Struggling to Pay Your Credit Card Bill Because Of Coronavirus? Do This

"Banks have these so-called hardship programs that basically kick into gear at times of disaster," a credit analyst said, but you have to call for help

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It's the beginning of the month and your bills are coming due. But if you've lost your job or your income because of the novel coronavirus, paying them can be tough. 

But you may be able to get some help from your credit card company. Credit card companies have programs created for situations like this health crisis, said Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst with Lending Tree.

"Banks have these so-called hardship programs that basically kick into gear at times of disaster, so like hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, that type of thing," Schulz said. "And the coronavirus outbreak is certainly an example of something like that."

But the burden is on you. You have to be pro-active and call them for help. So, pick up the phone today, call the 800 number on the back of your credit card and ask for assistance. 

"What you need to do is tell them your story," said Schulz. "Tell them that you lost your job, tell them that you've had a major reduction of income. Tell them that you've had medical issues that have kept you from working, whatever the case might be and start the conversation working toward what help they can give you financially." 

The economic stress of the coronavirus pandemic is hitting home Wednesday, April 1, when rent and mortgage payments are due for many people who lost their jobs. But a financial advisor says it's best to be up front about it.

Lenders may offer you short term interest rate reductions, higher credit limits, lower minimum payments or extend payment deadlines. They may wave late fees or agree not to report missed payments to the credit bureaus. 

"If you can defer one payment or even substantially reduce one payment by 25 or 50 bucks, it's a really big deal to folks who now may not have a paycheck coming in,” Schulz said. “Every little bit matters, so it's absolutely worth the effort to make that call to ask for these breaks."

The duration of the help you receive through these hardship programs will vary. They are meant to be short-term fixes. Since it's unclear how long this situation will last, keep the lines of communication open with your card issuer. 

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