An interview with Credit Card Insider's Associate Editor Sean Messier to give some advice to our readers on what to do and what not do with their credit cards during a pandemic.
What you should do during a pandemic
Contact your credit card issuer if you are facing financial hardship.
• Credit card issuers want you to be able to pay off your debts, so it’s in their interest to work with consumers to make sure that happens. If you’ve been laid off or are dealing with other financial obstacles that are preventing you from paying your debts, contact your issuer.
Use a contactless credit card.
• Contactless credit cards aren’t yet accepted everywhere, but most major retailers and many locals take them. It’s a small step, but opting for a contactless transaction is at least slightly safer than inserting or swiping your card, because there’s usually no need to touch any solid surfaces.
Set up a mobile wallet.
• Mobile wallets, like Google Pay, basically serve the same purpose in this context as contactless credit cards. You tap your phone, rather than a card, so this allows you to use any card in your wallet, rather than just those that physically allow contactless payments.
What you should not do during a pandemic
Don’t lean on credit cards to pay for things you can’t afford.
• Credit cards are useful tools, but even if you can afford the monthly payments, high balances could damage your credit if they’re not fully paid in a timely manner.
• If you can afford a monthly payment but don’t think you would be able to knock out a credit card’s balance in full, personal loans may be a better choice, because their interest rates are usually lower than credit cards. Plus, if you are borrowing from a local bank or credit union, you might find it easier to renegotiate your debt. These institutions tend to have a strong emphasis on personalized service.
• If you want to avoid accruing interest on your debts, and you have a rough idea of when you will be able to them off, think about using a credit card with 0 percent introductory purchase APR.
◦ They let you carry balances without accruing interest charges for a set period of time, often more than a year, which could be a nice safety pad. But you still have to make minimum payments, so keep that in mind.
◦ You can also transfer current debts to a credit card with a 0 percent balance transfer APR offer to continue paying them down without accumulating interest charges.
• If you rack up credit card balances and then miss payments, you could damage your credit. Be careful to avoid this so you are not left unable to borrow once the situation dies down.
Don’t panic-apply for a bunch of credit cards at once.
• If you apply for a huge batch of credit cards in a short period of time, you could damage your credit and make it harder to actually be approved, especially in the near future.
• Hard credit inquiries can have a negative, though usually short-lived, impact on your credit scores.
• Applying for a lot of credit in a brief span of time could make you look more desperate, which could make lenders nervous. Stagger your credit card applications if you want to apply for several – try submitting one every few months at most.
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