How to get help if your credit card debt is rising during the coronavirus pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One recent study said the number of adults with credit card debt is up by 4 percent since March. So what can you do to manage rising credit card debt?

There are calls you can make right now that will help you lower your bills and control your credit card debt.

"My best advice is to contact your credit card company as soon as you start to have trouble," said Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at CreditCards.com. He said credit card companies are often willing to help out reliable customers. You just have to ask.

"That is the big thing, nothing ventured nothing gained," he said.

According to a recent report at Compare Cards, 30 percent of credit card holders are using them more than ever since the beginning of the pandemic.

Rossman advised people to call and ask for help if the pandemic has affected their finances.

"They can work with you by waiving fees, letting you skip payments," he explained.

You may have to supply documentation proving that COVID-19 has in fact affected your finances, but if you call a credit card company may let you skip a payment for a month or more, lower your interest rate, or you can ask if there is another type of credit card under the same bank where you can transfer your debt. A new promotion may be offering a lower interest rate.

"Maybe they have a promotion for new customers that they can match for you. You can say 'I have been a good, long-standing customer, I know you are offering 0% interest for 12 months for some new card holders, can you match it?'" Rossman added.

If you're looking for cash, Rossman said avoid expensive credit card cash advances and instead look into qualifying for a personal loan through your credit card. More cards are offering flexible loans at competitive rates. Check all terms and conditions first.

"Ask them if you can tap into value on your existing card. For example, American Express, Chase and Citi all have these programs that are basically hybrid credit card/personal loan programs. A common thread is lower interest rates, predictable payments, easier access, because you are already a customer," said Rossman

If you need more help, experts say some credit card companies are offering up to six months or even a year of assistance if you ask.

The key is reaching out; don't just ignore the problem as that will ruin your credit score.
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