Credit Card Cash Advances

Understanding Credit Card Cash Advances: A Comprehensive Guide

In today’s world, a myriad of credit instruments are at our disposal. Among them, one stands out due to its convenience and immediate availability – the Credit Card Cash Advance. However, it is crucial to comprehend how it functions and when it is prudent to utilize it. This guide will delve deeper into this topic, providing a thorough analysis of its workings, advantages, disadvantages, and alternatives.

Introduction to Credit Card Cash Advance

A Credit Card Cash Advance is essentially a short-term borrowing option provided by the lender. Although various financial institutions offer cash advances, credit card companies are the primary providers of this service. Notably, this service comes with a fee and is often sought in case of emergencies, such as sudden medical expenses or urgent home repairs.

The Working Mechanism of Credit Card Cash Advances

There are several ways to obtain a cash advance. One of the simplest methods is through your credit card. For instance, you encounter a sudden leakage in your basement, the repair for which costs $500, and you lack the necessary funds in your savings. In such a case, you can opt for a cash advance from your credit card, which increases your credit card balance by the borrowed amount.

However, it is essential to realize that this is not free money. Along with the cash advance fee, any interest charges that accumulate from the increased credit card balance are your responsibility. Therefore, it is advisable to resort to them only in emergencies.

Interest Rates and Fees

In Canada, the standard interest rate on a credit card ranges between 19% and 20%. However, cash advances often attract higher interest rates, typically around 24%. Further, the interest on cash advances begins accruing immediately, unlike other credit card charges where interest accrues only when a payment is not made on time and in full.

Besides interest, a one-time fee is also charged to process a cash advance. This fee usually varies between 3% and 5% of the transaction amount. Moreover, if you’re processing your cash advance at an ATM, you might also incur a transaction fee there.

How to Procure a Cash Advance

Cash advances can be obtained by contacting your bank, visiting your bank in person, performing the transaction online, or through an ATM. In certain cases, if you have cheques for your credit card, you can use them to withdraw cash. This service is generally simple and can be completed within a few minutes.

Transactions Considered as ‘Cash Advances’

Although a transaction is generally considered a cash advance only when you’re withdrawing cash from your credit card, there are exceptions. Certain types of transactions may also be considered cash advances, attracting a high annual percentage rate and a cash advance fee:


  • Transfers to or through platforms like PayPal, MoneyGram or Venmo;
  • Foreign currency purchases;
  • Payment of debt or bills that would normally be paid with cash;
  • Purchase of casino chips or lottery tickets.


Hence, it is advisable to read the fine print of your credit card agreement to ascertain what is considered a cash advance.

Repayment of a Cash Advance

Repayment of a credit card cash advance can be made in the same manner as your credit card bill. As cash advances begin accruing interest immediately, it is recommended to pay off the cash advance, along with your minimum payments, as soon as possible to minimize the impact of the interest.

Pros of Cash Advance

  • Available round the clock, provided you have enough credit left on your credit card
  • No collateral required
  • No credit check or application needed

Cons of Cash Advance

  • High interest rates and fees
  • Cash advances do not contribute towards a credit card reward program
  • They can negatively impact your credit score if taking the advance leads to a high credit utilization ratio or missed payments
  • No grace period

Alternatives to Cash Advance

While cash advances offer certain benefits, it is wise to explore alternatives before deciding. Here are some alternatives to cash advances:

Personal loan

Securing a personal loan might take some time, but the cost of borrowing is usually much lower. Additionally, you have the option of choosing between unsecured or secured personal loans.

Line of credit

A line of credit offers low interest rates and flexible repayment terms. Moreover, once you have a line of credit, you can use it continuously.


You might consider utilizing your retirement or other savings to cover the cost. However, avoid withdrawing from your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) because it’ll result in high costs and tax complications.

Borrow from friends and/or family

You could consider borrowing from friends and/or family. They might not charge interest and could offer you flexible repayment terms.

Negotiate a payment plan

For large, emergency expenses, vendors often understand that you might not have the cash on hand. Try to pay what you can upfront then negotiate a payment plan for the rest with the vendor. If the vendor agrees to a payment plan, be sure to adhere to it!

When to Use a Cash Advance

Cash advances are most suitable when you need cash immediately. Normally, these are emergency situations. Cash advances are typically used for costs under $1,000 because they should be repaid in the short term to avoid high interest. If you need a larger amount, you might not have enough credit left on your card. It would also be cheaper to find financing elsewhere if the cost is significantly higher.

When Not to Use a Cash Advance

Cash advances should not be used for regular expenses. If you are considering using a cash advance for daily expenses, you might be heading towards financial trouble. If you have the time and means to access cheaper forms of financing, such as a personal loan or line of credit, it is better to avoid using cash advances as your first choice.


Although credit card cash advances can be a handy tool in times of need, they can be expensive and should only be used in emergencies. If you are heavily reliant on cash advances from credit card companies or are unsure about managing credit card debts, it is advisable to seek professional help. Remember, understanding and managing your finances responsibly is the key to a secure financial future.

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