The COVID-19 pandemic has upended much about our daily lives. For many people, it has meant changes to their employment, income or business circumstances, bringing financial, as well as health, uncertainty. We’ve put together some information and resources to answer your most common questions.  

 

What should I do if I am struggling to meet repayments on my mortgage/ personal loan/ auto loan or credit card payments?

The Australian government and most lenders are now providing COVID-19 financial support for those who are affected.

If you are having difficulty paying your home loan, credit card, personal or auto loan, your first point of call should be to contact your lender to find out what options are available. Many lenders now have COVID-19 hardship provisions in place and are offering payment deferrals for periods of up to six months.

Because many contact centres have been inundated with calls, a good starting point is to check your lender’s website for more information, as most now have COVID-19 support sections.

The four big banks all have support packages available for consumers and businesses who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find out more here:


What should I do if I am struggling to pay my private health insurance?

Many private health insurers are now also offering members the ability to suspend their membership temporarily. The majority of health funds, including Medibank, BUPA, HCF, HBF and NIB, are also delaying their premium increase until at least 1 October 2020. However, you may not be covered for benefits during a period of suspension, so make sure you understand the conditions before you make any changes to your coverage.

Note that private hospital insurance isn't needed to cover treatment for COVID-19. Testing for the virus and treatments are covered by Medicare and are free for Australians and some others[1].

Check your insurance provider’s website for more information or contact them directly. You can find updates from some of the major private health insurers here:


How will COVID-19 impact my credit score?

The impact of COVID-19 on an individual’s credit report and score depends on the way information is reported by credit providers to Equifax and other credit reporting bodies. Loan repayments are reflected in consumers’ credit reports as part of the repayment history information (RHI). If repayments are made on time each month this is reflected in a credit report and considered as part of an Equifax Score. Making repayments on time each month has a positive impact and several missed repayments can have a negative impact on an individual’s Equifax credit score.

Lenders and industry are working together to ensure consumers are supported and treated appropriately so their credit standing is not adversely impacted by COVID-19.

Here are some steps you can take to minimise the potential impact:

Talk to your lenders. As well as seeing what assistance is available to you, find out what your options are if you are unable to pay on time or the full amount due, and ask if there is any assistance available.
Pay what you can. It is far better to pay at least the minimum amount due than to miss payments altogether, as this helps you avoid having late or missed payments show up on your credit report. You may be able to make an agreement with your lender on a lower minimum amount due each month.
Know what’s in your credit report. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months.

 Want a more detailed view of your credit history? You can also request a free copy of your Equifax credit report for free (if eligibility criteria met).


I have arrange
d a ‘payment deferral’/deferred payment with my bank/lender, how will this impact my credit score?

Lenders and industry are working together to ensure consumers are supported and treated appropriately so their credit standing is not adversely impacted by COVID-19.

Here are a couple of examples of how a ‘payment deferral’ arrangement due to COVID-19 could be reported:

If a consumer is up to date with payments and enters a ‘payment deferral, lenders may supply Repayment History Information (RHI) as 0, or up to date. In this situation there will be no impact to the consumers’ credit report, it will be invisible as the information supplied to a credit reporting body will look as if the account is up to date (provided all other factors remain the same). 

If an individual is behind in repayments when they request a ‘payment deferral’ a lender may supply the information as ‘blank’ or RHI not reported. In this situation the Equifax Score will remain neutral or there may be some improvement in the score over time (provided all other factors remain the same).

If an individual is up to date with payments and enters a ‘payment deferral’ and a lender supplies RHI information as ‘blank’ or RHI not reported there will be a slight reduction in the score over time (provided all other factors remain the same). 

Can I put a note on my credit report to say I’ve been impacted by COVID-19?

No, in Australia we do not have the ability to add a file note to a credit report.

Can I still get my free credit report?

Yes, you can get your free Equifax credit report at equifax.com.au (if eligibility criteria is met).


What else can I do to protect myself financially?

It’s a good time to proactively do whatever you can, however small, to build your financial safety net. This may include downsizing your lifestyle, creating a new household budget, and taking advantage of the financial help available to you at this time.  

Stay on top of your credit score to see where you stand. Check your Score for Free now.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Therefore, you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your circumstance before acting on it, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a finance professional such as an adviser.

1 Should You Keep or Drop Your Health Insurance During the COVID-19 Crisis? Source: choice.com.au. https://www.choice.com.au/money/insurance/health/articles/keep-or-drop-health-insurance-covid-19