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What is a credit card cash advance?
Before you take out a cash advance on your credit card, it’s important to understand the fees and risks involved, as well as the benefits.
A credit card cash advance is a withdrawal of cash from your credit card account. Essentially, you’re borrowing against your credit card to put cash in your pocket. However, there are costs to taking a credit card cash advance and, in some cases, limits on the amount you can withdraw. Here’s what you need to know.
You may be able to go to your bank or an ATM and use your credit card to take out money. While the process may seem similar to withdrawing money with a debit card, what you’re really doing is taking a cash advance on your credit card. Unlike a debit card withdrawal, where you’re accessing your own funds, with a cash advance, your credit card company is essentially lending you money and charging your account. The charge will likely cost you; cash advances generally have a transaction fee and a higher annual percentage rate (APR). Additionally, you will likely be subject to a limit on how much you can advance; this is called a cash credit line and is likely only a portion of your total credit line.
Using your card for cash isn’t the only form of cash advance, though. Some credit card companies send customers checks in the mail linked to their accounts—known as convenience checks. If you deposited them, the transaction would be considered a form of cash advance and you’d be subject to the cash advance APR and may be subject to transaction fees.
When to consider using a cash advance
Cash advances can be an important source of funds in an emergency. While you don’t want to plan on using cash advances regularly, you might use them if you are short of funds and unable to charge an expense. However, always be sure to consider all of your options given the costs.
Factors to consider
It’s a good idea to consult your credit card agreement to make sure you know the rules and fees. Particularly, look for and consider:
- Transaction fee: You will pay a transaction fee for credit card cash advances.
- APR: The APR for cash advances is often higher than for credit card purchases.
- Interest-free period: Cash advances often begin accruing interest at the time of the withdrawal, meaning there’s no grace period.
Ways to limit the fees associated with a cash advance
- Understand your transaction fees: Some transaction fees are a percentage of the overall advance; in that case, you could limit the fee by withdrawing only as much as you need. Other transaction fees may be a flat rate or a combination of a flat rate and percentage of the transaction. In this case, if you take all the cash you think you’ll need at once, instead of making multiple smaller transactions, you only pay the flat fee once.
- Plan your repayment: Unlike standard credit card purchases, where there’s a grace period between the purchase and the payment due date when interest kicks in, cash transactions, such as an advance, generally begin accruing interest immediately. That means paying off your cash advance in a timely manner is crucial to saving you money long term.
How to avoid taking a cash advance
- Make purchases with your credit card: If you have the option, you can often limit interest and transaction fees by charging purchases to your card rather than getting a cash advance.
- Avoid unnecessary purchases: Ask yourself if the purchase you intend to make with your cash advance is worth the extra fees or if it can wait.
- Monitor your balance: If you’re worried about running low on funds, it’s a good idea to keep track of your account balance so you’re not caught by surprise. If you bank online, you can generally set up text or email alerts to notify you if your balance drops below a set amount. If you’re a Bank of America customer, you can sign up for mobile alerts.
- Build an emergency fund: Occasionally you’ll need to pay for things that aren’t in your monthly budget, such as car repairs. Build an emergency fund when things are going well, and you may be able to avoid having to use credit card cash advances for these transactions.
For more information about bank cash advances, direct deposit and check cash advances, refer to your credit card agreement or your credit card statement. You can also contact your credit card company for more information.