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Payday loan alternatives in California

Compare 3 federal credit unions that offer low-cost short-term loans.

When life throws you a financial curveball and you don’t have the best credit, you might think payday loans are your only option. But with such high rates and short terms, these can leave you in an even worse financial position. Instead, consider taking out a low-cost payday alternative loan (PAL) from a credit union.

Another option is to look into one of several government assistance programs offered to California residents. While these may not be able to put cash in your hands, they can help free up your budget for other expenses that crop up.

3 federal credit unions that offer payday alternative loans in California

Many federal credit unions offer low-cost PALs to help their members get small-dollar financing and avoid the high costs of typical short-term loans. These are regulated by the government with interest rates capped at 28%. You’ll also typically have up to six months — sometimes even longer — to pay off your balance. This means you’re less likely to default — especially considering most payday loans come with a two-week turnaround.

Below are a few federal credit unions in California that offer some sort of alternative to payday loans:

Federal credit unionLocationsLoan amountsAPRsLoan termsEligibility requirements
SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union
Up to $50017.9%12 months
  • Enrolled in direct deposit
  • Member in good standing
Mid Cities Credit Union
  • Compton
$100 to $1,00024.99% — including a $40 or $50 application fee depending on your loan amount12 months
  • Member in good standing
  • No charge-offs or delinquent accounts with the credit union
Technicolor Federal Credit Union
  • Burbank
  • Hollywood
$250 to $50018% to 28% — including a $20 application fee1 to 6 months
  • Member for 30+ days
  • Provide 2 most recent pay stubs

The ins and outs of how payday alternative loans work

3 resources and programs for California residents

Struggling to pay for everyday expenses like groceries or rent? You might want to look into these government resources to help pick up the slack when your regular income falls short.

1. California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS)

  • What it provides: Financial assistance with housing, food and other necessary expenses
  • Eligibility requirements:
    • California resident
    • US citizen, national, legal noncitizen or permanent resident
    • Low or very low income
    • Underemployed, unemployed or about to become unemployed
    • Pregnant, have a child aged 18 or under OR under 18 and the head of your household

Also known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), this federal program offers financial assistance to cover expenses like medical bills, food, rent and utility bills. You can check if you might qualify for this program on the Benefits.gov website.

2. Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI)

  • What it provides: Financial assistance for immigrants who don’t qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Eligibility requirements:
    • Aged 65+ or living with a disability
    • Qualifying immigrant OR permanently residing in the US under color of law (PRUCOL)
    • Meet federal SSI income and assets criteria

CAPI provides financial assistance to permanent residents and other qualifying immigrants who aren’t eligible for Social Security or other benefits. You can find out if you qualify by reading the California Immigrant Policy Center’s factsheet on the program.

3. CalFresh food assistance program

  • What it provides: Financial assistance to pay for groceries
  • Who’s eligible: Low-income individuals and families

Also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), CalFresh is a federally funded program that offers financial assistance to low-income households to help pay for groceries. How much you qualify for depends on your household size, income and monthly expenses. You’ll receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that you can use to buy food at any participating grocery store or farmers market.

Consider an installment loan instead

If you’ve decided to get a short-term loan, consider these installment loan providers that offer loans with longer repayment terms than a typical payday loan.

Name Product Filter Values Loan amount Turnaround time Requirements
OppLoans Installment Loans
$500 to $5,000
1 business day
Direct deposit, meet minimum income requirements, live in eligible state
Comes with the option to change your due date so you won’t fall behind on repayments.
Stilt
$1,000 to $25,000
2 to 3 business days
Be employed, have a US bank account, live in a state where Stilt operates, hold one of the following visas: F-1 and OPT, H-1B, H4, O-1, L-1, TN, J-1, DACA or be a US citizen.
No green card? You could still qualify for a personal loan.
Fast5kLoans Short-term Loans Connection Service
$100 to $35,000
As soon as the next business day
Regular source of income, verifiable bank account, US citizen, ages 18+
Get connected with multiple lenders you might qualify with — even if you have bad credit.
LendYou Short-term Loans
$100 to $2,500
Same business day to 1 business day
$1,000+ monthly income, direct deposit, US citizen or permanent resident, ages 18+
Get offers from potential lenders in minutes by filling out just one online form.
Monevo Installment Loans
$500 to $100,000
Varies by lender
Credit score of 500+, legal US resident, ages 18+
Quickly compare multiple online lenders with competitive rates depending on your credit.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Before taking out a high-cost payday loan, consider looking into the short-term loan options available at credit unions in your area. Many offer PALs with lower rates and longer terms than traditional short-term loans. And if you find yourself consistently needing extra funds to get by, you might want to look into the many government assistance programs open to Californians.

You can explore even more options when you’re short on cash with our guide to payday loan alternatives.

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