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, you can pause payments on federal student loans 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, not Federal Family Education Loans or private student loans.
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.
You may still choose to pay down student loans to knock out your debt more quickly. But if you’re looking to cut expenses, the federal government has given you a free pass on your federal student loans.
You do not need to contact your provider to pause payments. The loan website may show you still have payments due, but you won’t be penalized for not paying.
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.
According to Hailey Ross at S&P Global Market Intelligence, Allstate customers can request to skip two consecutive payments without paying late fees. Liberty is extending due dates and waiving penalties. GEICO will no longer cancel your coverage if you miss payments or allow your policy to expire through April 30.
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.
When life calms down and you have a steady income again, call these companies and reinstate your payment schedule. You can continue tackling your debt and — hopefully, one day — attending sports events.
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. Some private lenders are allowing forbearance for up to 90 days. Contact your lender and be prepared to show proof of economic hardship.
8. Auto payments
Many lenders are working with people who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus and struggling to make car loan payments. Ally Bank is offering auto payment deferment for up to 120 days.
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.