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Three alternatives to keep you out of the payday loan trap.

If you’re in a financial jam, payday loans may look like an attractive choice. They’re relatively easy to get (i.e., you don’t need great credit), and they give you quick access to cash.

But there are a few major downsides:

They trap you. To get a payday loan, you have to write a post-dated check for the loan amount up front. If you fail to pay it back on time, the lender will deposit the check, or you can write a second post-dated check for another loan, trapping you in an expensive cycle.

You have to pay them back in a short amount of time. Sometimes the timeline is as short as two weeks.

They have huge fees. Interest rates can range as high as 400%, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

However dire your financial situation may be now, it is likely to get worse when you get a payday loan. If you’re facing payments that you can’t make and feel that you’re running out of options, try these tactics instead:

  1. Contact your lender
    Large credit card debt may seem insurmountable. But before you turn to an expensive payday loan as a solution, see if your lender will work with you.

    It’s not unheard of for a credit card company to negotiate your terms, rates, and occasionally your principal balance. Be honest about your financial situation, and emphasize that you intend to pay as much as you can as soon as possible.

  2. Re-examine your budget
    You might find that you can free up cash by changing your spending habits. Review your bank and credit card statements, and track where your money goes every month.

    Identify discretionary expenses such as eating out or, say, a gym membership that you don’t really use, and cut them out of your budget.

  3. Apply for a personal loan
    As a last resort, you can apply for a personal loan to pay off the expense with which you’re struggling. Just make sure that the new loan has an affordable interest rate, so that your solution isn’t more expensive than the problem. Also, be prepared to offer collateral to get approved for this type of loan.