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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.

Name Product Filter Values Loan amount Turnaround time Requirements
LendYou Short-term Loans
Finder Score: 2.5 / 5: ★★★★★
LendYou Short-term Loans
Up to $1,000 for payday loans and up to $5,000 for installment loans
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.
Finder Score: 4.7 / 5: ★★★★★
Up to $750 per pay period, but only $100 per day
1 to 3 business days or instant for a fee
Direct deposit sent to a checking account, a regular pay schedule, a fixed work location or an online timekeeping system at work
No mandatory fees, no interest and no credit checks. Subject to EarnIn terms & conditions.
Finder Score: 4.1 / 5: ★★★★★
Up to $250
3 to 4 days standard transfer. Same day with $3.99 to $9.99 express fee.
Not stated
Automatically monitor your spending plus access cash advances up to $100 at a time.
Not rated yet
Based on the amount of accrued PTO
Up to 5 business days for approval and 5 business days for funding, or instant for a fee
18 years of age, W-2 employee, US citizen or permanent resident, employer must carry over PTO and payout upon termination
Tap your unused PTO for a cash advance so you can access that money early. Available in : CO, FL, IL, MA, NY, NJ, TX, VA, OR, AR, NE, TN, ME, CT, WV
Go to site
Dave ExtraCash
Finder Score: 4.2 / 5: ★★★★★
Dave ExtraCash
Up to $500
Up to 3 business days or instant for a fee
At least two direct deposit paychecks to your bank account from your employer, extra money in your bank account
Borrow up to $100 to avoid hefty overdraft fees.

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.

Frequently asked questions

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Managing editor

Jennifer Gimbel is senior managing editor at Policygenius and a former editor at Finder, specializing in personal finance. Jenn's expertise and analysis has been featured on MediaFeed and other outlets. She holds a BS in arts administration from Wagner College, with minors in economics and journalism. See full bio

Jennifer's expertise
Jennifer has written 4 Finder guides across topics including:
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