Are you worried about your finances? Has the idea of a coronavirus credit score hit been keeping you up at night? Millions of Americans have been affected by COVID-19 and millions more will experience economic hardship in some form in the wake of massive shutdowns of the U.S. economy.
While some fail to grasp the need for social distancing, extreme caution, and a need to think of others ahead of oneself, the realities of the coronavirus emergency are such that Americans need to understand that the world has dramatically changed in the first quarter of 2020.
Some readers are already reaching for their keyboards at this point, eager to comment on how America should reopen as soon as possible and get back to work. Don’t bother–this post isn’t about all that.
Review Your Credit Reports NOW
What you, and everyone who reads this post should be doing RIGHT NOW? Pulling your required-by-federal-law FREE CREDIT REPORT and monitoring your credit. You can see details on this official program of the United States Government at the Federal Trade Commission official site.
Why Is Credit So Important In The Age Of COVID-19?
Credit requirements are tightening across many sectors; mortgage lenders are looking for higher FICO scores going forward and credit may be increasingly hard to qualify for if you have a history of payment problems or other issues.
You can avoid negative credit reporting issues associated with late or missed payments if you are proactive and contact your creditors BEFORE you miss any payments. During COVID-19, many relief measures require the lender to forego making negative credit report filings for affected borrowers but ONLY if you contact the creditor ahead of time to make arrangements for payment delay, loan modification, etc.
If you do not call to make arrangements, you have NO PROTECTION from negative credit reporting.
Make A Plan For Your Credit
Here is what you should do for the next 18 months in order to preserve your credit scores and actually IMPROVE them. These steps require time and consistency.
You cannot improve your credit overnight, it requires you to establish 12 months or more of on-time, every-time payments.
This is a proven and recognized-by-the-credit-agencies strategy for improving your FICO score and it costs you NOTHING EXTRA to do. No third parties, no extra payments due for services rendered. It’s all on you. Here is the basic plan:
- Commit to making all payments on time, every time for at least 12 full months;
- Commit to working with your creditors in cases where you cannot afford to make a payment or the full payment;
- Commit to not acting on your own, but working with your creditors;
- Commit to reducing your credit use and lowering your credit card balances over time;
- Avoid closing old credit accounts (this potentially hurts your credit score);
- Avoid opening new lines of credit;
- Work on increasing the amount of money you have left over after your bills each month.
Remember, DO NOT pay any third party offering you the service of removing accurate negative credit reporting data from your credit report. No one can do this, it is not legal to advertise or offer to do this on your behalf. It will not happen and you are wasting your time and money trying.
Joe Wallace specializes in personal finance, military affairs, and consumer protection topics. Since 1995, his work has appeared on Air Force Television News, The Pentagon Channel, ABC and a variety of print and online publications. He is a 13-year Air Force veteran and collects unusual vinyl records, which gives him an excuse to write the vinyl blog Turntabling.net.
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