At Experian, our top priorities are the health and safety of our employees, customers and their families. As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation continues to evolve, we are doing all we can to help you protect your credit during this unprecedented time.
While your health and welfare are top priorities, you may also be concerned about how current economic conditions might affect your financial situation. We encourage you to be proactive in monitoring your credit, staying on top of your personal finances, and using resources that may be available to you.
With that in mind, here are some steps you can take now to help keep your credit on solid footing.
- Check your credit regularly. Especially now, making sure your credit reports are accurate is critical. This way, you can identify any potentially fraudulent activity and respond to it before it damages your credit. You should check your credit reports with all three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). You can get a free copy of your credit report from each bureau once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Dispute information online. If you need to dispute any information in your Experian credit report, the quickest way to do so is online at Experian's dispute center. Remember that disputes need to be made with each credit bureau where the information you're disputing appears.
- Pay all your bills on time if possible. While we know it may get difficult, try to make at least your minimum debt payments by their due date every month to avoid hurting your credit score. Do your best to make your payments on time, even if you're only meeting your creditors' minimum requirements.
- Get help from your lenders. If you know you can't pay all your bills at this time, contact your lenders and ask about hardship options as soon as possible—ideally before you miss a payment. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many lenders are putting policies in place to help customers who may need extra time to pay their bills.
Lenders may be able to temporarily lower your interest rate or payment amount, or pause your payments for a period of time. Lenders may also be able to place your loans in deferment or forbearance. You don't have to make loan payments when a loan is in deferment or forbearance, and the lender will not report late payments to the credit bureaus.
Lastly, your lender may report the account to Experian with a statement that indicates you have been affected by a natural or declared disaster, which can help protect your credit history and credit scores.
- Contact your service providers. If you don't think you can pay your utility, cell phone, cable or other monthly bills, reach out to your providers to see if they offer flexible payment options during this time.
- Be extra vigilant about protecting your identity. Identity theft and related scams often spike during times of crisis, so it's especially important now to protect your personal information. If you fear identity theft may occur or has occurred in your name, you can also place a free security freeze on your Experian credit file so lenders cannot gain access to it. This prevents people from accessing your personal information and applying for credit in your name. You can lift the freeze at any time, for free.
- Seek financial assistance, if necessary. Consider working with a certified credit counselor if you feel you may need help managing your existing debt, despite help from creditors. Nonprofit counselors can offer you advice and even create a debt management plan to help you repay your debts in a manageable way.
For those with investments, savings or retirement accounts, U.S. market fluctuations could cause significant concern. Before you make any rushed decisions with your investments, consult financial experts where you invest or bank, or talk to your company's 401(k) representative to get professional advice on what actions, if any, you should consider at this time.
- Make a budget and plan ahead. If you think current conditions could impact your income or finances, consider tightening your budget to help make sure you have enough funds to cover your expenses. Making a budget and sticking to it is a sound strategy at any time, but especially when your finances may take an unplanned hit.
To help you find the resources you need, we've compiled a list of financial and non-financial institutions' websites providing relief and useful consumer information. Go to Experian's COVID-19 Resource and Relief Center for more information.
Have more questions about how to manage your credit and finances while the coronavirus crisis continues? Over the next couple months, our weekly #CreditChat discussions will focus on helping consumers get answers about protecting their financial health during the coronavirus pandemic. #CreditChat is open to everyone every Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern time on Twitter. Visit ex.pn/creditchat for details.
At Experian, we are committed to doing all we can to help you get through this difficult time. While the current situation may cause worry, staying calm and taking actions to protect your health and financial well-being will help you weather this ongoing health crisis.
We are making every effort to maintain our normal call center operating hours (Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET and Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET) while protecting the health and safety of our employees and the communities they serve during this ongoing crisis. If you're contacting us by phone, please understand you may experience longer than usual wait times. For online assistance, please visit experian.com/help. Thank you in advance for your patience.