Can't Pay Your Bills? Here's What to Do

NBC 7 Responds explains how to get help if you can't make your upcoming credit card payment.

NBCUniversal, Inc.

If you are stressed about making an upcoming loan or credit card payment, don't keep it to yourself. If you work with your bank, there may be a way to get some help during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The best thing you can do is pick up the phone and call your lender and ask them for help," said Lending Tree's Chief Credit Analyst, Matt Schulz. "Banks, lenders, and credit card issuers have 'hardship programs' which kick into gear in times of disaster."

These programs can give you some temporary relief if you have been affected by the pandemic, but it's not something they will usually offer on their own.

A missed credit card payment can knock 60, 75 points or even more off (your credit score)

Matt Schulz, Lending Tree

"You have to proactively ask for them," said Schulz. "It's up for you to pick up the phone and make that call."

With more and more people working from home or being put on temporary leave, the call to your bank or another lender could take a while. Phone systems at many customer service departments are overloaded.

"That's why the best time to reach out to your credit card issuer is really today," said Schulz.

Lending Tree lists several ways banks and credit card companies may be able to help. Some of the relief programs can include reducing your minimum payment, waiving late fees, reducing interest rates, or increasing your credit limit.

"All of these things can help you through this really unusual time," said Schulz. "But it's important for you to ask."

Missing a payment will impact your credit score, but working with a bank will likely leave your score where it is.

"You do not want to just assume it's okay to not make that payment or pay less," said Schulz. "A missed credit card payment can knock 60, 75 points or even more off (your credit score)."

So how do you get the right person on the phone?

Schulz said to ask for someone who works with their "customer hardship" or "customer assistance" program. It also may take a little while and banks may be reluctant, so be persistent.

"It's important to understand nobody cares as much about your money and your credit as you do," said Schulz. "So make sure you are taking all the steps you need to help yourself at this time."

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