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Ways to Get Cash Fast in an Emergency

Ways to Get Cash Fast in an Emergency

By Jeff Rasmussen • June 03, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost millions of people their livelihoods, with many millions more affected in some way. Clearly you are not alone if you find yourself looking for quick ways to make money or to get cash fast to pay for life’s necessities. Here is a list of could help ease the financial strain you might find yourself in.

1. Know your options

In a pinch, it’s good to know the options available to you. If you need a lump sum quickly, you may want to consider an emergency loan. After your application is approved and other necessary steps are completed, your loan, which can be secured or unsecured, will be dispersed in one installment with varying terms for repayment. The application process is easy, you’ll get a quick decision on your loan request, and you may be able to receive money the same day your loan is approved.

If you’re OK at the moment, but fear that you’ll need cash fast in the future, consider a line of credit. With a line of credit, you draw upon your available balance as you need it and make payments based only on how much you’ve taken out, plus any interest that has accrued. If neither of these is right for your financial emergency situation (or financial life in general), you may want to take a closer look into a low-interest credit card and weigh the pros and cons.

2. Raise money by decluttering

Other ways to make quick money involve selling belongings you may no longer have a use for — and that you may have been meaning to clear out for a while. Not too long ago, you could have a yard sale for some quick cash, but turnouts for these face-to-face meetings may not be what they used to be, even as lockdowns are loosened. Luckily, lots of online alternatives to yard sales exist. E-tailers like Poshmark and ThredUp are good places to sell clothing and accessories, while using apps like LetGo and Decluttr can help you turn books, electronics, games, tools, hobbies and the like into quick cash. You can also try selling items on CraigsList and Facebook Marketplace. They’ll help you reach people who live close to you – which means you can arrange to exchange the items for cash fast, and you won’t have to pack up and ship your items as you would if you sold them on sites like eBay.

While most people don’t feel like their unused jewelry is taking up space, selling jewelry for its gold content can be easy and quick. What’s more, the price of gold has been very strong in the past few years, and especially strong during the COVID-19 crisis.1 Do a web search for ”gold buyers near me” and you’ll see a list of options for turning your unused jewelry into quick cash.

  • A note about online scams: Unfortunately, online forums can attract their share of scammers who will try to take advantage of the situation. It is recommended to only accept cash for the full amount you both agree on. And when it comes time to make the actual sale, agree to meet in a public place, such as a public parking lot during daytime hours. Alternatively, they can pay you with PayPal or Venmo; once the payment clears, you can leave the item on your front porch or another agreed-upon location.2

3. Pick up odd jobs or ‘gig’ work

While the pandemic has cost many people their jobs, it has created an unprecedented number of jobs, as well. Many are hiring same-day and can be quick ways to make money. Warehousing and shipping companies are hiring people to meet the historic volumes of products being ordered online. Grocery stores are hiring people to stock shelves and do off-hours cleaning to meet more stringent health guidelines.

If you have transferable skills related to your job, you may be able to find freelance work that can earn you the emergency funds you need. Both Uber and Lyft have adapted to the coronavirus crisis to offer meal delivery while most restaurants have resorted to take-out and delivery orders only. DoorDash and GrubHub are two very popular food-delivery services, and are practically begging for drivers. InstaCart and store-specific grocery delivery services also may be great places to find at least temporary ways to make quick money. Other local and national businesses deemed “essential” also are offering order delivery. While their stores are closed to customers, or have only limited capacity for shoppers, many are looking for reliable people to fulfill orders to their customers in your community.

4. Access your retirement account

Historically, the federal government makes special concessions that allow early access and distribution from your retirement account. The CARES Act, passed in late March, further relaxes the rules for tapping into retirement accounts during the COVID-19 crisis.3 This legislation includes loosening the conditions you must meet before you can access your retirement funds, as well as raising the limit on how much you can take out.

Perhaps most important is that the CARES Act waives the interest and penalties usually associated with early withdrawals, and extends repayment terms. Keep in mind that withdrawing early on a retirement account is not typically a good financial move, but it may be an option in an emergency situation. Research your set of circumstances and the type of retirement account you have, and consult with a financial advisor to be sure you’re making the best decision.

5. Raise cash with your credit card

You can get quick cash from your credit card by taking a cash advance. Ideally, you’ll already have a card with a low outstanding balance, but in emergency situations, it’s a consideration you’ll have to weigh given your unique circumstances. Keep in mind that cash advances often involve transaction fees (a set amount or percentage of the advance), they usually carry higher interest rates and they’re added to your existing card balance, which increases future minimum payments. Lastly, you may not be able to take a cash advance big enough to cover the emergency expenses you’re trying to pay, but this move could be part of a short-term solution.

You are not alone — keep a clear head

No single suggestion we’ve made here is likely to solve all of your financial problems. Whatever choice you're considering, take a calm approach to what probably feels like a drastic situation and know you have options.


This article has been updated from its posting on October 29, 2019. Nicole DeMarco contributed to the original article.

The information in this article is provided for general education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. It is not intended to be and does not constitute financial, legal or any other advice specific to you the user or anyone else. The companies and individuals (other than OneMain Financial’s sponsored partners) referred to in this message are not sponsors of, do not endorse, and are not otherwise affiliated with OneMain Financial.