High on nearly any list of “bad things to do with your credit card” lies the cash advance. The only direct means of obtaining cash from your credit card, cash advances can become very costly, very quickly through a combination of high interest rates (the fees for which start accruing immediately — cash advances have no grace period) and hefty cash advance fees. That said, sometimes you simply need cash, fast.
For the most part, the only way to avoid paying cash advance fees is to go through a local credit union that provides no-fee credit cards, as cards issued by major banks all have cash advance fees. But, in many cases, becoming a credit union member can involve joining a secondary organization, or proving some other qualifying association to become eligible. And you’ll also likely need to be a resident of the region in which it is located.
For those who truly need an obtainable cash advance, the most accessible option may be to choose a low-fee card issued by a large bank, as it will have fewer extraneous qualifications.
The Best Low-Fee Cash Advance Credit Cards
Understanding the fees associated with obtaining a cash advance from a credit card is as easy as checking the terms of the card, which can usually be done from the bank’s website or by consulting your cardholder agreement. While individual banks tend to charge the same fees for each card in its offerings, this isn’t always the case, so be sure to double check the terms of the specific card.
All in all, the big-bank credit cards offering cash advances will charge fairly similar interest rates and fees for the service. As such, selecting the right card should take into account the other features, fees, and functions of the prospective credit card as much (if not more than) the actual fees charged for the cash advance.
Many of our top choices have low or average rates and fees, in combination with attractive benefits and rewards.
This card comes with one of the lowest cash advance APRs you’ll find from a credit card issued by a major bank, offering the same low APR on cash advances as it charges for new purchases. You’ll also be charged a low, flat rate of $3 per transaction for cash advances.
With low cash advance APRs and fees, any of our top five favorite Capital One cards would be a solid choice for a cash advance. Cardholders will enjoy a (relatively) low APR on cash advances, and are charged a minimum fee of $10 or 3% of the advance — whichever is higher — for the service.
That said, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers the best rewards of the bunch, with cardholders earning 2X miles per dollar spent on the card. New cardholders can also earn a large, one-time bonus for hitting the spending requirement within three months. Capital One’s miles program is popular for its airline flexibility and blackout-free redemption options.
As with the remaining picks on our list, the Discover it® cards charge a cash advance fee of $10 or 5% of the advance, whichever is greater. Discover’s range of cards also have a comparable cash advance APR. The major selling points of the Discover it® Cash Back are its valuable 5% cash back bonus categories, no annual fee, and popular Cashback Match program.
With a range of cards designed for travelers and everyday shoppers alike, it’s little wonder that more than 93 million cardholders have Chase credit cards in their pockets. Chase’s stable of cards charges the sameAPR for cash advances, and a comparable fee of $10 or 5% (whichever is greater). We like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® for its unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards, attainable signup bonus, and introductory 0% purchase APR offer.
Bank of America is one of the four largest banks in the US, alongside Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup. As far as cash advances go, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Visa offers a competitive 16.99% to 25.99% APR for cash advances, and its average minimum fee of $10 or 5% (whichever is higher) is a lower percentage than others on our list.
Additionally, Bank of America is known to send out promotional deals to its cardholders pretty regularly in the form of a check that can be used for cash advances with promotional rates, often times eliminating the fees altogether and greatly reducing the APR!
How to Get a Credit Card Cash Advance
The first step in getting a cash advance from your credit card is to check your cardholder agreement to verify the amount of cash you can withdraw. Few cards allow the cardholder to advance their full credit limit as cash; on the contrary, you’ll likely be limited to a small percentage of your limit, with the exact amount dependent upon your personal creditworthiness.
The actual process of obtaining a credit card cash advance will vary depending on the particular issuer as well as the specific method used. In general, most cards will provide three methods of obtaining a cash advance.
Perhaps the easiest method, some issuers will allow cardholders to obtain a credit card cash advance simply by showing their credit card and a photo ID at participating bank locations to withdraw cash via a teller.
The most common method of performing a cash advance is to use your credit card at a participating ATM, similar to using a debit card to withdraw funds (though a cash advance uses the bank’s funds, rather than your own, and will, of course, need to be repaid). You’ll need to set up a four-digit PIN to use your credit card at an ATM, which can be done by contacting your issuing bank’s customer service line.
Another method of obtaining a cash advance from your credit card won’t actually involve your physical card, but rather what is known as a convenience check. Similar to a traditional bank check, such as for a checking account, a credit card convenience check can be used to deposit cash advance funds directly into your bank account.
Additionally, credit card convenience checks can be used to pay a merchant directly just as you would with a regular bank check. The key distinction to remember here is that any transaction made with a convenience check will be charged cash advance rates and fees for the transaction.
One other thing to note is that a direct cash withdrawal isn’t the only type of transaction that may be considered a cash advance by your issuer.
Typically referred to as cash equivalent transactions, these purchases involve items that can be easily converted to cash, including things like money orders, wire transfers, traveler’s checks, lottery tickets, casino chips, and certain types of gift cards.
Furthermore, since cash advances are exempt from the credit card grace period, you’ll also start accruing any interest fees as soon as the transaction is made, instead of after the first billing cycle, no matter which method you use to make the transaction.
Regardless of how the fees are accrued, issuers are required to provide information on how they actually calculate your fees. If you have any concerns that a particular transaction type will result in a cash advance fee or APR on the balance, you can check your cardholder agreement or contact your issuing bank directly for more information.
Cash Advance Alternatives
Although cash advances can be a convenient source of quick cash, the associated costs can make that cash a whole lot less convenient. Those who are considering a cash advance should consider all their options before performing the transaction, particularly determining if the funds can be obtained through another, less expensive method.
For instance, in cases where cash is not physically needed, a better option may be to simply charge the purchase to your credit card as normal. Not only will this allow you to avoid paying pricey cash advance fees on your transaction, but you can also enjoy your card’s interest rate grace period, potentially avoiding interest, as well.
Even if the balance must be carried beyond the grace period, purchase APRs are typically much lower than cash advance APRs, making them less expensive to carry. In fact, qualified consumers can find a variety of credit cards that offer attractive introductory 0% APR offers, meaning new purchases can be interest-free for a year or more.
If cash is a requirement but your financing needs are not immediate, your best option is likely to take out a personal installment loan. Designed to be repaid over time, personal loans usually have much lower interest rates than even the purchase APR of your average credit card, making them the most affordable solution in many cases.
Of course, the most effective way to avoid using a cash advance is to have a proper emergency fund established before an urgent or unexpected financial event occurs. While perhaps easier said than done, it’s always best to avoid accruing any kind of debt, regardless of the interest rate you’re charged for it, than to rely on credit lines of any kind to see you through an emergency event.
Think Carefully Before Taking On a Cash Advance
Our society is becoming increasingly digital — and taking our finances along for the ride. However, some of life’s occasions still call for cash. In these circumstances, it can be tempting to rely on the ease and convenience of obtaining a credit card cash advance to meet your financial obligation.
Unfortunately, cash advances are a costly way to cover expenses and should only be performed after careful consideration. Specifically, those considering a cash advance should research the exact interest and service fees they’ll be charged for the convenience of a cash advance. These fees can vary based not only on the particular issuing bank but may also depend on the individual card you plan to use.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.