Coronavirus and your finances: We’ll help answer your questions

Stylized speech bubble representing questions about coronavirus news Image: Stylized speech bubble representing questions about coronavirus news

In a Nutshell

The spread of COVID-19 is rapidly disrupting the lives of people all over the world — and has many asking what it could mean for them, their families, their finances and their futures. We’re here to answer your money questions and help you navigate the uncertain times ahead. Credit Karma’s editors are updating this page frequently to get you the information you need.

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If you have questions about the coronavirus and how the current situation might impact your finances, you’re not alone. Our editors are working diligently to bring you the latest news on COVID-19 and how it could affect you, as well as what you can do to navigate the situation.

We’ll be updating this page as the situation develops, so check back regularly.


Latest coronavirus finance news

  • IRS says refund interest payments are taxable — Because the filing deadline was delayed until July 15, the IRS has sent interest payments to about 14 million taxpayers who filed by the deadline and were due federal refunds. The average payment (generally made separately from refunds) was $18. The interest payments are taxable.
  • IRS gives some a second chance at stimulus payment for children People with qualifying children who receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement benefits and Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension benefits and did not file 2018 or 2019 tax returns have until Sept. 30, 2020, to use the Non-Filers tool to apply for supplemental $500 payments.
  • IRS says it will pay interest on some tax refunds The IRS says it will pay interest on 2019 federal tax refunds issued after April 15 to those who file a 2019 return by July 15. The interest payment may arrive separately from the refund. The interest rate is 5% per year for the second quarter ending June 30 and 3% for the third quarter ending Sept. 30.
Hands flipping through mail to check for a stimulus debit card

Don’t mistake your stimulus debit card for junk mail

(June 5, 2020) — It might look like junk mail, but that plain envelope in your mailbox could be your coronavirus stimulus debit card.

Close-up on $100 bill

Haven’t received your stimulus check? This could be why.

(April 22, 2020) — Americans recently started receiving stimulus checks as part of an economic relief plan approved by Congress last month. If you’re expecting the one-time direct payment and haven’t received it yet, there could be a few reasons why.

Coronavirus causes record drop in retail sales, according to government estimates

(April 17, 2020) — The coronavirus has brought sweeping changes to life in America, and the negative economic impact is clear. New data indicates just how much activity has slowed down for the retail economy in particular.

More news on the coronavirus and personal finances.

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What coronavirus relief measures have been announced?

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The spread of COVID-19 and its repercussions could affect a number of different areas in people’s financial lives. We’ve broken down our tips into a few key areas so that you can get the answers to your most-pressing questions quickly.

How to budget, save and set up an emergency fund

Credit Karma’s guide to budgeting It may not feel like the best time to start a budget, but a budget can put you in the right mindset to keep your spending on track — which can be especially helpful during uncertain times. It can give you the confidence and discipline often required to overcome financial obstacles and to reach your goals.

Five simple ways to budget successfully The key to budgeting successfully in times of financial uncertainty is to be realistic. Whether you’re a beginner or a budgeting veteran, techniques like automating your savings and online tools can help.

Five tips for balancing saving and paying down debt In the current climate, you may feel as if you need to make hard decisions, like whether you should pay off loans or build your savings. Our tips can help you make progress in both areas by devising and sticking to a financial plan that inspires you.

What is the 50/30/20 rule budget? The 50/30/20 rule budget is a simple way to budget that doesn’t involve detailed budgeting categories. Instead, you spend 50% of your after-tax pay on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings or paying off debt. Right now, this could be difficult to follow exactly, but you can use this as a general framework for budgeting in any financial climate.

Emergency fund basics An emergency fund, a savings account set aside for unexpected life events, can offer much-needed support during a time of need.

How much should I have in my emergency fund? How much do you need to save? It depends on your individual circumstances.

Credit Karma guide to finances for disaster preparedness Skip down to the section on responding to a disaster to find out what you can do now.

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Tips for managing your debt

Credit Karma guide to debt Even now, it’s still possible to use debt to your advantage. But first, you should know which types are productive and which aren’t, how to assess whether you have too much, and when and how to pay it down.

How to get out of credit card debt When you’re trying to get out of credit card debt — especially during uncertain times — a mix of planning and perseverance can help you reach that goal.

Debt consolidation: Tips to pay off debt with less interest When you have debt with high interest rates, taking out a debt consolidation loan can help you pay off your debt faster and save money overall. Before you pick a particular loan or line of credit, look into the potential benefits and drawbacks of each option and create a repayment plan that’ll work for you.

How does a balance transfer work? A credit card balance transfer involves moving debt from one credit card to another, which can help when you’re trying to juggle a number of different accounts during times like these. It’s a strategy that can help you save money and pay off debt faster — if you’re careful about details like fees, interest rates and restrictions on transfer amounts.

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How to handle late or missed payments

What happens if you miss a credit card payment? Over the coming weeks and months, you may end up missing a credit card payment. While it’s not a great feeling, you do have options when facing a missed payment. Here’s how to handle this situation while minimizing the damage.

How late payments can affect your credit You may be wondering what happens to your credit when you’re late on a payment. We’ll explain how that works in this article and what to do if it happens to you.

What does loan default mean? If you’re not able to make your loan payments on time, your account could go into default, and your lender may take steps to recover its losses. The good news is there are actions you can take if you’re having trouble making payments, including reaching out to your lender to ask about temporarily suspending your payments, extending the term of your loan or reducing your interest rate.

How to negotiate debt with your credit card company If you’re facing financial challenges, negotiating credit card debt with your credit card company is one option that you have. Learn about the different options for settling your debt, as well as the steps to negotiate with your card company.

Three tips if you’re facing an auto loan default If you find yourself falling behind on auto loan payments, it’s worth trying to work with your lender on a plan to make your loan current.

Five options to consider if you can’t pay your student loans Student loan repayment can be stressful, especially right now, but you have some options if you’re having a tough time.

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Understanding debt relief and credit counseling

Can I get a hardship loan for money troubles? You may find yourself in a situation where you need cash fast for an emergency expense, which may lead you to look for a hardship loan. Unfortunately, there’s really no such thing as a hardship loan, but there are other options when you need money.

How a hardship plan can affect your credit If you find yourself overwhelmed by credit card debt, check to see if your card issuer has a hardship plan. It could give you the breathing room you need to dig out and get back on your feet.

What is debt forgiveness? If you’re struggling to cover debt payments or feel as if you won’t be able to pay everything off, there may be options that forgive some or all of what you owe, as well as other ways to handle unmanageable debt.

Your guide to understanding credit counseling If you find yourself struggling with credit card debt over the coming weeks and months, credit counseling can help you gain control. Find out more about what credit counseling is so you can determine if it’s right for you.

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Understanding your borrowing options

Eight places you can borrow money You’ve got choices if you want to borrow money during this time. Looking at just one option could cost you money, so be sure to examine all the alternatives to help you make the smartest money move for you.

Emergency loans: What you need to know If you need fast cash because of an emergency or other unexpected expense over the coming months, you might turn to an emergency loan, which can come with steep costs. Learn about this option and everything you should consider before taking out this kind of loan.

Family loans: What to know before you borrow or lend Lending to family members or asking for a loan from family members is another option to explore if times are getting tough. But before getting involved in a family loan, learn about the rules and risks that come along with this option.

Taking a loan from your 401(k)? Some things to know about repayment. A 401(k) loan can provide a low-cost way for you to access cash when you need it. But it’s important to understand how repaying a 401(k) loan works.

Five things to know about predatory lending It’s especially important to be wary of predatory lenders right now. Predatory lending practices usually involve unfair and deceptive tactics that mislead borrowers about the true nature of a loan obligation. Unscrupulous lenders may charge excessive fees and fail to consider whether a borrower can afford to repay the loan. 

What is a payday alternative loan? Payday loans are expensive. Many payday loans carry fees that could equal a massive annual percentage rate, sometimes even 400%. Payday alternative loans, on the other hand, are generally more-affordable small-dollar loans with a longer loan-repayment term — but their availability is limited to certain credit unions, and other restrictions may apply.

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How could this change my tax situation?

When is the tax filing deadline for 2020? Americans grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will get some extra time to file and pay their federal income taxes this year. The IRS is extending the April 15 deadline for tax forms and payments to July 15.

How to file a tax extension Tax Day is a deadline you don’t want to miss. But what should you do if you know you won’t be able to file your federal income tax return even by the extended deadline? Here’s how to file a tax extension if you find you need more time.

What to do if you can’t pay your taxes Not being able to pay the federal income tax you owe can be a scary feeling. Don’t panic! Being proactive and communicating with the IRS as soon as you know there’s a problem can help you manage the situation and minimize any penalties, interest charges and fees for not paying on time.

When is the deadline for making a tax-deductible HSA contribution? Dreading a big tax bill? You still have time to try to reduce what you might owe by taking advantage of certain tax breaks — such as those related to health savings account contributions, if you’re eligible.

Things to know about IRS online payment agreements There might come a time when you can’t pay your full IRS tax bill by the tax deadline. An IRS online payment arrangement could help you break your bill down into more manageable chunks. But be aware such arrangements come with costs.

Tax implications on unemployment benefits When you’re out of work, unemployment checks can help keep you financially afloat. But those payments are often subject to taxes. Here are some tax tips to consider if you’re facing unemployment, including credits you may qualify for now that your income is less.

Where’s my refund? How to check the status of a federal tax refund. A tax refund could provide some much-needed financial assistance this year. How can you tell when the money’s on the way? Here are some tips for checking the status of your federal income tax refund.

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What terms and institutions do I need to know?

What is the Federal Reserve? The Federal Reserve, or Fed, is the central banking system of the United States. Its job is to help keep our financial systems safe and our economy stable.

What is the FTC? The Federal Trade Commission is a federal agency that aims to protect consumers by regulating unfair, deceptive or fraudulent business practices, and by promoting fair competition.

What is the CFPB? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau works to prevent unfair, deceptive and abusive practices from financial companies by taking action against those that break the law. The bureau also works to educate and empower consumers to make the best financial decisions for themselves.

What does the IRS do? The Internal Revenue Service is part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It’s a federal agency vested with responsibility for enforcing tax laws passed by Congress.

What is the FDIC? The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is an independent U.S. agency that examines financial institutions and insures much of the money individuals deposit with them.

What is the Truth in Lending Act? The Truth in Lending Act offers protection against predatory credit card offers and loans.

FDCPA: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Debt collectors sometimes use intimidating and downright illegal practices in their efforts to collect consumer debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act offers protection from unfair debt collection actions.

What is the Fair Credit Billing Act? The Fair Credit Billing Act offers protections for consumers against unfair credit billing practices.

FCRA: Fair Credit Reporting Act This law gives you the right to access your own credit information, controls who else has access to it, and says you can dispute inaccurate or outdated information.

What is the prime rate? The prime rate is a guiding interest rate that lenders reference when they set interest rates for consumers on things like credit cards, loans or mortgages.

What is APR and why is it important? APR, or annual percentage rate, is your interest rate stated as a yearly rate. An APR for a loan can include fees you may be charged, like origination fees.

What is adjusted gross income, or AGI?You might not have to pay federal income tax on all the money you earn. Adjustments like deductions and credits can help reduce the amount of tax you owe. That’s where adjusted gross income comes in. AGI helps determine how much tax you owe and what credits and deductions you qualify for.

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Other official COVID-19 resources to check out

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