7 Ways to Borrow Money ASAP

By Matt Frankel | Updated March 29, 2023
reading time 4 min read
Young woman wearing glasses using an ipad to find places to access money

If you need money quickly —say, for an unexpected home or car repair or medical expense—there might be more than one viable borrowing option available to you. Here are seven ways you might be able to borrow money ASAP if you need it.

Of course, not all ways to borrow money will be available or desirable to access quick cash for everyone. But the hope is that the list can help you evaluate your options, so you can choose the best ways to borrow for your needs.

1. Emergency savings

This isn’t technically a way to borrow money, but if you need cash for an unexpected expense, the ideal way to get it is from savings. In fact, the central goal of having an emergency fund is to be able to access money when you need it without having to borrow money or sell something. However, more than half of Americans have under $1,000 in their emergency savings, so this isn’t an option for everyone, especially for large unplanned expenses.

2. Personal loans

Personal loan lending has evolved by leaps and bounds over the past decade or so and can be a great way to borrow money ASAP in many situations. It used to be an uphill battle filled with several bank visits, collateral documentation, and more to get a loan that wasn’t backed by a home or vehicle, but the process has improved. There are some excellent companies that facilitate personal loans quickly and easily, and while some fund instantaneously, many personal lenders will send your money the next business day.

It’s also important not to ignore this borrowing option if you have less-than-perfect credit. There are some excellent personal loan companies—including lending marketplaces like Upstart—that look beyond an applicant’s credit score and focus on their entire situation when making personal loan decisions.

3. Credit card cash advance

Most credit cards allow account holders to borrow money quickly in the form of cash advances. Your cash advance limit might be lower than your standard credit limit, but there’s usually some ability to withdraw cash.

The main drawback is that credit card cash advances tend to be a very expensive way to borrow money ASAP. Credit cards are known for their high interest rates to begin with, and most have a separate (higher) interest rate for cash advances—often 29% APR or higher.

One possible exception is if your credit card provider offers promotional cash advances. For example, you might receive checks in the mail linked to your credit card account that offer 0% APR financing for a certain period of time, in which case it may make more sense as an option if you need to borrow money quickly.

4. Home equity loan or HELOC

If you own your home, tapping into your equity can be a smart way to borrow money ASAP when you need it. A home equity loan allows you to borrow a set amount of money with a specific repayment term, and is often referred to as a second mortgage. On the other hand, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) gives you the ability to borrow money against your home’s equity, up to a certain limit. HELOCs generally have variable interest rates and low minimum payments.

The primary reason to use a home equity loan or HELOC when you need to borrow money is that it is usually a lower-interest form of borrowing than alternative types of loans or credit cards. The reason behind this is the same one that explains the difference between average mortgage interest rates, which are about 6.5% as of this writing, and average credit card interest rates, which are about 24%. Since the loan is backed by the value of your home, it represent

5. Gig economy/freelancing

We get it. The title of this article is about ways to borrow money ASAP. But it’s also important to explore your non-borrowing options as well. 

Loans can certainly be effective financial tools, but there are more options than ever when it comes to picking up additional work if you need money. You could drive for a ride-sharing service, fill orders for a grocery delivery service, do on-demand food delivery, or pick up other gigs. Or, if your job skills translate well to freelance work, there are marketplaces that feature thousands, if not millions, of freelancing opportunities you could explore.

6. 401(k) loans

If you have a retirement plan such as a 401(k) at work, you might not realize that most of these plans allow participants to borrow money from their account. Now, the specifics of 401(k) loans depend on your specific plan, but you can generally borrow up to 50% of your account value. You’ll pay yourself back over time, with interest, through payroll deductions, and the interest rates on 401(k) loans tend to be far lower than what you’d get from a credit card or most other forms of borrowing.

Now, there are drawbacks to borrowing money against your 401(k) balance. Specifically, the money you borrow won’t be invested for your retirement and could set your account back by losing years of compounding power. Think of it this way—what if you borrow half of your 401(k) tomorrow and the stock market proceeds to rise by 50% over the next couple of years? You’d miss out on gains. However, if you understand the downside risk, a 401(k) loan could be a valuable way to borrow money ASAP for an unexpected expense.

7. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding isn’t the best option for all situations, but if you have an emergency expense, such as a medical emergency, and don’t have any other viable options, it can be a smart way to attempt to raise the money you need from your social circle and family.

Not an exhaustive list

To be sure, this isn’t intended as an exhaustive list and there could be other ways to borrow money quickly that apply in your situation. For example, depending on where you live and the nature of why you need money, there may be financial assistance programs available to you.

However, the methods discussed in this article are usable by a high percentage of people and are generally more desirable than selling things, going to pawn shops, or obtaining payday loans, all of which can have unwanted adverse effects on your long-term financial well-being and overall happiness. 

This content is general in nature and is provided for informational purposes only. Upstart is not a financial advisor and does not offer financial planning services. This content may contain references to products and services offered through Upstart’s credit marketplace.

About the Author

Matt Frankel

Matt Frankel is a Certified Financial Planner® whose mission is to create a more financially informed world. Matt has had more than 10,000 published articles throughout his career, and won a 2017 SABEW Best in Business award for his coverage of the tax reform legislation. His work has been featured in The Motley Fool, CNBC, MSNBC, Nasdaq, USA Today, and many other outlets. He can regularly be seen on Motley Fool Live, and he has made guest appearances on NPR, BBC, Cheddar News, just to name a few. Matt is based in the Columbia, South Carolina, area where he lives with his wife Kathy, two amazing kids, and two high-maintenance dogs.

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