Skip to main content

Protecting your credit during the coronavirus pandemic

This blog was originally posted on March 19, 2020 and has been updated on July 29, 2020 to reflect new information.

If you are having trouble paying your bills, you may be worried about what will happen to your credit reports and scores. You can use the information below to manage and protect your credit during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

Reach out to your lender or creditor

Many lenders and creditors report your payment performance to credit reporting agencies (also known as consumer reporting companies or credit bureaus). This includes mortgage servicers and credit card companies, as well as utility providers, cell phone service, landlords, and others that you owe money to and who provide data on accounts in collection.

If you are having trouble paying your bills, it’s important to reach out to your lender or creditor. Many lenders and creditors have announced proactive measures to help borrowers impacted by COVID-19. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has forbearance and credit reporting requirements that may apply to your situation.

As with other natural disasters and emergencies, your creditors or lenders may be willing—and in some case are required—to provide forbearance, loan extensions, a reduction in interest rates, and/or other flexibilities for repayment. Some lenders are also saying they will not report late payments to credit reporting agencies or are waiving late fees for borrowers due to this pandemic. Under the CARES Act, in certain situations, lenders are required to report your accounts as current.

You can reach out to your lender or creditor and find out what options or programs are available. These programs are sometimes called "hardship" or "relief programs." These programs may allow you to enter into an agreement to:

  • Defer or pause one or more payments
  • Make a partial payment
  • Forbear (temporarily stop paying) any delinquent amounts
  • Modify a loan or contract
  • Receive a suspension for federal student loan payments
  • Other assistance or relief

The CARES Act calls these agreements “accommodations.”

To reach out to your lender, look for a customer service number on a copy of your bill for your mortgage, credit card, auto loan, or other loan. Some lenders are facing high call volumes because of the pandemic, so the wait time may be long. You can also check your lender’s website to see if they have information that can help you, ways to communicate electronically, or online applications for hardship programs.

When contacting your lenders, make sure you have your account number and payment information available. Be prepared to discuss your financial and employment situation, as well as how much you can afford to pay considering your income, expenses, and assets. Have a list of questions prepared in advance. You want to make sure you’re completely comfortable with the terms before you make an agreement.

Here are some key questions to ask:

  • If I can’t make my payment as a result of the coronavirus, what are the hardship or relief programs available?
  • Are there fees associated with any of these programs?
  • Will I have the option of deferring the repayment of any amounts owed to the end of my loan?
  • If I’m able to defer or lower my monthly payments, will interest continue to accrue during this hardship or relief period?
  • How long does the hardship or relief period last and when will I need to start repaying?
  • If my financial situation hasn’t changed once the hardship or relief period ends, what will be the options?
  • How will this agreement or relief be reported to the credit reporting agencies? Note: that the recently passed CARES Act places special requirements on companies that report to credit reporting agencies if they provide payment relief due to coronavirus.
  • For credit cards—will I lose the ability to use my card if I enroll or request relief?

There are special forbearance or relief programs for some types of mortgages. To learn more, go to the Mortgage and housing assistance page.

Use our checklist:

  • Find the name of your lender on your statement.
  • Check the lender’s website to see if there are hardship or relief programs available.
  • Call your lender and find out the available hardship or relief programs.
  • Ask questions about the terms of the accommodation, including how it will be reported to credit reporting agencies.
  • Find out what you need to do once the relief or agreement period has ended. Ask what the options are for repayment, such as repaying the amount you missed at the end of your loan.
  • Confirm the agreement or relief in writing and ask the lender to confirm the agreement in writing.
  • Comply with the agreement and make any payments as agreed.
  • Check your credit reports to make sure they accurately reflect the agreement with your lender. There may be some delay in the creditor updating the records with the credit reporting agencies, so you may want to check monthly to ensure your credit records reflect your agreement accurately. You can now request your credit reports for free weekly from each of the nationwide credit reporting agencies through April 2021 by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com .
  • Dispute any errors that you find in your credit reports. If your accommodation is not accurately reflected in your credit reports, reach out to both your lender and the credit reporting agencies and dispute those errors. Attach any documents if you can to show that it is not correctly reported.
  • If you don’t know or aren’t sure about repayment, reach out to your lender before the end of the relief or agreement period to confirm next steps and what the options are to repay any missed payments.

How will my credit be affected?

Depending on whether you were able to make an agreement or accommodation when you talked to your lender, there could be different impacts on your credit reports and scores. Your credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit report. There are credit scores for different purposes and for loan products. Many factors go into computing your credit scores. Learn more about the relationship between credit reports and credit scores.

Two companies, FICO and VantageScore, among others, create scoring models that analyze your credit and generate a credit score. You can find out more information of how these companies are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and treating forbearances and deferrals from FICO and VantageScore . It is important to keep in mind that different lenders use different credit scores including scores they build and manage themselves.

The CARES Act places special requirements on companies that report your payment information to credit reporting agencies. These requirements apply if you are affected by the coronavirus pandemic and if your lender gives you an accommodation to defer a payment, make partial payments, forbear a delinquency, modify a loan, or other relief.

If your lender does make an agreement or accommodation with you:

How your lenders report your account to credit reporting agencies under the CARES Act depends on whether you are current or already delinquent when this agreement is made. These reporting requirements apply only if you are making any payments required by the agreement.

  • If your account is current and you make an agreement to make a partial payment, skip a payment, or other accommodation, then the creditor is to report to credit reporting companies that you are current on your loan or account.
  • If your account is already delinquent and you make an agreement, then the creditor cannot report you as more delinquent (such as reporting you as 60 days delinquent when you started out 30 days delinquent) during the period of the agreement.
  • If your account is already delinquent and you make an agreement, and you bring your account current, the creditor must report that you are current on your loan or account.

This CARES Act requirement applies only to agreements made between January 31, 2020 and the later of either:

  • 120 days after March 27, 2020 or
  • 120 days after the national emergency concerning COVID–19 ends.

If your lender does NOT give you an accommodation:

If your lender is not required to provide an accommodation and decides not to make an agreement with you, this will likely impact your credit report. If you are unable to make a payment or a minimum payment as required and you cannot obtain an accommodation, your lender likely will report that your account is now delinquent.

Your lender may offer you or you can request that the lender place a “special comment” on your account noting that the account was affected by a national emergency as a result of the pandemic. The comment will not affect your credit scores, and your loan will still be recorded as delinquent. But a prospective landlord, employer, or lender may take it into account when considering you for a loan, a job, or housing. The special comment may help a lender or other report user understand that you ordinarily make your payments but could not make payments for a period of time due to the pandemic. In addition, the special comment is temporary and may only show on your account for a period of time, such as during the time of a declared national emergency. When the lender stops furnishing the special comment information, it disappears permanently and entirely from your credit report. There will be no record that there was ever a special comment placed on your credit report.

You can also add a “permanent comment” to your credit file saying that you have been negatively affected by the pandemic. This comment will not affect your credit score, and your delinquent loan will still be reflected in your credit score. However, the comment will remain in your file even after the national emergency is over, and a prospective landlord, employer, or lender may take it into account.

The CARES Act also applies to certain federal student loans and includes requirements relating to suspending payments and credit reporting. During the period that payments on federal student loans are suspended by the Department of Education, any payment that has been suspended is to be reported as if it were a regularly scheduled payment made by the borrower.

How do I get a copy of my credit report?

Right now, it’s easier than ever to check your credit report more often. That’s because everyone is eligible to get free weekly online credit reports from the three nationwide credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. To get your free reports, go to AnnualCreditReport.com . The credit reporting agencies are making these reports free until April 2021.

Each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – are already required to provide you, on your request, with a free credit report once every twelve months. Be sure to check your reports for errors and dispute any inaccurate information.

In addition to your free weekly online credit reports until April 2021 and your free annual credit reports, all U.S. consumers are entitled to six free credit reports every 12 months from Equifax through December 2026. You can access these free reports online at AnnualCreditReport.com or get a "myEquifax" account at equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/free-credit-reports/ or call Equifax at 866-349-5191.

How often should I check my credit reports after talking to my lender?

After making an agreement or accommodation with your lender, you should check your credit reports to make sure that the agreement or accommodation is accurately reflected. For example, if your lender agreed to let you pause one month’s payment, make sure they didn’t report it as delinquent or a missed payment. It could take a month or more for the changes from your lender to show up on your credit reports, but you should check them regularly especially if you are or will be in the market for credit, or if your credit reporting data will be used to make a lending, employment, or housing decision about you. So, check your credit reports after a month or two to see if the reports are accurate.

There are other reports you may want to check too, such as reports that monitor your bank and checking account history, phone, utility, and rental payment history, among others. The CFPB has a list of consumer reporting companies where you can learn more about which reports might be important to you, depending on your specific situation.

You may also be able to get a free copy of your credit scores. Check out the updated list of companies and organizations that said they offer free credit scores to learn about your options for accessing one of your credit scores free of charge.

How can I get errors in my credit report fixed?

If your credit reports are not accurate or don’t reflect your agreements with your lenders, you can check your reports for errors and dispute any inaccurate information. If you find inaccurate information on your credit reports, use the CFPB’s step-by-step guide to dispute that information with the credit reporting agency and the company that provided that information to them, known as a “furnisher.” After you send your dispute, check your report again. You may want to wait a month or two before checking to see if the errors have been corrected. You should check your reports with all three nationwide credit reporting agencies. Your lender or creditor may only report or furnish your information to one credit reporting agency, so checking all three will ensure that you know your information is correctly reported. And if you need to dispute incorrect information, you will know which credit reporting agency to contact.

If your dispute is not resolved with the credit reporting agency, you can ask that a brief statement of the dispute be included in your file and included or summarized in future reports. You can also submit a complaint at any time to the CFPB at consumerfinance.gov/complaint.

Find more information regarding COVID-19 from CFPB

We’re working to continuously update information for consumers during this rapidly evolving situation.

We will publish all COVID-19-related information and blogs to our resource page. Information should be considered accurate as of the blog publish date.

See our COVID-19 resource page

Join the conversation. Follow CFPB on Twitter and Facebook .