In addition to public health concerns, COVID-19 has led to widespread financial hardship. Our Consumer Financial Hardship Study shows that over half of Americans have been impacted financially by the pandemic. Seventy percent of those affected are worried about how to pay bills and loans. If you’re one of many people struggling, many companies are providing repayment options for customers in need.
What is forbearance?
Forbearance is a common word for a financial accommodation. 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.
Loan forbearance is typically used to describe mortgage payment accommodations. But lenders may offer payment alternatives to financially strapped customers on student loans, car loans, credit cards and small business loans, among others. In fact, 69% of respondents in our wave nine study said their companies have reached out proactively about options that may available to them during this time.
Reach out to your lenders for specific information
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; 60% of Americans already have. It’s best to contact your lender before you miss a payment. 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 hardship programs. 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. It can also help keep you from missing payments unnecessarily.
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. Due to COVID-19, many lenders have been offering a payment holiday accommodation. If you’ve enrolled in a payment holiday, your lender or creditor may report your account as active, but with $0 due. 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:
|AFFCTD BY NATRL/DCLRD DISASTR||Your lender is reporting that your account is affected by a natural or declared disaster.||
|ACCOUNT IN FORBEARANCE||Your lender is reporting that your account is in forbearance.||
|PAYMENT DEFERRED||Your lender is reporting that your payment has been deferred.||
Forbearance repayment options
The CARES Act provides guidance for federally backed mortgages and student loans. If a private company backs your debt, available financial hardship plans will vary. If you’re exploring options for multiple bills or loans, consider how you plan to repay them all when the forbearance period ends.
The financial accommodation your lender offers likely will not forgive the loan. It probably will not permanently change your loan terms either. Usually, you'll have to repay with a repayment plan, loan modification or loan reinstatement.
- Repayment plan: make normal payments plus extra each month until you make up for paused payment
- Loan modification: make normal payments, but it takes longer to pay off the loan
- Loan reinstatement: make a lump sum payment of everything you owe (the outstanding balance) when the forbearance period ends
Lenders may not offer all these plans, so be sure to ask them what they have available for their customers.