It's the first of the month — due date for anything from rent and utilities to credit card and student loan payments. Many of us are staring at that stack of bills right now as we face layoffs or lost wages from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To that end, TexPIRG Education Fund has released a guide
explaining how consumers can talk to their banks to lower interest rates, waive overdraft fees and work out payment plans that bring financial peace of mind.
“When Americans budgeted for 2020, they could not have predicted a pandemic that would force them to work from home, cut their hours, or leave them suddenly unemployed," TexPIRG's associate Lauren Banister said.
Although it's always best to get the tips directly from the source
, here are some highlights of the Texas-based consumer group's guide:
Evaluate your finances:
1. Make a list.
Pull together a complete tally of what you owe and to whom.
2. Assess interest rates.
Note the interest rates you’d owe for each of your debts if you can't make a payment.
3. Determine what you can pay.
If you can't pay them all, prioritize paying bills that could have long-term impacts on your finances, home and credit rating.
Engage with your bank or provider:
1. Gather info.
Pull together all the data your bank or loan servicer requires to submit a request or make a payment.
2. Try multiple methods of contact.
Customer service numbers are flooded with calls right now. It may be easier to make contact online.
3. Explain your situation.
Calmly lay out the difficulties you’re facing. Also explain your strengths, including your good credit score or on-time payment record.
4. Make a specific ask.
Be clear about what you'd like from your bank, whether it's reducing your minimum payment or temporarily lowering fees.
TxPIRG's guide also includes information on new bank and utility policies and how to watch out for scams.
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