Updated on 12.26.16

Need Cash Quick? 16 Legitimate Ways to Get Money Fast

Geoff Williams

So you’re broke, and your car just broke down. Or maybe you’re cash strapped until next week’s payday, and you’re short on rent, or can’t cover an unexpectedly high electric bill this month, or forgot you need to chip in for a birthday gift. When you’ve run out of money, there’s almost an endless number of reasons why you may need to access some cash quickly.

And you may feel like your options for making money quickly aren’t so endless. Because they’re not. So if you need cash quick and you’re looking for some legitimate ways to make money fast, here are some ideas, depending on what “quick” means in your situation:

If you need money today or tomorrow…

Try the obvious: Look around your home

We need to get this out of the way first, and besides, maybe you haven’t thought of this because you’re in complete panic mode. Check the sofa cushions, your pants pockets, old coats in the closet, and your car, where spare change may have fallen between the seats. If you haven’t ransacked your home lately and cleaned yourself out, there’s got to be some money lying around.

Ok, so you’ve tried that. You might move onto…

Take out a cash advance.

Your credit card may offer the option of a cash advance, which allows you to take out cash (from an ATM) against your credit limit. The downside here is that you’ll pay through the nose for this privilege: Between cash advance fees and higher-than-usual interest charges that begin accruing the second you put your hands on the money, you can easily find yourself paying $1,000 to access $800, for example.

Recycle.

In the 10 states that have bottle deposit laws, including New York and California, you can return most bottles and cans for five cents apiece (10 cents in Michigan). They don’t even have to be your bottles: Plenty of people are too busy or lazy to bother returning a six-pack worth of beer or soda cans for 30 cents and simply leave them out for curbside pickup. It may not be trash day in your neighborhood, but it surely is somewhere. Fill up a 50-gallon trash bag with cast-off cans, and you can redeem them for about $12 – it’s just a start, but you can do it again and again, and all it takes is time and hustle.

If you don’t live in a bottle deposit state, you can still cash in on recyclables by selling scrap metal. You may not have enough soda or beer cans lying around to make this worthwhile — and steel prices are so low right now, it’s not really worth the bother to go collecting them. But if you do have a lot of aluminum cans on hand, or if you have any scrap metal with copper in it, find a local recycling center and see what you’ll get (prices vary wildly by market). Still, unless you have a lot of copper pipes lying around the garage, or bags and bags and bags of old soda cans, realistically, we’re probably talking about getting $5 to $20 back.

Pawn or sell items of value.

Think about this one for awhile before you try it. If you have something really valuable or meaningful, like your dad’s 1950s model train collection, your grandmother’s gold necklace, or the coin collection that you labored over as a kid, selling it may help put out a fire today — but you really may find yourself kicking yourself down the road.

What’s more, you’re unlikely to fetch as high a price for something of value when you’re under pressure to sell it locally and right away. But depending on the severity of your situation, if you have something valuable to sell, this may be the time to leverage it.

A better option is digging through your closets, attic, and basement for stuff that may still have some value, just not to you: An old DVD collection, your 10-year-old’s baby clothes or toddler trike, or the cappuccino machine (or bread maker, or juicer) that you only used once.

If you’re not using the stuff, you probably don’t need it anymore, and you can afford to sell it at a cut-rate price if you need cash quick. Post a free ad on Craigslist or a local Facebook Yard Sale group and indicate that you’re willing to deliver the items for a speedy transaction.

Sell an old cell phone.

If you have an old smartphone and you need money today, check out ecoATM. Type in your ZIP code, and with any luck, you’ll find one of their ATMs in your area. If you do, you simply find the kiosk and place the old cell phone in the ecoATM’s test station, where the machine will examine your phone — noting the model number and condition, among other features. It then automatically scans the resale market for similar phones and offers you a price based on its value — if you agree to the price, you’ll get the money on the spot (hence the ATM in the name). They also accept MP3 players and tablets.

If you can wait a bit longer, you can resell all kinds of used electronics on Gazelle.com and other sites — however, since they require you to ship the item, it typically takes about seven to 10 days to get paid.

Sell your plasma.

If there’s a plasma donation center in your area, you might be able to make anywhere from $25 to $50, and odds are, you’ll get paid today. Call ahead and ask, of course, but these days, many donation centers are giving money cards (similar to a debit card). Generally, it takes about 30 minutes to donate your plasma, but a first visit may take longer — up to two hours — since you’ll be filling out paperwork and taking a physical. And while it’s not a ton of money, many donors are able to sell plasma twice a week.

And while you’ve probably heard of selling sperm or eggs, don’t get your hopes up: Yes, the young and the healthy can sometimes earn good money as sperm or egg donors, but such opportunities require extensive screenings and long-term commitments. Donating blood (sans plasma), meanwhile, is a great and altruistic thing to do, but you generally won’t get money for it.

Ask a friend or family member for a loan.

We won’t spend much time on this, because it’s not as if you need to be told how to approach a family member or a friend for a loan. Just know that it won’t be pretty. It may be a conversation with a lot of awkward pauses. It may be humiliating. You may be told no. It may be your only option. Of course, if your friend or family isn’t nearby, where they can hand you cash, and they end up sending you money via an app, keep in mind that you may not be able to get money from them today.

Payday loan stores are an option (just not a good one).

I’m not endorsing them. Nobody on this website would. On an annualized basis, interest rates on payday loans carry an average APR of more than 300%. But on the other hand, it’s a legitimate way to get cash, and it’s better than robbing a bank.

If you need money today, you don’t have credit cards to turn to, and going to a family member is out, you could go to a payday loan store in your neighborhood and ask for a loan. You generally will need proof of employment (pay stubs) and identification; call ahead and ask what they require. You’ll probably need references. And you need to be absolutely sure you can pay back the loan under the specified terms.

If you can’t pay back the loan and its hefty interest within two weeks, generally, that’s when you run into trouble. Please ask yourself, “If things are bad now, will they really be better in two weeks? Can I pay back this loan and the interest without creating more problems?”

I’ve used payday loan stores before, and so I know one does what one has to do — but I’m cringing at the idea of suggesting anyone take out a payday loan. Honestly, based on my own experiences and interviews I’ve done with people who have used them, I feel like whatever problems you have, you’re probably better off letting them happening and avoiding this path. Taking out a payday loan is a little like accepting a parachute with a hole in it. You may land safely, but do you really want to take that risk?

If you need money within a week…

Try a garage sale.

Look, I know it’s not very realistic to pull these off; I personally wouldn’t bother trying. But if you’ve got a ton of stuff lying around — not outright junk, but stuff you don’t need, like the aforementioned DVDs and kid’s clothes — it’s worth a try. Advertise on Craigslist and put up signs in your neighborhood, then come Saturday haul a table out to your driveway (assuming you have a driveway), load it up with stuff for sale, and take whatever you can get.

Become an Uber or Lyft driver.

I know this won’t be practical for a lot of people. I’m pretty sure I’d say, “No thanks,” myself. On the other hand, if you have some downtime, a reliable car, good insurance, and decent social skills, you can certainly earn some honest money driving people around.

The average Uber driver is said to make about $19 to $21 an hour after tolls and some other expenses are factored in — although I’ve seen other numbers suggesting it’s closer to $16, and with Lyft, the average is said to be less (closer to $11). But on the plus side, you can generally get your money instantly, which wasn’t always the case with these ride-sharing businesses.

To make real money, you’ll have to drive around a decent amount and during peak hours, such as Saturday nights. Also keep in mind the cost of gas and the additional wear and tear on your car.

Oh, and why am I saying that it’ll take a week to get paid if you’re paid instantly? It’ll take at least that long – and possibly up to two weeks – to pass the initial background check.

Sell those expensive concert tickets.

Boy, I hate to suggest this if you were really excited about attending an upcoming concert, sporting event, or a Broadway play. But if you have tickets to a big event, selling them could be a helpful and quick way to get your financial picture back on track.

StubHub is probably the best known ticket resale website, but other sites have gotten in on the game, too, including VividSeats and even Ticketmaster. Depending on what kind of tickets you’ve got, you could make your money back — and then some — but you’ll usually have to wait at least a few days for the cash.

Using StubHub as an example, after you list your tickets (factoring in their fees), you’ll have to wait for someone to buy them. This can happen quickly if it’s a big-name concert or Broadway play, but maybe not so fast if it’s a reading of Elizabethan poetry; of course, setting a low price will generally help them sell faster. Once the buyer receives their tickets — if you uploaded PDF e-tickets, they’ll get them immediately, otherwise you’ll have to mail them to the buyer — StubHub begins processing the payment. If you’re paid via PayPal, it’ll take up to five days (a check in the mail will take up to two weeks).

Sell your gift cards.

If you’ve got gift cards lying around that you never manage to use – maybe you’ve got $50 to Longhorn Steakhouse, but you’re a vegetarian – you can sell them at a discount through gift card exchange sites such as CardCash.com. Once the site receives and verifies the balance on the card (e-cards are obviously handy, but they’ll pay for you to mail in physical gift cards), you can get paid in as little as two days.

Note that you’re effectively paying a fee of 15% or more of the card’s value, but if you’re truly in a bind or simply can’t imagine using or re-gifting a gift card, that may be a small price to pay for quick money.

Look at online lenders.

There are a variety of online lenders out there, and if your credit is fairly good, you can apply for a personal loan online and be approved almost instantly. The money will still take a few days or even a week to hit your account, and the interest rate will be higher than, say, a home equity loan. But a personal loan from a reputable company — and be careful, for some online lenders are little more than payday loan shops online — beats credit card debt for a couple of reasons: Installment loans are better for your credit than revolving credit card balances, and even a 10% interest rate is preferable to what you’d pay for a cash advance.

If you need money within a month…

Open up a new bank account.

This is kind of a dumb idea, frankly, but a lot of banks these days are offering $200 to $300 signup bonuses to customers who open up a new checking account. The catch, though, is that you generally have to really open these accounts. You need to be willing to set up a direct deposit and put money in the account, and you often don’t receive the bonus for at least a month, sometimes even longer. On the other hand, if you were thinking of going to a new bank, anyway, it’s an easy way to make some extra cash.

Rent out a room on Airbnb.

As you likely know, Airbnb is a popular website where people can rent out a room or apartment from ordinary folks and bypass a hotel. So, if you’re comfortable with strangers and you live in fairly well visited place — a large city, college town, or tourist area, for example — you could make some money renting out a room in your home while you’re there, or renting out the entire place while you’re gone. You can expect to make less than whatever nearby hotels charge, but that can still top $100 a night pretty easily.

Honestly, however, I doubt this is very realistic for a lot of people. I wouldn’t count on this if you’re trying to make your rent, and you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket. First, someone has to look at your location and listing photos and say, “Sure, I’d like to stay there,” and that may or may not happen within a month. It may never happen.

But if all goes well, you could have somebody renting out your spare room next weekend or even tomorrow night. And 24 hours after they check in, you’ll get paid by Airbnb (minus a few fees) within a day if you use PayPal, and in about three days if you go with direct deposit.

Get a part-time job.

If you pick up a side job at some fast-food restaurant or department store and start today, it’ll probably be up to a month before you get your first paycheck. You work two weeks, and two weeks later, the check comes in. Maybe you’d get paid sooner — but in my experience, when I’ve needed cash quickly, it’s better to be pessimistic and plan for the worst and hope for the best.

If you’re looking for cash quickly, you have my sympathy. It isn’t a pleasant position to be in.

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