Many Americans were already living paycheck to paycheck before the COVID-19 pandemic. But as of spring 2020, it’s safe to say even more U.S. consumers have found themselves in a precarious financial position. According to, nearly six out of 10 Americans say they’re living paycheck to paycheck. This means any interruption in work — like an unpaid furlough or layoff — can leave them unable to keep up with monthly expenses. Anyone who’s been in this situation knows how stressful it can be. It’s also very difficult to save when most or all of your income is going toward living expenses and debts, leaving you with a thin cushion if/when a financial emergency pops up. A credit card cash advance may sound tempting when money is tight — whether you need it to cover a one-time emergency, or you’ve just fallen behind on routine bills. Here’s what to know about credit card cash advances.


You Can Often Use a Credit Card at the ATM


We most often associate ATMs with debit cards, but some borrowers may be able to use their credit cards. Rather than drawing from a checking account, the money will count against your account’s credit limit. As U.S. News & World Report outlines, cards typically carry an advance limit that’s a portion of the card’s maximum. So, a card with a $5,000 maximum purchase limit could have an advance limit in the ballpark of $1,500 to $2,000 dollars. Not every card allows cash advances, nor is there a universal fee or interest rate for borrowing money in such a way. You’ll need to dig into your card agreement or talk to your card issuer to find details like these.


Credit Card Advances Can Be Quite Expensive


While a cash advance might do in a pinch, it’s best to avoid getting into the habit of using them. Why? Because, all factors considered, it can be a very expensive way to borrow money. NerdWallet outlines three expenses associated with cash advances on credit cards:

•ATM/bank fees: You may have to pay a few dollars for the privilege of using an ATM.

•Cash advance fees: Your credit card company may either charge a flat fee (like $10) or a percentage of the amount you borrow (like five percent).

•Interest charges: Your credit card issuer may actually charge a higher annual percentage rate (APR) for advances than they do for regular purchases. Furthermore, advances can start racking up interest right away rather than allowing a grace period. Credit card debt already tends to carry a higher average interest rate than other kinds of debt, like personal loans. In addition to enabling interest to accumulate quickly it compounds. This means your original balance and the interest it accrues accumulate more interest, which increases your balance and attracts even more interest — infinitely. This helps explain why many Freedom Debt Relief reviews and other online accounts of dealing with credit card debt mention debt spiraling out of control — despite borrowers’ best efforts to pay them down. Remitting the minimum amount due does little to chip away at rapidly growing interest. As a result, people often find themselves becoming mired deeper and deeper in debt.


Alternatives to Credit Card Cash Advances


It’s worth looking into alternatives to credit card cash advances, like taking out a personal loan from a bank or asking for a salary advance at work. Although an advance may be less risky than, say, an ultra-high-interest payday loan, it’s still wise to exhaust your other options first. Credit card cash advances allow borrowers to get money at the ATM against their credit limit, but this service does cost money. In other words, that convenience comes at a huge price.