Personal Finance

Your Credit Questions Answered

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  • During an economic downturn, there are some best practices to follow to keep a good credit standing.
  • Budgeting and making credit card payments can help to avoid taking on more debt.
  • Adding a 100-word Consumer Statement to your credit reports helps explain negative account information and the outcome of a dispute.

Keep reading to learn what you can do to keep your credit in good standing.

Q: What are general best practices for consumers in the face of economic downturn when it comes to credit standing?

A: Follow these best practices to help keep yourself in good credit standing:

  • Ask for help. If you are unable to make even the minimum payment, contact your lenders and creditors and see if any assistance is available.
  • If possible, pay what you can. Try to avoid late payments. And, try to make at least the minimum payment on accounts, or pay any amount you and the lender or creditor agree upon.
  • Stay up to date on your credit reports. You can get free Equifax credit reports by creating a myEquifax account. You can also get your credit reports from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus at
  • Consider adding a Consumer Statement to your credit reports. The 100-word Consumer Statement can explain a disagreement with the outcome of a dispute investigation or provide additional information about items on your credit reports.

Q: What steps can I take to avoid falling into debt?

A: You can fall into debt for any number of reasons, many of which depend on circumstances specific to your financial situation such as an inability to pay bills, student loans, medical loans or other expenses.

Budgeting is helpful to keep credit card debt down, where possible. Take a look at how much you're making and what you're spending. Identify places where you may be able to trim usual costs.

Talk to lenders and creditors to discuss your unique financial situation and options. There may be options to defer payments or negotiate different interest rates.

Pay what you can. Ideally, you'll pay your credit card bill in full every month. If credit cards aren't paid in full every month, added interest payments can prolong debt. If you're not able to pay in full, then aim to pay whatever you can, at least the minimum payment if possible. Not making a payment at all could further impact your credit standing.

Q: What about consumers who do fall into debt or who are anticipating a financial hardship?

A: Consumers experiencing financial hardships are likely wondering how potentially late or reduced payments might impact their credit standing and may consider contacting their lenders and creditors to discuss options. Adding a Consumer Statement to their credit reports helps explain negative, yet accurate account information.

We will update this page if we learn of new relief programs that become available.

Q: How might deferred payments, missed payment allowances and other actions by credit card issuers be reflected on credit reports?

A: It's important to remember that even one late or missed payment may impact credit scores and remain on credit reports for seven years. But generally, late payments don't end up on credit reports for at least 30 days after you miss the payment. That means it's possible to make up a late payment before it shows on credit reports. However, interest and late payment fees may still apply.

If you're out of work or financially struggling, contact your lenders and creditors to explain your situation and see if any accommodations can be made. It's possible that lenders and creditors may have special assistance available to reduce the risk of impacting your credit standing. Some creditors may waive late fees or offer short-term loans, and some may provide the opportunity to make reduced payments, interest-only payments, or no payments for some period of time -- a practice known as forbearance. Keep in mind, however, that accounts in forbearance can still be reported as late or missed payments by lenders and creditors to the three nationwide credit bureaus.

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