Inflation is the increase in the cost of goods and services over a period of time. In recent times, inflation has become a cause of worry for everyone, from banks and big financial institutions to individuals. Canada recorded a 30-year-high inflation rate of 5.7% just last month, while the excessive inflation rate in the US costs an average American household an additional $296 every month. Lower and middle-class families spent 7% more in 2021 for the same services and products they bought in 2019 and 2020. The fear of war and the pandemic has skyrocketed inflation rates. The geopolitical tensions in Ukraine have increased the prices of gasoline drastically. The average gas price in the US has risen to $4 per gallon – a 55.4% increase from last week. The cost of gas has increased by $1 worldwide. The Federal Reserve raised its rate by a one-fourth percentage point to respond to such price surges. This might not seem a lot, but it will impact the rate of interest charged on your credit cards. Around 30% of Americans increased their credit debt during the pandemic in the US. Most of them (about 48%) cited inflation, and 34% said that losing a job was the main reason for their increasing credit debt.
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While inflation may not directly impact your credit debt, it affects your household budget and spending capacity. Inflation may not have a noticeable impact on your debt if your salary has increased correspondingly. However, if your salary is the same, you will find yourself in more credit card debt over time. Inflation does not directly affect your credit score, which is based on timely payments, credit history, and credit usage. However, if you fail to pay on time due to increased expenses, inflation is bound to have an impact on your credit score.
Indirect Impact of Inflation on My Credit
As discussed above, inflation may not directly hurt your credit scores but it can impact your ability to borrow money. Here are the two main ways inflation can affect your credit debt:
- Exorbitant payments: If the prices of daily products and amenities increase to the extent that you have to trade-off between sustaining your family or paying your debt, you might miss some credit payments. Any missed or late payments will impact your credit score.
- More debt: The prices of commodities may increase so much that you have to take another line of credit to manage these expenses. If you cannot pay back the credit at the right time, you will have increased credit debt.
How To Manage My Credit During Inflation
Managing credit in times of inflation is no easy task. There are some things you can do to ensure that your expenses are in line and your debt is limited:
- Big Purchases: This is not the best time to make big purchases like a new car or a property. Inflation rates are pretty high, so goods and property prices are higher than average. Try to cut down on those big brand purchases, too, if you don’t need them. Do not use your credit card to make such purchases if you cannot afford to pay it back on time.
- Pay Your Outstanding Debt: After covering all major financial expenses – rent and bills – use that extra income to cover your credit card debts. While prices of commodities are increasing, using your money to pay back loans with a fixed interest rate is a good use of your money. If you can lower your existing debt and credit utilization rate, your credit score will improve.
- Plan for Emergencies: Most Americans cannot handle even an additional $2000 a month for emergencies. But it is essential to have some contingent funds for if your car breaks down, if there is a medical emergency, or any other unforeseen situation. Having a household emergency fund will prevent any additional pressure on your credit card and your credit scores. You can rely on your emergency fund rather than just your credit line.
- Transferring Debt: You can transfer your debt to a zero-balance credit card if you have a good credit score. Many companies offer as much as a 21-month interest-free period. The key is not adding more debt by repaying on time. Read the terms and conditions carefully before signing up. Some companies charge up to 3-5% of the balance for the credit transfer. Alternatively, you can also transfer your high-interest debt to a personal loan with low interest.
- Negotiate: Many credit card users are unaware of this, but they can request a lower interest rate from the credit card company. A recent survey suggested that 80% of people who requested a lower interest rate received it. There is no harm in asking. Considering the inflation rates, the credit card company might just offer you a lower rate.
The above discussion illustrates that inflation indirectly affects credit score and credit spending. If you are not careful, you might end up with more debt. Try to manage your expenses and credit spending until the economy is more stable again.