Even in a financial crisis, you have options

The anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic and its financial fallout can seem crippling. But a quote often attributed to tennis great Arthur Ashe offers a way forward: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. ”

If you’ve never set up an emergency fund to operate in times of crisis, now is not the time to blame yourself. Instead, check the resources https://bridgepayday.com/title-loans-online/ you have and learn how to deploy them as efficiently as possible.

Seek outside help

Lenders and credit card issuers are scrambling to set up programs to help people during the outbreak. Your auto lender, student lender, mortgage lender, and credit card issuer may offer temporary concessions. Visit the website of the lender or card issuer or call to verify your options before paying.

Don’t be afraid to sign up for payout or forbearance programs. According to the two major credit reporting companies, FICO and VantageScore, having such programs on your credit reports will not affect your credit scores.

You may be eligible for assistance with other bills. Check the websites of your service providers to find out what is available. Many electricity, telephone and Internet companies are also suspending disconnections. Check out the many resources on the 211.org website or simply call 211 to connect.

If you lose your job or your income drops dramatically, check the website for your state’s labor agency. In addition to traditional unemployment benefits, you can find programs to help you with temporary reduction in hours, information on paid sick leave and more. Also check your state’s website for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program to see if you qualify for assistance with purchasing food.

Support efforts will evolve as the situation evolves, so check reputable websites and information sources regularly.

List of loan sources

If staying afloat means spending money that you don’t have yet, so be it. Credit is a tool and tools are needed for some jobs. It’s a.

If your credit is good, it may be a good idea to request higher credit limits on your cards. Higher limits will lessen the impact of higher than usual balances on your credit score and strengthen your safety net.

If your credit isn’t as good, beware of payday and car title loans. They may seem tempting but often lead to spirals of debt, and a title loan puts your transportation at risk. Explore alternatives like borrowing from family and friends, selling items you don’t need, or getting a payroll advance from an employer. Even using a pawnshop is preferable to a payday loan or a title loan because it does not endanger your credit score and does not lead to collections.

Use and pay credit cards strategically

If you must have balances, use the card (s) with the lowest interest rate first to minimize interest payable. Avoid maximizing a single card – spread spending across multiple cards.

Knowing what affects your credit score will help you limit the damage. Pay at least the minimum amount owed – and keep in mind that you might be facing tough times for a while. Don’t try to pay in full this month if it puts you in danger of paying next month. It’s important to avoid missing a payment entirely, as a 30-day or more late payment can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.

While increasing credit card balances can also lower your credit score, this damage is easier to resolve once the financial crisis is over. Your score will rebound once you reduce your balances.

A note: if you’ve had credit missteps that led to collections, don’t let a debt collector pressure you to prioritize that debt now. Preserve your funds to cover living expenses and take care of collections later.

Protect yourself against fraud

The Federal Trade Commission and other agencies have warned consumers to watch out for scammers exploiting the crisis. Beware of messages claiming to come from your creditors, your employer, or charities. Even by clicking on what you think is a list of safety precautions, you can install malware on your computer.

Do not respond directly to emails or phone calls; instead, use a number or email address that you know is correct, such as contact information on a creditor’s or charity’s website. If you’re looking for information on the coronavirus, go straight to reputable sites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you have elderly friends or relatives, be aware that they can be targeted by scammers. Discussing possible scams can both inform them and lessen the isolation that could lead them to engage with scammers.

O’Shea writes for the personal finance site NerdWallet.

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