Cash advances provide cardholders access to cash from their revolving credit account. Typically, cash advances are performed using a credit card as one might a debit card at an ATM. Cash advances usually use an assigned PIN, as with a debit card. The amount withdrawn cannot exceed the current available balance on the credit card. Cash advance limits are often much lower than the entire credit limit of a card, so be aware of what your cash advance limit is if you choose to go this route.

Balance transfers are sometimes used to transfer one high-interest credit card balance to a new credit card offering little-to-no interest. Promotional 0% APR introductory periods are common with new credit cards, allowing cardholders a brief respite from interest building on a balance. But cardholders can also request a balance transfer check from a card issuer and cash it to get money fast. Some banks allow cardholders to transfer a balance online to a qualifying checking account.

Cash advances and balance transfer checks can be expensive. Card issuers typically charge fees for every cash advance or balance transfer. The fee may be a small percentage of the transaction or a dollar amount, typically ranging from 1% to 5% of the amount being transferred.

The interest you’ll pay on that cash advance will vary depending on the issuer. Cash advance APRs are often higher than the standard purchase or balance transfer APRs. Unlike purchases which have a grace period, interest usually begins to accrue the same day the cash advance is made.

Cash advances and balance transfers typically don’t qualify for credit card rewards like cash back or travel points. They can be useful in a financial emergency, but consider other options first because of the potential to fall into fast, rapidly-accruing debt.