These are unprecedented times, for the world, for your health, and for your money. The stock market has taken a deep dive, businesses have transitioned to at-home work, and major U.S. cities have taken measures to close all non-essential establishments. Headlines are telling investors what to do with their money in the markets, and personal finance experts are urging savers to keep their hands (and eyes) off their 401(k)s. But what about credit?
Yes, it’s true. The coronavirus pandemic can affect your credit (particularly if it impacts your livelihood and ability to keep up with your monthly bills). So it’s crucial to keep an eye on things for the time being. Here’s how you can keep your credit healthy even if you’re feeling under the weather.
Keep an eye on your credit report. “Check your credit reports for accuracy and be sure that any credit inquiries are legitimate,” says Jeff Richardson, Vice President and Group Head – Marketing & Communications at VantageScore Solutions. Though this practice is always important, it is even more important during a time of financial vulnerability. You should access your full TransUnion credit report through your financial institution.
Understand your credit. During a time like this, you might need available credit for a last minute emergency, Richardson says. If you feel like you don’t have enough, ask your lender to increase your credit limits to help you get through the pandemic. It’s important to do this while your income remains solid.
Beware of fraudsters. At a time like this, fraudsters are likely to strike, so we must “remain vigilant,” Richardson says. You can do this by checking your bank and credit card statements regularly to ensure that everything on there is accurate. The American Bankers Association urges you to be aware of phishing scams that are posing as your bank. Note: Your bank will never ask you for your pin or your password, so if you get an email asking you for one of those items, you should immediately delete and ignore it.
Refinance with patience. Since the Federal Reserve cut short term interest rates to 0%-0.25% this week, many are rushing to refinance their loans. Because of the mad dash to refi, lenders need more time to get to each request, says Richardson. Be patient — your lender will get back to you with options as soon as possible. The same is true if you’re applying for a home equity line of credit or HELOC.
Pay what you can. A release from Equifax urges consumers to pay at least the minimum on their credit cards during the pandemic to avoid late fees or other penalties. If you are unable to pay…
Talk to your lender. If you are feeling strapped or like you won’t be able to make a payment on time, talk to your credit lender. Many may be offering forbearance or deferred payment plans to help consumers stay on track during these precarious times, according to a release from VantageScore. Richardson adds that lenders will likely work with their customers to create options that are right for them.
With Rebeca Cohen