What to Do With Your Credit Cards During COVID-19

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 28, 2021 - First published on Sept. 3, 2020

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Woman looking at credit cards with confusion.

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Should COVID-19 change how you use your credit cards? Find out here.

You may be focused on what the coronavirus pandemic means for going to work, sending your children to school, or enjoying normal activities, but there may be other modifications worth making.

Take your credit cards. Here are four big things to consider, depending on your financial situation.

1. Call to negotiate annual fees

Many cards that offer generous travel rewards also charge hefty annual fees. Those fees can be worth it if you're traveling often, but chances are good you've been mostly grounded due to COVID-19.

If you pay a substantial annual fee for a card that isn't worth it right now, call your card issuer to see if they'll reduce or waive your fee. If they won't, consider downgrading your card -- at least temporarily -- to one that won't charge you to be a customer.

2. Make sure your cards are optimized to your spending needs

If you're like most people, the pandemic has changed your spending. While you may have spent a fortune on gas or dining out before, for example, your dollars may now go primarily to groceries or improvements to the space where you're hunkering down.

If your spending habits have changed, it may make sense to seek a different rewards credit card. Look into what your current card provides bonus perks for, and explore what else is out there. Switching to a new one may make sense if it rewards your current expenditures.

3. Reach out to your card issuers if you can't pay the bills

If you're struggling to pay your minimum credit card bills because of a job loss or income cut, let your credit card issuers know. Most major card issuers will work with you during these troubled times, but you can't get a forbearance, interest rate reduction, or payment plan unless you ask.

4. Consider a 0% intro APR card if you're struggling to cover expenses

If you're having a hard time making ends meet because your income has fallen, a 0% intro APR card could provide you with a way to charge necessities without paying interest. Most 0% intro APR cards give you a year (or more) to make purchases without paying interest, so they can buy you a lot of time to get back on your feet.

Just remember that every dollar you borrow must be paid back, so try to limit the burden on your future self by charging as little as possible.

Should you take these four steps with your credit cards?

Ultimately, the right approach to managing credit cards during the COVID-19 pandemic depends on what's going on with the rest of your financial life.

If you're in good financial shape, focus on getting the most rewards points you can, and cutting down on annual fees that are no longer justified. If you're struggling, your cards could help you afford the basics without paying interest, and you may need to ask your card issuers for help.

It's important to assess your financial options during this crisis, even if you have other things on your mind.

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