The Coronavirus (also called COVID-19) pandemic has brought the country – and much of the world – to a complete standstill: Even if you are not affected by the symptoms of the Coronavirus, the shutdown and self-isolation period have likely changed your finances – and it could change your credit score.
South Africa's 35-day lockdown (21 days initially plus 14 days extension) period and the recommendation for self-isolation has changed everything from how we travel to what we have to do to get access to food – and many have had to rely on loans or credit in order to get by during this tough time.
Here are 9 ways in which the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown period could impact your credit score – and how to handle it from there.
1. An Increased Need for Credit
The Coronavirus pandemic has seen many people reach for loans or credit in order to get themselves and their loved ones through tough times during lockdown or isolation: The first thing this has led to is an increased need for loans and credit as a result: Have you had to rely on additional loans or credit during the lockdown period? Take comfort in the fact that you are certainly not alone: Many others have had to do the same.
2. Missed Payments for Regular Loans
Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic has also led to a lot of people caught off-guard – or at what naturally is a rough time of the month, suddenly made worse by changes in travel or sudden changes at their workplace due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Simply, now what?
Many people have missed payment dates for their regular loans, usually, for loans, they would normally have had no trouble paying.
Thankfully, some banks have been kind enough to bring in relief for their customers – but not all banks have done it, and it won't apply to all of your credit.
Any missed repayments without prior arrangement could have a negative impact on your credit score.
3. Needing the Credit Card
With the increased need for credit during the crisis, many people have resorted to needing their credit card for essentials – and if you're someone with an increased amount of credit card debt already, it put you at an immediate disadvantage above someone who still has the same credit available for emergencies like these.
4. Not Paying Cash
If you've seen the line at the ATM during the Coronavirus crisis or been lucky enough to stop by five of them before you found one that had available cash, you'll realize that the Coronavirus pandemic led to an increase in cashless payment systems – and in swiping cards rather than having to approach an ATM to draw.
Many people reached for their credit cards as a manner of convenience: This meant a boost in online transactions (and presumably credit card transactions, too).
5. Learning to Use Banking Benefits
Most people don't know exactly what credit benefits their bank has to offer them: The Coronavirus pandemic forced more people to learn how to use their online banking facilities and other banking benefits – which in many cases, can positively impact your credit score (as well as mean that you have more cash available at the end of the month because you aren't charged the added fees of frequently drawing cash).
6. Payment Arrangements
Due to the fact that the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have had an inevitably disastrous effect on the finances of thousands, many people have been forced to make alternative payment arrangements for their clients, credit, and loans: If you have outstanding loans, remember that banking continues even during an emergency like this; the right thing to do is to contact your credit provider to make arrangements for payment – yes, even now.
7. The Danger Zone
The Coronavirus pandemic has pushed many people and their credit scores into what could be called the Danger Zone: If you have made credit during this time that you are unable to pay back after, you are going to come out of the pandemic with a worse financial status than we did entering it – are you prepared enough?
8. Learning More About Credit
The Coronavirus pandemic has pushed people to learn more about credit and their credit scores – and it has shown people just how important it can be to make sure you are financially prepared if an emergency such as this (or just a bad week for your finances) ever happens to you again.
Remember just how important budgeting, planning, and a credit score in good standing can be: Emergencies such as this can happen at any time – and the more prepared you are, the better off you might be.
9. More Medical Credit
The Coronavirus pandemic has meant that more people have relied on credit for medical reasons, too – whether it has been to get a check-up or a COVID-19 specific test. Again, it has meant that many people ask themselves if they are prepared enough for the event of an emergency in the future. Are you?