Protecting your life, the lives of your loved ones, and your property are clearly the priority when a disaster or crisis occurs. But, what can you do to protect your credit and personal finances during the Coronavirus pandemic or a natural disaster?

You’ll want to stay vigilant and protect your credit after a crisis or natural disaster, as scams, fraud and other threats may arise. You’ll also want to make sure that the stress of managing expenses during a crisis doesn’t lead to decisions that could negatively affect your credit score.

Consider a few of these tips to help protect your credit:

  1. Communicate With Your Lender
  2. Revisit Your Budget and Track Your Spending
  3. Check Your Credit Report Regularly

1. Communicate With Your Lender

If you’re overwhelmed, it’s possible that some of your bills could slip through the cracks. But, paying late or missing a payment can negatively impact your credit score.

Fortunately, your credit card company or lender may be able to help. For example, Discover may have payment assistance programs available to help customers during hard times if they reach out for assistance.

In other words, keep your creditors in the loop if you’ve been affected by a disaster. Discuss your options for keeping up with your payments sooner, rather than later. And, make sure they have a current phone number and email address for you on file so they can get in touch with you easily.

2. Revisit Your Budget and Track Your Spending

Natural disasters or something like the current pandemic could throw a wrench in your budget if you’re not able to return to work right away. You also could run into trouble if you’re footing the bill for evacuation costs, home repairs or basic living expenses that aren’t covered by insurance, or while you’re waiting on reimbursement from your insurer. You may also be waiting for unemployment benefits.

Your emergency fund may only go so far in these instances. A credit card or loan could help cover the gap, but be careful not to end up overextended on credit.

Approximately 30 percent of your FICO® Credit Score is based on your amounts owed – which includes credit utilization, says Experian, which is the ratio of your credit balance to credit limit. The higher this number climbs, the more it could hurt your credit score.

Revising your budget and keeping track of what you spend may help protect your credit after a natural disaster. You can also set up credit card alerts to maintain awareness of your spending and balances.

Credit card alerts also can be helpful for protecting your score in another way: They might clue you in to potential scams and/or identity fraud after a disaster if you see unauthorized activity. 

3. Check Your Credit Report Regularly

It’s generally a good idea to check your credit report regularly. During the Coronavirus pandemic, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are offering free weekly credit reports in addition to the annual free credit reports dictated by federal law. You can learn more at AnnualCreditReport.com.

In addition to checking your credit report, keep an eye on your score as well. Use your credit card’s free credit score access (like Discover’s Credit Scorecard*) if it’s offered. And, check your card for other security features that can help you protect your credit after a natural disaster.

Discover, for instance, offers the Freeze it® feature on their credit card products, which allows you to freeze your account to prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers in seconds with Discover’s mobile app or website.* Discover cardmembers can also activate free alerts to know when any new credit, mortgage, car loan or other account shows up on their Experian credit report.*

Recovering from a natural disaster can take days, weeks, months — sometimes even years. In the meantime, taking action to avoid damage to your credit can help make your journey back to normalcy a smoother one.

Published March 11,2019.

Updated July 23, 2021.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

Freeze It®: When you freeze your account, Discover will not authorize new purchases, cash advances or balance transfers. However, some activity will continue, including bills that merchants mark as recurring, as well as returns, credits, dispute adjustments, delayed authorizations (such as some transit purchases), payments, Discover protection product fees, other account fees, interest, rewards redemptions and certain other exempted transactions.

Discover® Identity Alerts are offered by Discover Bank at no cost, only available online, and currently include the following services: (a) daily monitoring of your Experian® credit report and an alert when a new inquiry or account is listed on your report; (b) daily monitoring of thousands of Dark Web sites known for revealing personal information and an alert if your Social Security number is found on such a website. This information is intended for, and only provided to, Primary credit cardmembers whose accounts are open, in good standing and have an email address on file. The Primary cardmember must agree online to receive identity alerts. Identity alert services are based on Experian information and data which may differ from information and data at other credit bureaus. Monitoring your credit report does not impact your credit score. This benefit may change or end in the future. Discover Bank is not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. To see a list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit discover.com/freealerts.

FICO® Credit Score Terms: Your FICO® Credit Score, key factors and other credit information are based on data from TransUnion® and may be different from other credit scores and other credit information provided by different bureaus. This information is intended for and only provided to Primary account holders who have an available score. See Discover.com/FICO about the availability of your score. Your score, key factors and other credit information are available on Discover.com and cardmembers are also provided a score on statements. Customers will see up to a year of recent scores online. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as FICO® Credit Scores, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This benefit may change or end in the future. FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

If you prefer not to receive your FICO® Credit Score just call us at 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683). Please give us two billing cycles to process your request. To learn more, visit Discover.com/FICO.