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The impact of COVID-19, or the coronavirus, goes beyond health and hygiene. Staying healthy during the pandemic remains first and foremost, of course. But the virus’ impact also reminds us that our personal finances need a health check, too, and that we need to be more diligent than ever to protect our financial wellbeing.
Below are steps to protect your financial wellness and minimize the impact of coronavirus on your finances.
Set Up Multiple Ways to Manage Your Money
Chances are, your local bank branch is, or will be, closed at some point as the CDC continues to recommend social distancing. Prepare yourself ahead of time by ensuring access to online and mobile banking, set-up an online account, download your bank’s app and use mobile deposit, or activate Zelle®, a great person-to-person service that can be directly connected to your bank account to send and receive payments instantly to people you know and trust.
Take the same approach with your credit card accounts. If you aren’t already set up for online or mobile payments, now is the time to do so. And don’t for get to set-up text alerts to track your finances quickly and easily.
Ask For Help If You Need It
Practicing social distancing creates challenges for some employers to keep their businesses open, which in turn impacts employees’ ability to earn money. In some cases, paychecks may be delayed. If you find yourself in a position where funds are tight or relief is needed, contact your bank or credit card issuer.
Many financial institutions are offering interest-only loan payment extensions, payment deferments, and increases on credit line limits to help alleviate financial hardships for the duration of the pandemic. Small-dollar loans and overdraft lines of credit are also available at many banks. Check with your bank to see what options are available and which are best for you.
Conversely, if your financial position remains steady during this time, help support local businesses and their employees by purchasing gift cards or shop their online stores for merchandise you would normally buy. Just make sure you aren’t overdoing it – being confined to our homes can create boredom and compulsive buying. Beyond helping your community’s businesses, stick to what you need, not what you want. Now is not the time to buy the $2,000 TV you’ve been wanting. Remember, saving for a rainy day and for the future is just as important during times of uncertainty.
Take Advantage of Special Offers and Prices Many credit cards offer low introductory interest rates and balance transfer offers as low as 0%. If you need access to quick credit or to lower your payments, shop offers online. Contact your bank first for special existing customer offers, many of which currently have expedited processes to provide customers access to credit and funds quickly. Websites like NerdWallet.com and Bankrate.com also have tools to help you identify offers that fit your needs.
Think about utility needs at home, too. Heating oil prices are significantly lower than normal, making this a great time to fill up your tank. And make sure your car has a full tank of gas – prices are low, and you can avoid the long lines when everyone begins returning to work.
Sharpen Your Focus on Fraud
Unfortunately, times like these bring fraudsters out of the woodwork. When setting up or updating your online banking, credit card accounts and other financial accounts for remote access, enable email and text alerts so you can receive notifications of account activity.
If you see anything out of the ordinary, even as low as a $1.00 transaction, contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately. Many fraudsters will drop small transactions to test their access to accounts first, then quickly escalate the frequency and amount of larger purchases.
Finally, if your online account doesn’t automatically enable it, sign up for two-factor authentication for logging in. Two-factor authentication requires an extra step, typically via email or text message, where you receive a code to enter during login.
While you’re home and might need something to do, this is a great time to enable two-factor authentication across your non-financial online accounts, too.
Also, it is understandable to believe that you may need access to cash in these unprecedent times. While it makes sense to have enough cash to cover your basic needs, withdrawing thousands of dollars may not be wise. Your money is safer in the bank where it is insured by the FDIC and not easily stolen.
If you need financial assistance, a WSFS Associate is ready to help; please call our local Contact Center from 7:00AM – 7:00PM, Monday – Friday, or 9:00AM – 3:00PM on Saturday and Sunday at 1-(844)-WESTAND.