If you're like many people nowadays, you may be living paycheck to paycheck or barely getting by. But if an unexpected expense comes up, or a bill exceeds what you've budgeted for, you may find yourself in quite a jam. If this happens to you, you may consider getting a payday loan. A payday loan is a great way to get fast cash, usually in 24 hours or less. But before you get a payday loan, there are some things you should know about them. First, you should know exactly what a payday loan is and what it is not. A payday loan is a short-term loan that is designed to help you out in a time of financial hardship. A payday loan is not a line of credit or a credit card. A payday loan is designed to be repaid in full at a specific time, generally when you receive your next paycheck. A payday loan cannot be paid off over several months or years, as a credit card or traditional loan can. Next, you will need to know how to apply for a payday loan. Your ID will be required, and most payday loan centers will require certain other documentation from you to approve your application. Generally, this documentation is in the form of past pay stubs and bank statements. The number of each will vary by payday loan center-some may only require your last bank statement and pay stub, but others will require more. Make sure you thoroughly understand the repayment terms of the loan before completing the process. Most payday loan centers expect repayment in full when you receive your next paycheck, whether you're paid weekly, every two weeks, or monthly. Once you are approved for a payday loan, the center will have you write a personal check to them in the amount of the loan plus fee. Fees vary by payday loan centers, and may be a flat fee for a loan amount range, or a flat percentage regardless of loan amount. Some payday loan centers will offer reduced fees or no fees at all for new customers, so if you have time to shop around, you should do so. Upon receiving your check, the payday loan center will give you cash for the amount of the loan. Finally, before leaving the payday loan center, make sure you understand exactly how you are expected to repay the loan. Some centers allow you to bring in cash to pay back the loan, and they will return your original check to you at that time. Other centers prefer to present the check to your bank, sometimes electronically, for repayment. In that case, you would need to make certain that the funds are available in your checking account on the specified repayment day, to avoid the check being declined or "bouncing". Payday loans are not without pitfalls. Often, people who choose to get payday loans find themselves unable to repay the entire amount when it is due and still have money to their names. If this happens to you, your payday loan center may allow you to immediately write another check for a new payday loan after paying off the first one. Unfortunately, this can lead to a cycle in which you just keep "renewing" your loan, paying the full fee each time, and never getting out of debt to the payday loan center. Some people liken this to making credit card payments with interest, but payday loan fees are much higher. If you find that you need another payday loan immediately after paying off the first one, try to make the new loan for as little as possible. Even if you save no money in fees, you will have that much less to pay off when the new loan is due, and you will get out of the cycle faster and easier. Payday loans are a great way to get fast cash in 24 hours, and can be a lifesaver in case of an emergency. If you are careful to only borrow what you need and can repay when the loan is due, you will get the benefits of a payday loan without any of the drawbacks.