How to use your credit cards wisely during financial strain from coronavirus crisis

Financial First Aid: How to use credit cards wisely during financial strain from coronavirus crisis

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Using credit cards come with risks. You can rack up high-interest debt and hurt your finances if you don't use them carefully. Now many families are struggling with prioritizing bills as people lose jobs and income during the coronavirus pandemic.

The positive side to using a credit card is it allows you to float cash for costs you need to pay like rent and mortgage.

But high interest debt can add up quickly with old credit card balances.

If that’s something you’re worried about, you can make a balance transfer to a card with 0 percent APR.

You may get a year to pay it down, interest-free.

If you've taken a financial hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, your credit card issuer may offer some relief.

Credit Karma says you may be able to waive your fees or defer payments.

And assistance programs can help you remain in good standing with your issuer, according to Bankrate.com.

19 News found credit cards are sending out alerts to consumers, recognizing these are difficult financial times.

Credit card issuers warn wait times are higher than usual if you call for help.

CBS News Business Analyst Jill Schlesinger offered advice on getting a break from your credit cards.

“Credit card forbearance. Again this would mean you wouldn't have to pay that bill and you would not be accruing interest or penalties for not doing so. So if you are negatively impacted, if you are unemployed, reach out to those places where you have those monthly bills, put them on notice that you are going to need a few months to get back up on your feet,” she said.

We also wanted to know whether you should be worried about your credit score right now if you're relying on your credit cards to help you pay for essentials like groceries right now.

We asked Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert with Nerd Wallet for advice.

“You always want to have your credit score in the back of your head because it's such an important number going forward, it affects what future rate you'll get on an auto loan, a personal loan, depending on what credit cards you have access to,” she said.

“But if you absolutely will not be able to buy groceries unless you put that on your credit card, and it will run up the amount of credit you're using, and you know it will hurt your credit score, that's not a big priority right now. Because it's something you can build back up later. Definitely take advantage of the fact that you have access to credit and that you can use a credit card. And then you can work on rebuilding your credit score later,” Palmer said.

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