I had the unfortunate opportunity to learn how cash advances on credit cards work. The particular card I saw was from Capital One, but I think they all work the same. There are three important things to know about cash advances:
- The interest rate is huge – usually in the mid-20% neighborhood
- Interest starts on the day of the advance – no grace period like with purchases
- Payment are applied to the purchases first, then cash advances, even if the purchase occurs after the statement date
I knew about points 1 and 2. I did not know about number 3. Even knowing 1 and 2, I still would not have discouraged this person from getting a cash advance, because I know she pays off her balance every month. Capital One can charge 25% or 50%, what difference does it make. She’ll pay the balance at her next statement and she’ll have some small interest due. Except for #3. Number 3 ensures that she will be paying interest on that cash advance for the rest of her natural life.
I should mention that I still discourage taking cash advances on credit cards. Even without #3, my friend, who works at Crediful, says that it’s better to get your cash in other ways. But if you’re out of town and lost your ATM card and can’t get to a bank branch – in other words it’s a freakin’ emergency and there’s no other way – then I would have said ‘Go for it’. Now I know that there is no situation so dire that you should take a cash advance on your credit card. Go find a pawn shop and borrow money from a loan shark – it’s cheaper.
Based on the three points above, I was wondering how long it would take to pay off the cash advance. The interest on each statement is not that big. If you’re the type of person who carries a balance, you probably wouldn’t even notice that some of the finance charge is coming from a cash advance. Thankfully, this person has zero finance charges every month, so it was pretty easy to spot.
Here’s the scenario: A person spends $100 per week on his credit card and pays the balance every statement. Statements cut off on the 18th of the month and payment is due on the 28th. On January 15th, in addition to the normal $100 per week, he takes a $500 cash advance. How long will it take to make the cash advance balance zero? The answer is never. Under these conditions, the cash advance balance will never be zero. Let’s check out the model.
Column B: The total payment made – always the statement balance. On 1/28/2010, $601.02 is paid because that’s the balance on the statement date.
Column C: Purchases made – $100 every 7 days. A little contrived, but what can I do.
Column D: The amount of column B that the credit card company applies to purchases. On 1/28/2010, they apply the payment to the purchase balance on 1/27/2010 – not the purchase balance on the statement date.
Column G: The amount of column B that the credit card company applies to cash advances. Even though the whole $501.02 of cash advances from the statement date was paid, only $401.02 is applied because there were purchases in the interim.
Column H: The daily interest on cash advances. There is no interest on purchases because we pay the whole balance every month. The interest rate is in H1.
Note that I’ve hidden some rows in the above image. The next payment, 2/28/2010, is applied 100% to purchases and the cash advances balance just keeps growing. Ten years later, the $502.17 payment reduces the cash advance balance to $100.70. Ten years later! In the mean time, the total interest paid was $260.11 on a $500 cash advance. Pathetic.
Everything in this model is pretty solid. I don’t cover the 3% gouge he got when he took the cash advance. And the $100 per week is an average spending pattern that’s been rigidly applied. I wonder what would happen if I made the spending habits a little more random.
The formula in C4 is
=IF(WEEKDAY(A4)=6,100,""). Let’s see what happens when I change it to
Here are the results for 10 recalcs
|Recalc||Total Spent||Interest Paid||Payoff Date|
In a lot of cases, the only way to get rid of the cash balance is to stop using your card for a while.
You can download CashAdvance.zip.