If you have a credit card, your financial institution has likely mailed you checks for cash advance purposes. Understanding this aspect of your available credit is incredibly important, as it can be much more expensive than simply making a purchase.
Taking a cash advance gives you money now in cases where you can’t use a credit card (perhaps paying rent), or have otherwise maxed out your purchasing power. Many financial institutions will charge you a fee between 1% and 5% just for making this transaction.
But some cards have no fees for cash advances.
The catch is, interest starts accruing immediately on cash advances, meaning that even if you pay your statement balance in full by the due date, you will still incur interest charges in the interim. So if you do a cash advance, try to pay it off as quickly as possible, even before the due date, to minimize the interest you pay.
Best Cards with No Cash Advance Fees
These credit unions offer no cash advance fees on all their credit cards. While you’ll pay interest from the day you take out the cash, as a last resort it’s a better bet than paying an upfront fee. These are all credit unions anyone can join, but many of them require excellent credit to qualify for a card.
Pentagon Federal Credit Union, commonly known as PenFed, offers five different credit cards with no cash advance fees. None of them charge a foreign transaction fee, and all interest rates are the same for purchases and cash advances.
Anyone can join PenFed Credit Union simply by making a one-time donation of $14 to Voices for America’s Troops, or a one-time $15 donation to the National Military Family Association.
- PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card
- PenFed Promise Visa Card
- PenFed Gold Visa Card
- PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card
- PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa
American 1 Credit Union offers four different credit cards with no cash advance fees. Interest rates on purchases and cash advances are the same, though there is a foreign transaction fee of 1%.
Anyone can join American 1 Credit Union by joining Community 1 Cooperative. You pay $3 for membership, which includes a litany of discounts on consumer products and services across an array of industries.
- American 1 In-House Visa
CapEd Federal Credit Union offers one card with no cash advance fees. It also carries the same interest rate for purchases and cash advances, but does have a foreign transaction fee that varies depending on if the transaction is in USD or requires conversion into a foreign currency.
To join CapEd, all you have to do is make a one-time $20 donation to the Idaho CapEd Foundation.
- Visa Platinum Card by CapEd Federal Credit Union
First Tech Federal Credit Union offers three different cards that come with no cash advance fees. The interest rates on these transactions will be higher than the interest rates on regular purchases, however. There are no foreign transaction fees.
Anyone can join First Tech through membership in the Financial Fitness Association, which costs $8 per year, or a digital membership to the Computer History Museum, which will run you $15 per year.
- Odyssey Rewards World Elite MasterCard
- Platinum Rewards MasterCard
- Choice Rewards World MasterCard
- Platinum Secured MasterCard
ISU Credit Union offers two cards that have zero cash advance fees. Interest rates on cash advances are higher than those on regular purchases for the first year only, and there is a foreign transaction fee of 1%.
To join ISU Credit Union if you don’t live, work or study in Southeastern Idaho, you can qualify through paid membership at a number of Southeastern Idaho organizations including humane societies and educational cause groups.
- Platinum MasterCard by ISU Credit Union
- Platinum Plus MasterCard by ISU Credit Union
Mid Illini Credit Union offers two different cards that come with no cash advance fees. Interest rates for purchases and cash advances are identical, and there is a foreign transaction fee of 1%.
Anyone can join Mid Illini Credit Union by making a one-time $1 donation to Dollars for Scholars, an organization that provides scholarships to students of McLean County, Illinois.
- Visa Classic Card by Mid Illini Credit Union
- Visa Platinum Card by Mid Illini Credit Union
Stanford Federal Credit Union offers a singular card with no cash advance fees for which the general public qualifies. There are no foreign transaction fees, and rates are the same for purchases and cash advances.
To join Stanford Federal Credit Union, you can become a member at the Museum of American Heritage or join Friends of the Palo Alto Library.
- Visa Platinum Cash Back Rewards Card by Stanford Federal Credit Union
Digital Credit Union offers two cards with no cash advance fees. While interest rates are the same for both cash advances and regular purchases, foreign transaction fees will vary based on the need for currency conversion.
You can join Digital Credit Union by donating to any number of organizations that match your interests. The most common organization new members choose is Reach Out for Schools, which only requires a one-year membership at the cost of $10.
- Visa Platinum Card by Digital Credit Union
- Visa Platinum Rewards Card by Digital Credit Union
Alternatives to Cash Advances
While cards that offer no fees on cash advances are cheaper, that does not mean these transactions are cheap. You should only take a cash advance as a last resort in a true emergency. In order to avoid becoming one of the American households that can’t cover $400 financial hardships, start building an emergency fund today. When you withdraw money from your own savings account, you have to pay zero interest and zero fees.
If you don’t have an emergency fund, but you do have a credit card, it is wiser to charge emergency expenses as a purchase rather than taking money out as a cash advance if at all possible. Even when interest rates are identical for these two different types of transactions, cash advances will start charging you those rates immediately, while purchases won’t require you to pay interest until after the first statement is issued.
Payday loans are another alternative. However, they’re not necessarily a good one. They often come with numerous fees and aren’t as hassle-free as some lenders make them out to be. If you don’t pay off your loan at the end of the term (often about two weeks), you risk incurring fees that can add up to more than your loan. This can translate into effective interest rates in the triple digits. If they’re your only option, be extremely careful. Above all, make sure you fully understand the terms and costs.
Foreign travelers will also want to charge purchases whenever possible for this same reason. If you must use cash, a cash advance is a safer alternative to withdrawing money from your bank account abroad, but it is also wise to pay it off using your financial institution’s online services as soon as possible to avoid paying more interest than you have to.
Cash advances aren’t ideal, so if you can avoid them you should. However, they are a much better option than turning to the alternative lending industry where you’ll find predators and payday loans.