As COVID-19 continues to spread, your personal health is likely top of mind. But good financial health is almost as important — and your credit score is a key asset that can help you navigate the newly official recession.
Entrepreneurs often do not fully understand how their personal credit affects their business. If you’re new to ownership, you likely won’t have any business credit, so credit modeling will be heavily reliant on your personal score.
Having strong credit can make it easier to obtain loans or lines of credit and commercial insurance, lease space and equipment, and establish terms with vendors — particularly at affordable rates and premiums.
Because the pandemic has created opportunities for scammers, it’s critical to monitor your credit reports often and report any fraudulent activity. Access online credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, which are being offered for free on a weekly basis until April 2021 at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Be proactive with contacting your creditors if you can’t make payments. In times of natural disasters and emergencies, they may be able to provide loan extensions, forbearance or flexible repayment plans. As part of the CARES Act, if you are unable to make your minimum monthly credit card payments, you may ask your lender for payment accommodation if your account is in good standing.
If you’re behind on payments, it can be daunting to think about your credit. But by taking steps to shore up your finances, you can improve your overall situation and future opportunities.
If your credit score is poor or damaged, consider the following:
Explore debt-reduction strategies with online tools. There are different strategies to reduce debt, but the right one will depend on your personal situation. By using a website like undebt.it, you can create a plan that fits your needs.
Know your rights for credit reporting and how to negotiate with creditors. As part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have certain rights if a creditor takes adverse action against you. Understanding your rights will help you negotiate more favorable terms with creditors and better position you to settle debt.
Be aware of changes to credit scoring models and how they may affect your future credit score. 90% of top lenders use the FICO scoring model, which has about 50 scores depending upon credit bureau, score version, and purpose. Starting this summer, FICO 10 and 10T will be released. These updates are meant to increase financial inclusion but could present greater problems for those with poor credit habits.
If any of this feels overwhelming, know that you don’t have to go it alone. Although the U.S. credit system is incredibly complex, with the right knowledge it can be navigated successfully.
If you’d like a deep dive into guarding, building or repairing credit, the Zions Bank Business Resource Center is offering a free online workshop, Credit Matters: Know Your Score and More, on June 30. Attendees may register at http://www.zionsbank.com/brcworkshops
Regardless of your personal situation, it’s always wise to work at having the best credit score possible. Your score will have a far-reaching impact on your entrepreneurial journey. By being proactive in building and preserving your credit score during the pandemic, you can position yourself for success in the years to come.
Gina Bessire is a counselor at the Idaho Business Resource Center of Zions Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC. Since 2016, she has been certified through Credit Builders Alliance, a nonprofit member organization that helps people improve their creditworthiness. She can be reached at (208) 501-7573 or Gina.Bessire@zionsbank.com.