(StatePoint) With expected delays in bill payments, unprecedented layoffs, hiring freezes and related hardships, many Americans are facing new financial challenges.
“COVID-19 has impacted all industries and individuals from all walks of life,” says Rod Griffin, senior director of Consumer Education and Advocacy for Experian. “With all of these rapid changes, you might not be thinking about how your credit report may be impacted yet, but you likely will soon.”
As you adapt to life in this unprecedented time, the experts at Experian are sharing strategies and resources for protecting your financial health and credit history.
• Check your credit report. While checking your credit report regularly is always a good idea, this is especially true now. You can get a free copy of your report from Experian every 30 days with a free account. In addition, you can get a free credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies annually by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
• Maintain your score. Making credit payments on time and in-full and keeping your utilization rate (balance-to-limit ratio) as low as possible are the best ways to maintain your credit score. At a maximum, you should try to keep your credit card balances below 30 percent in total and for each individual card. For many reasons, maintaining these habits might not be possible right now. However, paying your minimum monthly payments and anything additional you can afford will go a long way.
• Talk to your lenders. Keep in mind, lenders don’t want you to fall behind on your payments any more than you do. If you’re facing trouble making monthly payments, contact your lender or creditor. They may have options for helping you cope with COVID-19-related financial hardships. For example, lenders can place your accounts in forbearance or deferment for a period of time.
• Use credit as a financial tool. While debt is a problem, credit can be a financial tool that can help improve your overall financial health in the long run. As always, avoid making rash decisions when it comes to credit and your financial health.
• Check out resources. Use new educational resources that can help you protect your financial health in these uncertain times. For example, Experian is hosting a series of #CreditChat conversations surrounding COVID-19 on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. ET on Twitter. The program covers important personal finance topics. The next several #CreditChats will be dedicated to items like methods and strategies for bill repayment, paying down debt, emergency financial assistance and preparing for retirement during COVID-19.
You can also visit Experian’s blog post, “COVID-19 and Your Credit Report,” for updated information pertaining to how COVID-19 may impact your creditworthiness. Additionally, the “Ask Experian” blog shares immediate and evolving resources on its COVID-19 Updates page. To obtain a free Experian credit report and other free services, enroll at Experian.com.
While staying safe and healthy should be everyone’s number one priority, it is also important to protect your financial health at the same time. Be sure to leverage all the resources available to you that can help you emerge from this crisis in good financial standing.