Best Emergency Student Loans

Student loans are like commuting to class — a necessary evil to get where you need to go. And when disaster strikes while you’re a student, like the death of a family member or a change in financial situation, you may need emergency student loans. Your first stop should be the office of financial assistance in your school, but if your school can’t help you, you may need to turn to a private student loan.

To rate each of the top emergency student loan lenders, we use SimpleScore methodology — comparing APR, perks, transparency, fees and loan amounts — to make recommendations.

Lending Partner
Fixed APR
Loan Amount
Fees
In this article

    The best emergency student loans of 2020

    The best emergency student loans at a glance

    LenderLoan AmountAPR RangeTermsStandout Feature
    Discover100% of costs4.59%–12.99%1 fixed; 1.59%–11.99%1 variable15 yearsRewards for grades and graduation
    Earnest100% of costsStarting at 3.49% fixed; Starting at 1.24% variable5–15 yearsCan skip a payment
    Citizens OneUp to $150,0004.25%–11.53% fixed; 1.49%–11.25% variable5–15 yearsHigh rate discount
    College Ave100% of costs3.49%–12.99% fixed; 1.09%–11.98% variable5–15 yearsFunds non-full-time students
    PNC BankUp to $225,0004.49%–9.64% fixed; 2.92%–8.07% variable5–15 yearsHigh discount on rate

    Rates accurate as of November 2020.

    Discover Disclosure: 1. Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

    Best for cashback rewards – Discover, Member FDIC

    Who doesn’t like getting cash back for their student loans? Discover is the only lender on the list that offers it.

    Fixed APR
    4.59%–12.99%
    Loan Amount
    $1K to 100% of costs
    Fees
    None
    SimpleScore
    4.6 / 5.0
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    SimpleScore Discover, Member FDIC 4.6
    Max Fixed APR 3
    Perks 5
    Transparency 5
    Loan Amount 5
    Fees 5

    Discover gives you cash-back rewards on its student loans, and it only takes 15 minutes to apply.Discover Bank gives you a cash reward for keeping your GPA above 3.0, which can equal 1% of your total loan for one term. Also, you can get 2% off each of your loans when you graduate. These bonuses can add up if you need to borrow a large chunk of money. Plus, you’ll get a 0.25% rate discount when you sign up for auto-pay. Read our full Discover Bank review for more.

    Discover, Member FDIC Disclosure

    1. Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans and include a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.
    2. Lowest APRs shown are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans and include an Auto Debit Reward. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Undergraduate. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.250% as of October 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates.

    Best for flexible payments – Earnest

    It’s like the ’80s movie with Madonna, Desperately Seeking Susan, except Earnest is best for anyone desperately seeking student loans.

    Fixed APR
    Starting at 3.49%
    Loan Amount
    $1K to 100% of costs
    Fees
    None
    SimpleScore
    4.2 / 5.0
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    SimpleScore Earnest 4.2
    Max Fixed APR 2
    Perks 4
    Transparency 5
    Loan Amount 5
    Fees 5

    Earnest’s student loans offer a low APR and a forgiving repayment policy.

    With Earnest, you have a nine-month grace period before you have to start paying back the loans. The lender also lets you skip a payment once a year if you run into financial troubles. Each time you choose to skip a payment, you’ll make up for it later because the term of your loan will extend by one month. Plus, you get a 0.25% discount when you add in auto-pay.

    Best for rate discounts – Citizens One

    Any good bargain hunter can spot a deal, so you’ll likely appreciate the rate discount from Citizens One.

    Fixed APR
    4.25%–11.53%
    Loan Amount
    $1K–$150K
    Fees
    Late fee
    SimpleScore
    3 / 5.0
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    SimpleScore Citizens One 3
    Max Fixed APR 3
    Perks 3
    Transparency 4
    Loan Amount 1
    Fees 4

    The low starting rate paired with the high discount rate makes Citizens One an enticing choice. Because with Citizens One, you can get a 0.50% rate discount, which is double most of the others. You’ll have to sign up for the loyalty and auto-pay programs to get the reduction. The loans max out at $150,000, so if you need to borrow more than that, you’ll have to look elsewhere. But if you want to get approved for multiple years, you can do that from the get-go with Citizens One. Read our full Citizens One student loan review for more.

    Best for part-time students – College Ave

    Students come in all shapes and sizes, and College Ave thankfully offers loans to part-time and less-than-part-time students.

    Fixed APR
    3.49%–12.99%
    Loan Amount
    $1K to 100% of costs
    Fees
    $25 or 5% late fee
    SimpleScore
    3.8 / 5.0
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    SimpleScore College Ave 3.8
    Max Fixed APR 2
    Perks 4
    Transparency 4
    Loan Amount 5
    Fees 4

    Many emergency student loans stop giving out funds when you drop below full-time, but not College Ave.

    The best thing about College Ave student loans is that you can be a part-time student — or even less than half-time. Unlike many other student loans, you simply need to be enrolled in a degree program to get your loans. Also, you’ll get a 0.25% rate reduction when you set up auto-pay. Plus, you can get a $150 Success Reward when you graduate. However, your interest rate may be higher than with some other lenders. Read our full College Ave review for more.

    College Ave Disclosure

    *College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Information advertised valid as of 11/2/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

    Best for deferred payments – PNC Bank

    PNC scores high on name recognition, but let’s not idolize the bank just yet — the actual quality of its student loans depends on what rate you can get.

    Fixed APR
    4.49%–9.64%
    Loan Amount
    Up to $225K
    Fees
    5% or $5 late fee
    SimpleScore
    4 / 5.0
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    SimpleScore PNC Bank 4
    Max Fixed APR 4
    Perks 5
    Transparency 4
    Loan Amount 3
    Fees 4

    With PNC, if you need to defer your payments, you have six months until you have to pay them off after you graduate or reduce your credit hours to below half-time. Interest continues to add up during deferment, though, so keep that in mind. Also, the rate discount is of the largest, and is easy, with PNC. When you set up automatic payments, you’ll get a 0.50% discounted rate. However, the interest rates are on the higher side, so even with the rate discount, you might pay more. Read our full PNC Bank review for more.

    What is an emergency student loan?

    The cost of one year of college at a four-year institution in 2017 was between $17,237 and $44,551. Many families don’t have that kind of money saved up, so they turn to low-interest student loans. Emergency student loans typically come into the picture when you can’t get funding elsewhere, like from the government or your school, and you need the money quickly. These loans cover schooling costs like tuition, housing, books and living expenses. The best student loans for emergencies provide a low-interest rate, no fees and flexible repayment terms.

    [ Read: How to Pay Off Student Loans Fast: 15 Ways to Deal With Your Debt ]

    Should I get an emergency student loan?

    Emergency student loans shouldn’t be your go-to for financial aid. The first thing you want to do is apply for grants and scholarships, as well as submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA will help you determine how much you qualify for in financial aid from the government. Government aid can come in the form of grants or low-interest student loans that carry more protections for the borrower than private loans. 

    For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced it would halt interest accruing on all federal student loans from March 2020 through the end of September 2020. Private loans weren’t required to do the same, so it’s up to the company if it provided relief. 

    Emergency loans for college should be used as the last resort. If tuition increases or your financial situation changes, you can use emergency student loans to cover the hidden or unexpected costs that pop up. However, before you take out this type of loan, be sure you understand all the terms. Know how much you’ll pay in interest, how long of a grace period you have after you graduate and whether there are any fees. Also, consider asking a guardian to co-sign on the loan if your interest rate is too high.

    [ Read: The True Cost of Student Loans ]

    How fast can I get an emergency student loan?

    The best student loan companies know that you need the money, like, yesterday. You can usually get an emergency student loan the same day or within a few days after applying; these loans are meant to be quick.

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    Student loan application

    Applications can take as little as 15 minutes to complete. To finalize a request for an emergency student loan, you’ll need to provide things like:

    • Proof of ID
    • Social Security number
    • Date of birth
    • Details on the school you’ll attend
    • Intended major
    • Employer information, if you have a cosigner

    Enrollment status

    The lender will check with the school to make sure you are enrolled to attend school there. It will also ask for the cost of attending the school to verify the amount of funding you need.

    [ Read: What I Wish I Knew Before Taking Out Student Loans ]

    Steps to finding the best emergency loan

    1. Get your rate. Go to the website or call the emergency loan provider to receive a rate quote. Do this for at least three different lenders to find the best rate. You can usually receive an estimated rate from a lender without having to complete a full application or go through a hard credit check.
    2. Gather your information. Check what each lender needs for the application. Get all the information together in an easy-to-read way.
    3. Apply. Select the lender offering you the best rate and terms and apply. The process usually takes less than 30 minutes, and you can do it all online.
    4. Receive your funds. Once the lender checks how much you need for expenses with the school and confirms your application, you get get the funding the same day. It may take a few days, but the process is typically quick.

    Emergency Student Loans FAQs

    Read the requirements for each lender before applying. Some lenders won’t fund students who are less than half-time, for example. Also, make sure you understand what you’ll have to do to receive all the perks the lender offers.

    Most emergency student loan companies will send the funding directly to the school, rather than your bank account. That way, you don’t have to be in charge of making payments yourself.

    That depends. If you don’t qualify for emergency student loans by yourself, a cosigner may help. Rather than turning to a bad credit personal loan, you can ask a trusted adult with a good credit history to sign, as well. A cosigner proves to some companies that you have the means to pay back the loan.

    Yes. You’ll have to repay the lender everything you borrowed plus interest. Interest can add up, so make sure you understand how much you’ll owe on the loan in the long term.

    A promissory note is a fancy way of saying a signed promise. You sign it to promise to pay back the funds you borrow with the terms you agreed on.

    Tiffany Verbeck

    Contributing Writer

    Tiffany Verbeck is a personal finance expert. She uses her storytelling skills gained from a master’s degree in writing to run a freelancing business focused on helping people make and manage their money. She has been published in The Financial Diet, Fast Capital 360, The Write Life, Matador Network and other publications

    Reviewed by

    • Courtney Mihocik
      Courtney Mihocik
      Editor

      Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in insurance, personal finance, and loans. Previously, she wrote and edited for Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, Ballantyne Magazine, Thread Magazine, The Post, ACRN, The New Political, Columbus Alive and the Institute for International Journalism.