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How to Protect Your Credit During Difficult Times
In the throes of a pandemic, keeping your credit score at a good level might not be top of mind if your job is in jeopardy and you are wondering how to keep the roof over your head and feed your family.
It is important nevertheless to do everything to keep your score intact. Your credit report is important. Blemishes stay on your file for seven years and can affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or secure certain types of insurance. Here are some practical ways to achieve that goal.
Write down all recurring bills. If you can pay some of your bills but not all in month, make sure you start by paying secured debts first. These are debts tied to a tangible asset such as a house or a car. Falling behind on these bills might have big consequences. Not paying a mortgage might lead to foreclosure. Not paying your car loan might lead to repossession. For unsecured debt like credit cards, try to make the minimum amount required.
Use your credit card wisely
Be aware that running up your card balances can affect your score. Generally, using more that 30% of your available credit will reduce a credit score. Of course, this fact may not be of the utmost concern now but this is information to keep at the back of your mind. If you need to use your card to pay bills you may be able to help your score by using a program that gives you credit for items not typically included on a report. One such program is Experian Boost that will give you credit for phone and utility bills.
Be aware of your protections
Don’t forget that under some circumstances, the recently passed CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) provides relief by letting you postpone payment on federally backed mortgages. The Act also suspends payments on federal student loans through September 30. You may be able to benefit from these protections due to your particular circumstances. Read and research.
Check your credit report
Don’t assume everything is OK. Be sure to keep on top of your credit report. Historically, the big three reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion have long offered a free annual credit report. Now all three are offering free weekly credit reports for the next year to help consumers protect their score during the coronavirus crisis. Scrutinize for errors and ask for corrections to be made if there are mistakes on your credit reports.
Contact your lenders
If you are unable to make payments, be sure to contact your lenders right away. Most financial institutions have offered emergency loan deferments, the waiving of late fees and loan extensions. For more information on how your credit union can assist you during these troubled times, visit us at WeFloridaFinancial.com/covid-19.