If you’re struggling to keep up with your bills and loans, you have options. Depending on your loan, your lender may have a financial hardship plan available to make your payments more manageable. Every lender and product is a little bit different. At first glance, it may seem confusing, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out for help. Below we break down loan forbearance, a popular loan accommodation option, so you can feel more prepared when you talk to your lender.
What is forbearance?
Forbearance is a type of financial accommodation that may be offered by a lender. It often describes a temporary change in payment terms for your account. This change can be negotiated with your lender and may include suspended or reduced payments.
Lenders may offer payment alternatives to financially strapped customers on student loans, mortgages, car loans, credit cards and personal loans, among others.
Forbearance vs. deferment
Lenders may use the terms forbearance and deferment interchangeably. Whatever terms they use for their financial assistance programs, you want to make sure you clearly understand how your loan will change, how it will be reported to credit reporting agencies and what your repayment options are when the assistance period ends.
The type of assistance offered will depend on your type of loan, your lender and your financial situation. Federal student loans, for instance, offer both deferment and forbearance options with specifically defined terms. Auto loans can have a variety of repayment options, which can include temporary payment pauses, skipped payments and due date changes. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides tips on how to work with your lender to avoid falling behind on your auto loan.
Mortgage lenders may offer forbearance plans that allow you to pause payments. They might also offer mortgage loan modifications as a form of assistance. Modifications change the terms of your loan by adjusting the interest rate, the length of your loan or a combination of both, which can result in lowering the monthly payments.
How can I get loan forbearance?
You don’t have to wait for your lender to contact you to enroll in a financial accommodation plan. Contact companies you have accounts with as soon as you can. It’s best to contact your lender before you miss a payment. Your payment history is one of the most influential credit score factors, so try to get ahead of a potential missed payment and work out a plan with your lender ahead of time. Even if you’ve already missed one, you could still benefit from reaching out before you miss any more.
Every lender is different, and each likely has their own terms and eligibility for their financial hardship programs. You may be required to provide proof of hardship such as recent bank statements or medical bills. If you’re worried about how you’ll repay missed or partial payments, don’t let that stop you from talking to your lender about options. Explain your financial situation and get clear descriptions of the accommodation terms. This can help you agree to a manageable plan for your situation.
How financial hardship accommodations may appear on your credit report
It’s up to each lender to decide how they will report financial hardship accommodation plans to the credit reporting agencies. If you’re eligible for forbearance, your lender or creditor may report your account as active, but with a new, agreed-upon payment due. This could be $0. If that is the case, your current balance will show in the “Balance” field. However, the “Terms” field would state there is no payment currently due.
Below are a few other common ways financial hardship plans may appear on your credit report: