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Britt Erica Tunick is an award winning financial journalist who has spent the past 17 years writing about virtually every aspect of finance.

Using Credit Wisely During Times of Uncertainty

Using Credit Wisely During Times of Uncertainty

By Britt Erica Tunick

Relying on credit cards is never ideal, but there are times when it may be a necessity. The emergence of COVID-19 and the extraordinary measures it has necessitated have meant radical changes in the daily lives of people around the world. With people forced to stay at home and businesses having to temporarily, or in some cases permanently, close shop to prevent further transmission of the disease, many people suddenly face financial uncertainty and are having to rely on credit more heavily than in the past. If you are among those suddenly forced to rely on credit cards to get by, make sure to do so cautiously and in the smartest way possible.

Running up the balance on credit cards is never ideal, but if a sudden change in income leaves you unable to cover your day-to-day living expenses with your savings or emergency cash fund, a credit card may be your only choice. If that’s the case, make sure to limit your purchases to essential items only.

It is also extremely important to keep your payments up-to-date and pay at least the minimum amount due on each statement, since failing to do so can send your interest rate soaring and could wind up hurting your credit score.

Just as they have done in the wake of other recent disasters, such as Hurricane Dorian, many credit card issuers are temporarily waiving interest charges or lowering interest rates for customers facing financial hardships. Since assistance is typically on a case-by-case basis, if you think you need help, you should call each of your credit card issuers and discuss your individual situation with them. Keep in mind, however, any assistance will only be temporary and you may ultimately be on the hook for any and all charges you accrue, along with interest, so it is important to use your cards cautiously.

Other options you may want to consider, depending on your finances and your credit rating, are taking out a short-term personal loan, or utilizing a zero-percent introductory offer on a new credit card if you are eligible.