The financial devastation the coronavirus has left in its wake is like nothing we’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to improve your financial situation. Most Americans have some amount of credit card debt and, undoubtedly, the pandemic has caused many people to resort to their credit cards to make ends meet. Even if you’ve managed to avoid using them, you may still be having difficulty paying even the minimum amount due each month. Here are four credit card bill payment hacks that can help you during this time of financial hardship.
1. Don’t Use Autopay
You may have set this up as a way to avoid missing a payment and being slapped with a hefty late fee, along with a ding on your credit. In a normal world, this would be a smart financial move. However, during this financially tumultuous time, it may not be the best time for autopay. If your bank balance gets too low, you may overdraw your account, and overdraft fees are often higher than late fees.
2. Examine Your Interest Rates
If you have more than one credit card, how do their rates compare? Is one better than the others? Call each one and see if any are offering any deals on interest rates, such as 0% on balance transfers. They usually charge a 3-5% fee on the amount transferred, but if you have a high balance on a high-interest card, it could save you a lot of money despite the fee. Be sure you understand the terms of the deal because when the offer expires, you could end up with a much higher interest rate.
3. Check Your Rewards
If you have a rewards program, see how many points you’re currently eligible for and cash them in. Many rewards programs offer gift cards, and you can use them on something you need, such as groceries or gas. This could free up a little extra money to put toward your credit card payment. It may only be a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps.
4. Ask for Help
Credit card companies are offering help to people who’ve been financially impacted by COVID-19 by offering deferred payments and fees. Weigh the consequences carefully with the benefits because you’ll have to start paying it back at some point. If you can afford to pay your bills, continue to do so. Payment deferment for credit cards or mortgages should only be used if you need it. You may be able to get a lower rate if you ask, which could make your monthly payment a little easier to handle.
Other forms of COVID-19 assistance can be found at Benefits.gov and on your state government website.
Unfortunately, during difficult times, unscrupulous people try to take advantage of those in need, and the coronavirus pandemic is certainly a difficult time. The FTC is advising consumers to not answer any robocalls or respond to emails, texts, or calls regarding government checks, vaccinations, or test kits, and to avoid clicking unsolicited emails and links. The government has set up a coronavirus website to answer questions about the virus and legitimate sources.
Also, be wary of where you’re sending your charitable donations. Some tips on how to avoid being scammed by fake charities can be found on FTC’s website here.
COVID-19 won’t be here forever. With the hard work of healthcare workers and scientists and some simple precautions from the rest of us, we can work together to put the virus in our past. In the meantime, some credit card bill payment hacks, careful budgeting, and outside aid can help see us through.