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Credit card cash advances vs payday loans

Compare their differences between a credit card cash advance and a payday loan to find out which one best suits your needs.

If you find yourself short on cash, you may need to borrow money quickly to keep up with your bills or to cover an unexpected emergency. When this happens, you may consider a credit card cash advance or a payday loan. Credit card cash advances and payday loans have at least one thing in common: You can have access to money very quickly. So, before deciding on either loan option, it’s helpful to understand some of the key differences between the two.

By definition: Credit card cash advance vs. payday loan

It’s easy to think that a cash advance and payday loan are the same things, but that’s not the case. We can start to see how they’re different by looking at the definition of each option.

A cash advance is a short term cash loan that you take out through your existing credit card.

A payday loan is a loan that typically comes with few eligibility requirements and a quick turnaround time. Lenders can operate online and/or have physical store locations.

⚠️ Warning: Be cautious with payday loans
Payday loans are expensive. If you're experiencing financial hardship call Credit Counselling Canada for free financial counselling (Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm at +1 866-398-5999). Consider payday loan alternatives:
  • Visit A free and confidential service that connects you to organizations that can help with finances, food, housing and more.
  • Debt relief companies. There are services to help you reduce your debt payments.
  • Payment extensions. Talk with bill providers about longer payment plans or due-date extensions.
  • Side jobs. Sell unwanted items online, sign up for food delivery and more.

How much can you borrow?

Cash advancePayday loan
Percentage of your credit limitUsually $100 to $1,500

Payday loans can often throw consumers into a vicious cycle of debt, so these types of loans are regulated in most provinces by the government in order to protect borrowers. You’ll often see limits on how much you can borrow through a payday loan – typically $100 to $1,500, depending on the province or territory you reside in and the lender you go with.

The amount you can borrow through a cash advance is generally limited to a percentage of your credit card’s credit limit. Usually, this comes out to a few hundred dollars. Don’t be surprised if your credit card has daily, weekly and monthly cash advance limits in place. It’s very common to see a maximum cash advance limit of less than $500 a day.

  • Bottom line: How much you can borrow depends on your credit limit and any regulations in your province. Additionally, your credit score and income may affect the amount you can take out with a payday loan.

What are the repayment terms?

Cash advancePayday loan
Accrues interest immediately; can carry debt long-termAccrues interest immediately; paid back in a fixed timeframe

Unlike credit card purchases, a cash advance will typically start accruing interest immediately. In other words there’s no interest grace period, which you usually get when you use your credit card for normal purchases.

Similarly, a payday loan comes with immediate interest. The key difference is the time horizon for repayment. Some lenders require repayment as early as your next payday, while others will be more flexible with the repayment dates. With a cash advance, you can carry debt long-term, if you wish, as no one is expecting the money back on a set date.

  • Bottom line: Repayment for a payday loan is due much sooner than for a cash advance.

Compare options for payday loans

Check the websites of any lenders you’re interested in to confirm they operate in your province or territory of residence.

1 - 2 of 2
Name Product Loan Amount Loan Term Interest Rate Turnaround Time Serviced Provinces Offer Table description
Cash Money Payday Loan
$100 - $1,500
5 - 40 days
Varies by province
As little as 15 minutes with INTERAC e-Transfer
Apply for your first $300 payday loan at a $20 cost (excludes SK applicants).
Instant decision and e-Transfer funding. Income of at least $1,000/month required.
iCASH Payday Loan
$100 - $1,500
7 - 62 days
Varies by province
As little as 2 minutes with INTERAC e-Transfer
Get up to 20% in cash back once your payday loan is fully repaid. Conditions apply.
24/7 instant approval and e-Transfer funding. Income of at least $800/month required.

Compare up to 4 providers

Maximum borrowing costs per province
Always refer to your contract for exact repayment amounts and costs as they may vary from our results.
Province Maximum allowable cost of borrowing
Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario & Prince Edward Island $15 per $100 borrowed
Manitoba, Saskatchewan & Nova Scotia $17 per $100 borrowed
Newfoundland and Labrador $21 per $100 borrowed
Northwest Territories, Nunavut & the Yukon Up to $60 per $100 borrowed
Quebec Limit of 35% annual interest rate (AIR)

Can I repay the balance from my cash advance first, before paying for the purchases I made on my credit card?

Yes, as a general rule, credit card issuers have to allocate your payments to the amounts that have the highest interest first. Since cash advances typically have higher interest rates than normal credit card purchases, the money you pay toward your bill will automatically go towards your cash advance balance first.

What are the interest rates?

Cash advancePayday loan
Around 24% APR, however, can be up to 36% (without calculating additional fees)Usually between 400% to 750% APR

For a cash advance, you usually need to pay an upfront fee – for example, $10 or 5% of the amount you take out. Then you pay interest on your cash advance, usually around 24% annual percentage rate (APR), however it can be higher or lower.

For a payday loan, you’re charged an upfront fee based on how much you borrow – typically $15 to $25 per $100 you borrow. Since the repayment window of a payday loan is around two weeks, that works out to an APR of about 400% and up.

That creates a distinct difference between cash advances and payday loans. Theoretically, you could take out a cash advance today and pay it back tomorrow, accruing very little interest. But regardless of when you repay a payday loan, you still pay the same amount in finance charges.

  • Bottom line: You’ll pay a set amount in interest for a payday loan. For a cash advance, the interest you pay depends on how long you carry your debt.

Credit card cash advance tip

When choosing a credit card, if you plan on using the cash advance feature numerous times, it’s a good idea to look for a card that offers the same interest rate for purchases and cash advances. Sure, you’ll still have to pay a cash advance fee, but it’ll be easier to track your interest charges and you may save some money on interest in the process.

How much are the fees?

Cash advancePayday loan
Usually $10 to $20 or 3% to 5% of the transaction, whichever is greaterFinance charge of $15 to $25 per $100 borrowed

You’ll be charged a fee as soon as you take out a cash advance. You’ll usually find the cash advance fee written in your credit card terms like this: “Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.” With a payday loan, you’ll pay a finance charge of around $15 to $25 for every $100 you borrow.

Bottom line: Upfront fees for cash advances are often cheaper than those for payday loans – but remember that you still need to pay interest on a cash advance.

What are the requirements?

Cash advancePayday loan
Credit card that allows cash advancesBank account, valid ID, age and residency.

To take out a cash advance, you need to be approved for a credit card that allows them. Meanwhile, all you need to obtain a payday loan is a bank account and a valid ID. You will also have to be 18 years of age or the age of majority in your province, as well as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. Payday loan centers usually don’t run deep credit checks, so payday loans are typically easier to get than cash advances.

  • Bottom line: Payday loans usually have fewer eligibility requirements compared to credit cards, although once you have a credit card you don’t need additional approval for a cash advance.

Learn about the provincial/territorial payday loan regulations in Canada

Cautions to keep in mind

Now that you understand the differences between cash advances and payday loans, it’s important to consider the drawbacks of both.

  • One drawback is they’re both very expensive loan options. In particular, payday loans are notorious for dragging borrowers into cycles of endless debt. Since payday loans cost so much, borrowers often have to take out additional loans to pay off what they owe.
  • Cash advances are pricy too. Not only do you have to pay an upfront fee to get one, but you also immediately start accruing interest on the amount you’re advanced. Additionally, the APR will likely be substantially higher than your credit card’s purchase APR.

Most people take out cash advances and payday loans when they are in troublesome financial situations – but they often find themselves in deeper debt afterward. We recommend turning to a cash advance or payday loan only in a true financial emergency.

Read more about alternatives to payday loans and cash advances here.

Bottom line

If you’ve decided that a cash advance or a payday loan is the route you’d like to take to solve your immediate need for cash, your ultimate choice between the two will depend on several factors. These factors include:

  1. The amount you want to borrow.
  2. How soon you’re able to pay the money back.

You can also check out our guide on payday loans to learn more about payday loans and further compare your options.

Frequently asked questions

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