Rising bills and debt: Tips for negotiating with banks and lenders during the coronavirus pandemic

There may be a way to get some relief from rising bills during the pandemic if you’re willing to negotiate.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a serious impact on people’s finances across the United States. Many have lost their jobs. Unemployment claims have flown away. And the national economy fell 4.8% in the last quarter when the virus hit.

But for many of us, that doesn’t mean the bills have stopped piling up on the counter.

There may be a way to get relief if you are willing to negotiate.

“How you trade really depends on what type of debt you’re looking at,” Wall Street Journal reporter Veronica Dagher told OMCP. “If you’re considering something like credit card debt, ask if it’s possible to skip this month’s payment without interest being added, which is known as deferment.”

Dagher says a deferral shouldn’t hurt your credit score and added that some cards, like Apple Card, did for March and April.

“If your credit card company isn’t willing to do this, you can ask to skip a payment with interest, and that’s called a forbearance, or have other charges waived, like late fees or annual fees,” Dagher said.

“All of these little things can add up and lower your bill in the long run. You can also try to get a lower interest rate on your credit card.

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Car loan payments are hanging over the heads of many people. But Dagher said many lenders offer relief programs for their customers.

“Deferred payments, waiver of late fees, loan extensions are some of the responses they have due to coronavirus,” she said. “So contact your lender, explain your situation.”

There is, however, a caveat to this.

“If you’re applying for a loan, just make sure you’re clear on the terms and conditions,” Dagher said. “It is common for some of these skipped payments to be deferred until the end of the loan period. So you want to keep in mind that interest will continue to accrue during this deferral period.

She recommends confirming with the lender the amount of interest, how much you owe, and putting everything in writing.

“You don’t want to be hit with a huge lump sum payment after a few months,” Dagher said.

Medical bills are another burden on the financial situation of many people, especially the unemployed.

“If you lost your job, try to explain it to your provider first before you receive care,” Dagher said. “But don’t assume that just because you have a bill it’s not negotiable – you can negotiate. Call your provider’s office, see if they can reduce the total amount, agree to the Medicare rate, or just work out some sort of payment plan with you.

“They want to be paid,” she said.

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