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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 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.

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Filter Values Max. Loan Amount Turnaround time Requirements
LendYou Short-term Loans
Same business day to 1 business days
$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.
 Check Into Cash Installment Loans
1 to 2 business days
Bank account, email address, phone number, US citizen or permanent resident, ages 21+, $3,500 minimum income in California
Borrow money with lower payments and more time to pay than a traditional payday loan.
OppLoans Installment Loans
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.
Fast5kLoans Short-term Loans Connection Service
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.
CashUSA Installment Loans
As fast as same business day
Regular source of income, bank account, US citizen or permanent resident, age of majority in your state
Explore its online education center to get tips on budgeting, how to prioritize your bills and more.

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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