If your finances have taken a hit during the ongoing global crisis, we’ve got answers for blunting balances due.


The past year and a half has been full of challenges, to say the least. In addition to trying to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy, your finances may have taken a hit. If you've incurred some pandemic-related debt, you're not alone. 

"The pandemic has had a huge economic impact on Americans with the closure or reduction of many businesses, particularly in certain industries such as travel, restaurants, and entertainment," says Jody D'Agostini, an advisor at Equitable. "Many individuals lost their jobs or their employment was curtailed, causing a reduction in household income."

About 30 percent of U.S. adults say they fret almost daily about debt, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. And 51 percent of non-retired adults say the impact of the pandemic will now make achieving their financial goals harder.

But financial experts say there are solutions that can help you get on top of pandemic-incurred debt and buy time to pay it off.

Related Items

Negotiate with debt collectors

"If you owe them a lot of money, a little bit is better than none at all," says Lyle Solomon, principal attorney at Oak View Law Group. Figure out what you can pay and hold firm, even if they pressure you. 

"If you are already in collections, offer them a ridiculously low settlement offer, roughly 20 percent to 30 percent," says Solomon, a bankruptcy attorney. They will come back with roughly 70 percent to 80 percent. Try to get it as close to half as possible." They may not budge. Solomon, recommends moving on to the next creditor to see who is willing to work with you. You can always return to the first one. "Chances are good that if you get a hold of them six months later and try again, they will be a little more generous," he says.

Negotiate medical bills.

If you've got pandemic-related or other medical bills, contact the clinic or hospital where you had your services and see if you can negotiate a reduced rate based on your income. You can also set up a no- or low-interest payment plan, according to the National Consumer Law Center. Whatever you do, don't pay medical bills with a high-interest credit card.

Access work benefits to offset childcare costs.

Does your employer offer a dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA) so you can pay for childcare with pre-tax dollars? 

"As we come up to benefits enrollment season, I'm bringing this topic up with all my clients who have kids in daycare or after-school care," says Kacie Swartz, CFP, senior wealth manager at Stone Wealth Management. "As of March 2021, employees can defer up to $10,500 from gross income, reducing taxable income and therefore reducing taxes owed, and allowing families to pay for childcare expenses tax-free."

By reducing your taxable income with a DCFSA, you may be able to free up funds to pay off debt. "It is well worth it to research this benefit and ease cash flow on one of the most expensive recurring items in most family budgets," Swartz says. "My family daycare bill is more than our mortgage!"

Take a low-interest personal loan.

"A personal loan offers a way to pay with a predictable monthly payment for a set amount of time—which might make approaching your unique situation less intimidating," says Matt Lattman, vice president of personal loans at Discover

You can use a personal loan to consolidate higher interest debt from multiple credit cards into one lower-interest payment that simplifies your finances. For example, Discover's rates start as low as 6.99 percent, Lattman says, and loans can be paid back over three to seven years, depending on your terms. One important way a personal loan is different than a card is that you're unable to use it to charge more expenses. You're simply watching that debt disappear over time. 

Try a zero-interest balance transfer.

Credit card balances often incur a higher interest rate than most other kinds of debt. Opening another credit card to help ease debt burden sounds counterintuitive, but the right deal can save you big time.

"Used wisely, 0 percent balance-transfer credit cards can make an enormous difference in your war on debt," says Matt Schulz, chief credit industry analyst at CompareCards by LendingTree. You will likely pay a one-time transfer fee, but then you can usually go a year or more without accruing any interest on the original balance, depending on the offer.

Find a lower lending rate.

If you can't transfer a balance or aren't able to transfer the whole caboodle to a new zero-interest offer, you may still be able to ease the debt pain. "Many people don't realize that they can simply call their credit card issuer and ask for a lower rate on their card," Schulz explains. "It works far more often than you'd think, and oftentimes it requires little more than a phone call."

A recent LendingTree survey found that more than 80 percent of people who asked got a lower rate. The average reduction was 10 percentage points, Schulz added. That's a big help.

Take advantage of special programs.

At the start of lockdowns, many banks and other lenders offered special programs to help people who were unemployed, battling COVID-19, or dealing with other hardships. "Those [programs] are officially gone now, but unofficially, they still exist in limited ways," says Howard Dvorkin, CPA and chairperson at Debt.com.

"If you call your lenders and explain your situation with hard facts, you can often catch a break," he says. "You could do this before the pandemic, too, but you're more likely to find a sympathetic ear these days as the pandemic lingers."