The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the economy in many different ways. One of the biggest changes has been changes to employment for many people. In some cases, many have been laid off. In other cases, people have been furloughed or had their hours reduced. The number of people receiving unemployment compensation has also hit record numbers. In this article, we’ll take a look at how filing for unemployment and/or receiving unemployment compensation can affect your credit score.
How does unemployment compensation affect your credit score?
The process for filing for unemployment is different in each state. Generally, you will need to file paperwork with your state’s unemployment office, either in person or online. The amount of unemployment compensation you receive generally depends on the salary you earned at your most recent job.
The CARES Act of 2020 made several changes to the unemployment process. First of all, it waived the requirement that several states had in place where one must be actively looking for work to receive unemployment compensation. It also broadened the definition of who was eligible for unemployment and gave an extra $600/week to most people receiving unemployment compensation.
The good news is that filing for unemployment or receiving unemployment compensation does NOT appear on your credit report. Generally, credit reports will not update your employment information unless you apply for new credit. And remember, only information about your financial accounts affects your credit score.
Is filing for unemployment bad for your credit?
As we discussed, the mere act of filing for unemployment or receiving unemployment compensation is not bad for your credit. Being on unemployment does not affect your credit score and in most cases will not even appear on your credit report at all.
Where being unemployed can hurt your credit is all of the ancillary effects from being without a job. Generally speaking, unemployment compensation is less than the salary that you were receiving (though the extra $600 from the CARES Act has changed that for some people.) With less income, that will obviously have a big impact on your overall household budget.
What can damage your credit while you’re unemployed?
Even though the act of filing for unemployment or receiving unemployment compensation does not affect your credit score, your credit can still be damaged while you’re unemployed. Two of the factors that make up your credit score are your total balances and your credit utilization ratio. Both of these can be affected if your finances are impacted due to a loss of income.
If you find yourself to continue living below your means while your income is reduced, it is likely that you may end up with higher balances on your credit cards. This results in the increase of your credit utilization ratio, leaving a negative impact on your credit score.
How to protect your credit when on unemployment
There are a few steps you can take to help protect your credit while unemployed. The key here is to minimize the effects that being without your regular salary has on the rest of your finances.
One good way to protect your credit while on unemployment is to make sure to have a solid emergency fund. Ideally, you should aim to have 3 to 6 months of expenses in an emergency fund. But if you haven’t been able to create one yet, it’s no help saying that you should have! If your emergency fund or savings won’t cover your time without employment, you have a few options.
- Cut down on your expenses
- Ask a favor from close friends or family
- Accept that your credit score will be impacted
The good news is that if your time with a limited income is short, your credit score should bounce back in no time as well!
Does unemployment affect your ability to get new credit/loans?
Yes, it will have a significant impact on your ability to get new credit cards or other loans. Most places that offer credit ask for your current employment status. This makes sense since they need to assess your ability to repay the loan or credit that they are offering.
Different banks and creditors will have different policies for evaluating the information that you provide to them. In many cases, the bank will ask for proof of employment, such as your paystubs. This is especially true when trying to qualify for a home mortgage. If you’re not able to provide current pay stubs, this can have an impact on your ability to get a home loan, even if you’ve already been pre-qualified or approved.
Hopefully, this information was helpful if you are in a situation where you are wondering how unemployment affects your credit score.
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids.