What Is a Financial Hardship Loan?

Prices are rising. Consumer debt is high, and many Americans face financial hardship trying to make ends meet. To make matters worse, many people had to use emergency savings to get through the pandemic, leaving Americans in a more precarious situation than ever before. Fortunately, there may be help out there in the form of a financial hardship loan. 

How does a hardship loan work? How do you qualify? Hopefully, you’ll never need a financial hardship loan, but being financially empowered means knowing your options and being prepared for any eventuality. Prosper’s here with the answers you need.

What is a hardship loan?

A hardship loan isn’t necessarily a specific type of loan; instead, it’s a loan with a specific purpose that can help you meet an immediate financial need or emergency.  

There are pros and cons to all options. Doing your research ahead of time can ensure you pick the right hardship loan, not just the most convenient one. 

Types of hardship loans

Coronavirus hardship loans 

Many community banks and credit unions offered coronavirus hardship loans during the pandemic, with fast funding times and beneficial terms. These aren’t often advertised and are most commonly offered by institutions with strong ties to their community.  

If you’re not a credit union member, the credit union locator tool might help you find one that serves your needs and offers these types of loans.  

Personal loans 

Personal loans may not be intended explicitly as hardship loans. Still, they are well suited to help consumers get through a short-term financial emergency. 

For example, personal loans through Prosper offer fast approvals and funding, a regular repayment schedule, competitive interest rates, and no prepayment penalties.  

This makes a Prosper loan a great option to get through a period of financial hardship. 

401(k) or IRA withdrawal 

When you need a hardship loan, a 401(k) or IRA withdrawal has the advantage of drawing from money that already belongs to you.  

But there are some restrictions, and it isn’t available for everyone. In the case of a 401(k), your employer must permit withdrawals.  

Also, any withdrawals from a 401(k) or IRA before the age of 59 have a 10% tax penalty assessed unless the withdrawal is for specific purposes, such as:  

  • Paying unreimbursed medical bills 
  • Total and permanent disability 
  • Paying health insurance premiums (but only when unemployed for at least 12 weeks) 
  • Paying unpaid taxes to the IRS 
  • Buying a home for the first time 
  • Higher education costs (IRA only)  

There are many conditions and restrictions that must be met to avoid paying substantial penalties and taxes. We recommend consulting with a qualified financial advisor, accountant, or tax professional before considering a 401(k) or IRA withdrawal.

Credit cards

We always advise caution with credit cards as it’s easy to get in over your head, but when used responsibly, credit cards can help you in a brief period of financial hardship.  

Read more: How to Use a Credit Card Responsibly

The key is to pick out a card that fits your needs during a period of financial hardship and plan how you’ll use it to help you get through that hardship, and how you’ll pay off the balance once things have improved.  

The Prosper® Credit Card is an excellent option for getting through a rough patch. There’s no annual fee1 if you sign up for AutoPay before the first bill, you gain access to financial education tools for free as a Prosper® Card holder to help ensure your future financial good health, and unlike many cards, the Prosper® Card charges no fees for cash advances2, giving you flexibility when you really need it.

Home equity line of credit (HELOC)

A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is another excellent option to get you through a time of hardship. It provides flexible access to cash at advantageous interest rates.  

However, there are often closing costs associated with a HELOC, making this an expensive option for a family already suffering from hardship. 

Also, HELOCs offer advantageous interest rates due to being secured by your home equity. When you’re already dealing with hardship, you may not want the stress of taking out a loan secured by your home.

Selecting a hardship loan option 

You can consider other alternatives, but each might have significant downsides. The important thing is to know your options ahead of time and plan for financial hardship, rather than max out credit cards with high-interest rates.  

With a bit of prior planning, you can get through a time of financial hardship and get back on your feet! 

Read more:

The Prosper® Credit Card is an unsecured credit card issued by Coastal Community Bank, member FDIC, pursuant to license by MasterCard® International. 

1 The annual fee for this credit card is $39, which will be waived for your first year if you are approved and sign up for AutoPay before we issue your first statement. 

2 Third party atm fees may apply. 

The Prosper® Card cannot be used for balance transfers. 

Eligibility for personal loans up to $50,000 depends on the information provided by the applicant in the application form. Eligibility for personal loans is not guaranteed, and requires that a sufficient number of investors commit funds to your account and that you meet credit and other conditions. Refer to Borrower Registration Agreement for details and all terms and conditions. All personal loans made by WebBank


To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account.

What this means for you: When you open an account, we will ask for your name, address, date of birth, and other information that will allow us to identify you. We may also ask to see your driver’s license or other identifying documents.

Eligibility for a home equity loan or HELOC up to $500,000 depends on the information provided in the home equity application.  Loans above $250,000 require an in-home appraisal and title insurance.  For HELOCs borrowers must take an initial draw of $50,000 at closing. Subsequent HELOC draws are prohibited during the first 90 days following closing. After the first 90 days following closing, subsequent HELOC draws must be $1,000 or more (not applicable in Texas).

The time it takes to get cash is measured from the time the Lending Partner receives all documents requested from the applicant and assumes the applicant’s stated income, property and title information provided in the loan application matches the requested documents and any supporting information. Spring EQ borrowers get their cash on average in 26 days. The time period calculation to get cash is based on the first 6 months of 2022 loan fundings, assumes the funds are wired, excludes weekends, and excludes the government-mandated disclosure waiting period. The amount of time it takes to get cash will vary depending on the applicant’s respective financial circumstances and the Lending Partner’s current volume of applications.

Spring EQ cannot use a borrower’s home equity funds to pay (in part or in full) Spring EQ non-homestead debt at account opening.  For HELOCs in Texas, the minimum draw amount is $4,000. To access HELOC funds, borrower must request convenience checks.

Interest rates may be adjusted based on factors related to the applicant’s credit profile, income and debt ratios, the presence of existing liens against and the location of the subject property, the occupancy status of the subject property, as well as the initial draw amount taken at the time of closing. Speak to a Prosper Agent for details.

Qualified applicants may borrow up to 95% of their primary home’s value (not applicable in Texas) and up to 90% of the value of a second home. Home equity loan applicants may borrow up to 85% of the value of an investment property (not applicable for HELOCs).

All home equity products are underwritten and issued by Spring EQ, LLC, an Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #1464945.

Prosper Marketplace NMLS Prosper Marketplace, Inc. NMLS# 111473

Licensing & Disclosures NMLS Consumer Access  



Prosper Funding LLC

221 Main Street, Suite 300 | San Francisco, CA 94105

6860 North Dallas Parkway, Suite 200 | Plano, TX 75024

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