Right now, an unprecedented number of Americans have lost their jobs, lost a large portion of their income, or worse, and simply aren’t able to pay their bills. But what about you? What bills should you pay? And what bills should you skip?
Truthfully, if you have the money, you should pay ALL of your bills as usual for as long as you can. Don’t be one of those people who are still working, yet use the pandemic to skip a mortgage or car payment. Believe me, you will be sorry in the long run if you choose to go that route. We still don’t know what the fallout with respect to our credit reports (and credit scores) will be as none of the legislation that has been enacted either directly or indirectly addresses payments that are skipped during this unprecedented time. Already, we’re seeing lendors of all types, from home mortgage lenders to credit card providers, put stricter requirements in place to even qualify for a new loan, and/or cut back on credit limits, the types of loans available, and more. So, if you can pay your bills, do so.
However, if you cannot pay your bills, the most important thing that you should do is to sit down and see what your options are with each and every bill that you have. Does your mortgage provider have a forbearance option? If so, will that affect your credit report, and if so, how? What about your car loan? If there is no effect on your credit score, these may be your best options. If not, then look at your credit card bills. Many are offering some type of special payment arrangements, but again, ask what effect this will have on your credit score. Next, look at your local utility companies. Many states have passed legislation regarding utility services, so chances are, your local providers will not shut off service if those bills are late, so that may be a viable option if you are strapped for cash. The main thing is that you look at all of your options.
Whatever you do, don’t just stick your head in the sand. Communicate with each and every one of your creditors for any bills that will be late, even if it’s only a few days. Let them know when to expect payment. Request that late fees, if any, be waived. Request that they not report it to the credit bureaus. And, if they do, make sure that you add a statement to your credit file explaining why the payment was late. As hard as it may be to address these issues now, it will save you years and years of grief in the long run.