Washington – Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at WalletHub, a website that offers financial advice, offered the following tips to the public to protect themselves and to keep their wallets safe:
Ask your bank for help. Many banks and credit unions have stated they are willing to offer assistance to people who face temporary financial hardship due to the coronavirus. These might include measures like being able to skip a payment, having temporarily lower rates, getting fees waived or having a credit line increase. If you find yourself struggling financially, call customer service to make your case. Make sure to clearly and politely articulate the reasons for your hardship.
Focus on maximizing savings. Most people’s jobs aren’t immune to the coronavirus, so it’s a good idea to set aside as much money as you can from each paycheck in case coronavirus impacts your ability to work or causes you to have additional medical expenses. Even beyond the current situation, it’s always good to have an emergency fund. Avoid panicking about stocks, too, and just remember that it’s only a matter of time until the virus runs its course.
Take advantage of travel insurance but know the limits. If your travel provider cancels a trip because of the coronavirus, a “trip cancellation or interruption” policy might help you get your money back. Some credit cards offer this benefit for free, though issuers have been cutting back in recent years. Keep in mind that if you cancel your own trip out of fear of the virus, your insurance policy probably won’t cover you unless you have coverage for canceling “for any reason” or have doctor’s orders to quarantine yourself.
Use credit cards, not cash. Though there’s not much evidence to show that touching cash spreads coronavirus, it’s theoretically possible, and the Federal Reserve has been quarantining bank notes from Asia. China also burned some of its currency that had been circulated through the Wuhan area. Using a credit card’s contactless capability may help give consumers more peace of mind. Plus, credit cards can be used for online purchases, allowing consumers to avoid shopping at crowded stores. In addition, consumers that decide to stock up on essential items and spend more than usual in the coming months can recoup some of that expense, and get some extra time to pay, by using a rewards credit card.