Is a Credit Card Cash Advance a Good Idea?

When you’re strapped for cash and still have some available credit on one of your credit cards, a credit card cash advance is one way to temporarily make ends meet. Considering the cost of a cash advance, you might question whether it’s such a good idea?

A cash advance fee is one of the costs of a credit card cash advance. Cash advance fees can be a percentage of your advance – typically between 1% and 4% of the amount you take out. Or, the fee could be a flat rate. Some credit cards use a combination of the two to come up with your cash advance fee. For example, you might pay $15 or 4% of the cash advance, whichever is greater.

When you use an ATM to take out a cash advance on your credit card, you’ll also pay an ATM fee to the bank who owns the machine

The highest costs of all are the finance charges that are applied to cash advance balances. Different types of credit card balances typically have different interest rates. You might have one interest rate for purchases, another for balance transfers, and yet another for cash advances. Of all the interest rates, cash advance rates are the highest. This means you’ll have the highest finance charges on your cash advance.

Unlike purchases, you don’t get a grace period for cash advances, so interest starts accruing the day you take it out. You’ll pay interest on a cash advance even if you pay off the balance when your statement comes. Until you pay off the cash advance in full, your balance accrues monthly interest, making it harder to repay.

The way credit card companies apply payments to your credit card could mean your cash advance balance increases rather than decreases. When you have multiple types of balances on your credit card, your issuer probably applies your payment to the lowest interest rate balance first. Meanwhile, the highest interest rate balance (your cash advance) isn’t credited any payment at all until it’s the only balance you’re carrying.

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If you want to take out a cash advance on your credit card, make sure you understand the cost. Use a credit card that currently has a $0 balance to keep your cash advance from growing out of control.

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