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.
The best emergency student loans of 2020
The best emergency student loans at a glance
up to 100% of school certified costs. Aggregate loan limits apply.
4.24%–12.99%1 fixed; 1.24%–11.99%1 variable
Rewards for good grades1
100% of costs
Starting at 3.49% fixed; Starting at 1.24% variable
Can skip a payment
Up to $150,000
4.25%–11.53% fixed; 1.49%–11.25% variable
High rate discount
100% of costs
3.34%–12.99% fixed; 1.04%–11.98% variable
Funds non-full-time students
Up to $225,000
4.49%–9.64% fixed; 2.92%–8.07% variable
High discount on rate
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.
Rates accurate as of February 2021.
Best for cashback rewards – Discover Undergraduate Loan
Who doesn’t like getting cash back for their student loans? Discover is the only lender on the list that offers it.
4.6 / 5.0
SimpleScore Discover Undergraduate Loan 4.6
Discover Bank gives you a cash reward2 for keeping your GPA above 3.0, which can equal 1% of your total loan for one term. This bonus can add up if you need to borrow a large chunk of money. Read our full Discover Bank review for more.
2Get a cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan when you earn at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) in any academic period covered by the loan. Limitations Apply. Visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for terms and conditions.
Discover Undergraduate Loan Disclosure
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. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on the Discover Undergraduate Loan. 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 April 1, 2021. 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. Your APR will be determined after you apply. Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/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.
as low as 3.49%
100% of the certified costs of attendance
Earnest’s student loans offer a low APR and a forgiving repayment policy.
Any good bargain hunter can spot a deal, so you’ll likely appreciate the rate discount from Citizens One.
as low as 3.99%
3 / 5.0
SimpleScore Citizens One 3
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.
100% of the certified costs of attendance
3.8 / 5.0
SimpleScore College Ave 3.8
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.
As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.
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.
Information advertised valid as of 3/25/2021. 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.
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
Employer information, if you have a cosigner
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
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.
Gather your information. Check what each lender needs for the application. Get all the information together in an easy-to-read way.
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.
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.
This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of TheSimpleDollar.com, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.
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If you’re in a bind, turning to emergency student loans from private lenders should be a last resort. However, they can help you cover unexpected costs, increased tuition, difficult situations or downturns in your family’s income. The best emergency student loans are reputable and give you a low interest rate, a flexible pay-back plan and flexible terms. Additionally, they’ll provide resources to help you with any questions you have along the way.
1Lowest 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. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on the Discover Undergraduate Loan. 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 April 1, 2021. 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. Your APR will be determined after you apply. Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Rates.