimes even the same day).

How to Apply for an Emergency Loan if You Have Bad Credit

Before applying for an emergency loan, first gather your personally identifiable information (e.g., Social Security Number, date of birth, address), income information, and details about the funding you need (e.g., loan amount and purpose). This will make the application process easier, as lenders will require you to provide this information. 

You’ll usually submit a preliminary application with basic details to see if you can qualify, which won’t affect your credit if the lender uses a soft credit check. The lender will tell you if you can qualify and the rates and terms you might be able to receive. If the rates and terms are acceptable to you, you’ll proceed with the full application. A hard credit inquiry will be performed, which will affect your credit scores, and you may need to provide additional documentation, like pay stubs or bank statements.

If you’re approved for a loan, you’ll need to review and accept the final loan terms. Then, the lender will send you the funds in the manner specified in your application. For instance, depositing the funds into your checking account or disbursing the funds directly to your creditors. Finally, you’ll need to set up your account via an online portal or mobile app so you can manage your loan.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is an Emergency Loan?

An emergency loan is a term used to describe several different methods of accessing cash for sudden, unexpected expenses. One of the most common types of emergency loans—and often one of the most affordable options—is a personal loan. However, an emergency loan may come in the form of a cash advance, a high-cost payday loan (avoid these if possible), a loan from a friend or family member, or a lower-cost payday alternative loan (PAL) from a credit union.

Can I Get an Emergency Loan With Bad Credit?

Borrowing options do tend to be more limited when you have bad credit. Still, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically out of luck. You may be able to qualify for an emergency loan even with bad credit. 

It is important to have realistic expectations when trying to borrow money with credit challenges, especially where cost and borrowing limitations are concerned. Due to the fact that there’s more risk involved for the lender, emergency loans for those with bad credit can be expensive. 

Higher APRs and fees are common with bad-credit emergency loans. And as a bad-credit borrower, you may not be able to borrow as much money as someone with a good credit score. On the bright side, there are smart strategies you can use to improve your credit rating over time. 

Where Can You Get an Emergency Loan If You Have Bad Credit?

Multiple types of lenders offer emergency loans for bad credit. Some of the most common options include: 

  • Online lenders
  • Credit unions
  • Traditional banks
  • Credit card companies (cash advance)
  • Relatives and friends
  • Payday lenders

Remember, just because a borrowing option is available doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. Credit card cash advances, for example, are notoriously expensive and might damage your credit score by driving up your credit utilization rate

It’s also a good idea to avoid payday loans and title loans whenever possible. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warns that the average 2-week payday loan features a steep APR that’s equivalent to nearly 400%.

Will an Emergency Loan Impact My Credit Score?

Some types of emergency loans can affect your credit score, while others will not. Whether one does or not depends on if it shows up on your credit report with Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian.

If a lender doesn’t report your account to the credit bureaus, the loan won’t influence your credit score—unless you default and a collection agency adds the bad debt to your credit reports at a later date. However, if a lender does share your account details with the credit bureaus, that’s a different story.

Banks, credit unions, and online lenders commonly report account details to the credit bureaus. Payday lenders and title lenders generally do not.

When a lender reports an emergency loan to the credit bureaus, the way you manage the account dictates whether it will help or hurt your credit score. If you make your payments on time, the account may benefit your credit score in the long run. However, if you make late payments or become past due on your debt, that emergency loan could hurt your credit score instead.

How Should You Choose an Emergency Loan?

When a lender receives a loan application, it generally starts the consideration process with some research. By checking your credit report and score, the lender can weigh the risk of taking you on as a customer. 

Likewise, you should do your own homework anytime you’re thinking about taking on new debt. You should always review the pros and cons of any financing option before you borrow money—even in an emergency. 

Before you choose a bad-credit emergency loan, here are some important questions to ask:  

  • Can I afford a new monthly payment? 
  • Does this lender offer loans to borrowers with bad credit? 
  • What does the lender charge for emergency loans (APR range)? 
  • Are there additional fees I should be aware of? 
  • How long will I have to repay the loan? 
  • Is there a prequalification option to check my potential rate and loan offer in advance? 
  • How soon will I receive the funds if I qualify? 

Repeat the questions above as you research multiple emergency loan options. Even when you’re in a rush, it’s best to compare several lenders to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your situation. 

How Fast Can I Get an Emergency Loan?

When you need an emergency loan, you usually must access cash in a hurry. Thankfully, there are numerous lenders that offer fast funding to qualified borrowers. Some personal loan lenders may even deposit the funds into your bank account the same day you’re approved for financing. 

On the other hand, loan funding can sometimes take several days or even up to a few weeks. Certain lenders may take longer to process your loan application or release your funds than others. There’s also a chance that your personal bank or credit union may hold the funds a lender deposits into your account for a few days before you can access the money. 

How Can You Prepare for an Emergency Expense?

A 2020 Federal Reserve study revealed that more than 25% of adults don’t have the cash to cover a $400 emergency expense, so if you currently don’t have money set aside to handle unexpected expenses, you’re far from alone.9 Creating an emergency fund now is the best way to prepare for surprise expenses in the future. The following five tips can help you get started. 

  1. Track your spending – Challenge yourself to record every dollar you spend for a month, including small cash purchases. 
  2. Create a realistic budget based on your monthly bills and spending habits – You can use convenient budgeting software or even a simple pen and paper to get the job done. 
  3. Find ways to cut your current expenses – As you free up extra cash in your budget, you can use it to pay down debt (creating even more opportunities for savings) and to save. 
  4. Open a separate, dedicated savings account to tuck away money for emergencies – High-yield savings accounts can help your money grow faster. 
  5. Make a habit of saving some money every pay period – Remember, it’s fine if you need to start small. 

Are There Alternatives to Emergency Loans?

Emergency loans can offer much-needed relief in certain situations, yet taking on more debt might not be the best solution if you’re already struggling financially. Before filling out a new loan application, examine your budget to ensure you can afford the monthly payments. If an additional debt is going to overextend you financially, an alternative approach might be a better choice.

A couple of alternatives to emergency loans include negotiating hardship payment plans with your creditors or asking your employer for a paycheck advance. If these options don’t work for you, then you could possibly get a cash advance from your credit card issuer (use caution as these are expensive) or a payday alternative loan (PAL) of $200 to $1,000 from a credit union. PALs may be a good option as they must be repaid within one to six months and the APRs can’t exceed 28%.

Although you may be tempted to get a payday loan when you’re facing an emergency, use extreme caution before resorting to this funding option. Not only is this type of loan very expensive but you might end up getting stuck in a payday borrowing cycle that’s difficult to escape.

The Bottom Line 

Facing an emergency expense without the funds to cover it can be a stressful experience. If you have bad credit, which makes borrowing money more difficult and more expensive, you may feel even more hopeless. The best thing you can do in this situation is to take a deep breath and consider the options that are available to you. 

If you decide to borrow money, compare multiple emergency loan offers to make sure you find the best solution for your situation. Then, once you recover, make a plan to put yourself in a better position in the future. You can work to build an emergency fund (slowly, if necessary) and improve your credit. Both of these moves can help you the next time unexpected expenses strike. 

Methodology

Our team evaluated 38 lenders and collected 1,520 data points –– 40 data points per company –– before selecting our top choices. We weighed more than 20 criteria and gave a higher weight to those with a more significant impact to potential borrowers. 

The top picks were selected based on factors like membership requirements (weighted 20%), average fixed APR (weighted 15%), and average origination fees (weighted 10%). 

But we realize borrowers demand less-quantifiable factors when choosing a lender. We also took into account the flexibility of repayment terms, helpful features like prequalification, and whether a co-signer or joint applications are permitted to ensure borrowers get the best possible experience.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
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