Can I protect my credit during the coronavirus pandemic?
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the United States, millions of Americans have already or will lose their jobs. Reportedly, by the first week of April 2020, more than 16 million people have filed for unemployment since the pandemic reached the U.S.
Many people are understandably anxious because there are still bills to pay. CNBC reports 78% of Americans worry about paying their bills and loans on time. If you’re concerned about keeping your credit standing, there are some important things you should know about.
The CARES Act
Congress recently passed and the President signed The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This is the bill providing stimulus checks to taxpayers. As a part of this act, consumers will also receive some limited credit protections.
- Lenders and financial institutions must report all accounts as “current” until 120 days after the government ends the national emergency.
- Only accounts already current will receive this reprieve, Americans not up-to-date on their payments aren’t eligible.
- Consumers need to talk to their lenders and reach a forbearance agreement or agree to modified payments with them.
If these criteria aren’t met, lenders can treat consumers as being delinquent in their payments which can have a serious impact on their credit scores.
Steps to take to protect your credit during COVID-19 pandemic
If you are one of the millions of Americans who have been abruptly let go from their jobs or are otherwise struggling to make ends meet, CNBC recommends you take the following steps:
- Call your lenders – Provisions made under the CARES Act are not applied automatically, you have to request the reprieve. (This is a very important step.)
- Request a natural disaster code to be listed on your credit report – Lenders and credit bureaus can add a special code to your report to denote you’ve been impacted by a disaster.
- Watch your credit use – Be careful about using credit to pay your daily expenses, charging too much will drag down your credit score and you’ll possibly find yourself under a mountain of debt you can’t pay off.
Many consumers may find themselves facing challenges in the near future when it comes to their credit scores. Taking proactive steps now will decrease any credit troubles, but there is another option too.
Build an alternative credit score
Another step you can take is to start actively working towards building an alternative credit score. Alternative credit scores are generated by the bills Americans routinely pay that are usually not included in traditional credit reports. Bills used to calculate this score include routine expenses, such as utilities, phone bills, internet, and even subscriptions. Furthermore, lenders are required to consider consumers with alternative credit scores for access to loans or credit as deemed by the Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA).
Alternative credit scores are a great opportunity for people who have little to no existing credit, but they can also help maintain the financial creditability for those whose credit is directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
PRBC is here for you during these difficult times. If you’d like to learn more about our alternative scoring process or have any other questions, contact us today.