- Many companies understand Americans are losing work due to the coronavirus and are struggling to pay their bills.
- If you've been financially affected by the coronavirus, you can ask companies about their policies regarding late or missed payments.
- Some companies are making exceptions for people who have been impacted by the coronavirus.
- You might be able to pause payments toward memberships, credit cards, utilities, insurance, rent, mortgage, auto loans, and federal and private student loans.
- Read more personal finance coverage.
Many employees are out of work or facing reduced hours as US businesses temporarily close to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Lenders are empathizing with people who are struggling to pay their bills during the pandemic.
If you reach out to companies, you may be able to pause any of these eight bills — and make life a little less stressful during the outbreak.
1. Memberships and subscriptions
It may seem like we're beating a dead horse by recommending you cancel memberships and subscriptions to save money. But while people might normally tell you to cut out frivolous expenses like streaming services, that's not necessarily the best move here.
After all, you're going to be spending a lot of time at home. Is now really the time to delete your Netflix account?
Instead, think about expenses that will no longer be relevant while you're self-isolating. If your gym is closed indefinitely, pause your monthly payments. If you're a season ticket holder to an amusement park that has closed or for a sports team whose season has been canceled, call the ticket office to discuss cancellation.
In some cases, you may want to ask whether you can pause rather than cancel a membership. For example, if you cancel your gym membership, you might have to pay the joining fee again when you finally go back. Hopefully, pausing payments eliminate that extra expense.
2. Credit card payments
No one wants to miss a credit card payment. Neglecting to make a minimum payment on time can hurt your credit score. When you fail to pay off the full statement balance every month, you have to pay interest.
Thankfully, many credit card issuers are making accommodations for borrowers who have been financially affected by the coronavirus. Companies are encouraging these members to contact a representative to discuss their options. Some issuers are allowing people to skip payments without accruing interest.
Companies such as CenterPoint Energy, Xcel Energy, and Minnesota Power have announced they won't shut off customers' power if they're unable to pay at this time.
Charter is installing free WiFi and Broadband for new customers, and it will remain free for 60 days. Arvig is offering free internet and WiFi to new customers who have K-12 or college students in their households. These customers won't have to pay until schools reopen.
Check whether your utility company has already announced exceptions for payments online. If so, call up the company to tell them about your situation. You can still give them a call if you can't find any information about special circumstances online. It's possible they're still willing to work with you.
4. Federal student loan payments
Under the CARES Act, federal student loan payments are suspended until September 30, 2020. No interest accrues during this time. You won't be penalized for skipping these payments, and your credit score won't be affected.
The CARES Act is referring to Direct federal student loans that are owned by the Department of Education. Private loans, refinanced loans, and FFEL and Perkins loans owned by private companies or colleges do not qualify for forbearance under the CARES Act.
The Department of Education has paused all federal student loan payments, so any automatic payments will be suspended. If you'd like to continue making payments until September 30 to eliminate debt more quickly, call your student loan servicer to reinstate automatic payments.
If you're enrolled in a student loan forgiveness program but skip payments until September 30, these months will still count toward your required number of payments to receive forgiveness, even if you don't pay anything. In order for these months to count toward your PSLF credits, you must still be employed full-time during this period.
If you've made a federal student loan payment since March 13, you can contact your servicer to request a refund.
5. Private student loan payments
Many private student loan companies are encouraging borrowers to contact representatives to discuss payment options. Some are making exceptions for people who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus.
Some lenders already have policies in place to accommodate borrowers who are out of work. For example, Wells Fargo's Loan Modification Program lowers your monthly payments. It also offers short-term payment relief, which lasts for two months. Most lenders also offer forbearance, although terms vary.
6. Insurance payments
Several big-name insurance companies are making exceptions for people who have been impacted by the coronavirus. For example, Liberty is offering auto insurance customers 15% refunds on two months of premiums, and GEICO is offering a 15% policy credit through October 7, 2020.
Call your insurance providers to ask whether they're willing to accommodate your situation. Even just pausing payments for a month or two may help alleviate your financial burden.
7. Rent or Mortgage Payments
Numerous cities have temporarily forbidden landlords from evicting tenants who can't pay rent. Whether your city has released an official stance on evictions or not, contact your landlord to discuss your job loss. You might be able to set up a payment plan or defer payment for a month or two.
For homeowners, federal mortgage lending companies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are offering forbearance for up to 12 months, and beginning July 1, you can request to put off repayment until you sell, refinance, or pay off the home completely.
Some private lenders are allowing forbearance for up to 120 days. Contact your lender and be prepared to show proof of economic hardship.
8. Auto payments
Some car manufacturers are extending a hand to borrowers, too. For example, Hyundai's finance team is allowing current car owners to defer payments for up to three months.
Call your lender to explain your situation and talk about your options.
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