The coronavirus lockdown is leaving millions of us with little or no income but with all the usual bills to pay. In frightening times, it helps to take action and keep some control over the situation. Fortunately there is bill payment relief waiting for you if you know where to go.
Lenders have agreed to offer three-month payment holidays on residential mortgages to people who are struggling. You need to apply for one by calling your lender or arranging it online. The missed payments will be added to the total cost of your mortgage and factored in to your repayments when you start them again.
All energy providers have agreed with the government to offer some kind of bill payment relief. British Gas will delay due bill dates, while EDF and others will also allow longer repayment periods and alternative ways to pay. Most importantly, no-one will be cut off during the crisis. There’s help on offer from water companies, too, with payment breaks or flexible payments, and some have charitable trusts that offer grants to hard-pressed families. BT and other phone & broadband providers are also offering bill payment relief if you’re struggling. So call your provider or look online to get help right away.
Check what help your provider is offering – some are offering extra data and free calls during the crisis to help people stay in touch. For example, 02 is giving all its ‘Pay Monthly’ customers (including those on SIM-only contracts) unlimited minutes to mobile and landline numbers.
Most banks are giving account-holders an interest-free overdraft up to £500 and payment holidays for bank loans and credit cards. Call them or go online and find out how they can help.
Council tax is one of the heftiest bills we have to pay every month, but councils are offering bill payment relief to those who need it. Some are putting the start date for this year’s payments back to July or offering payment holidays. Councils are all different so get in touch and ask what yours can do for you.
Credit card companies are also offering three-month holidays, as long as you’re not already in debt with them. If you are then you may need to find a better long-term solution such as a debt management plan where fees and interest will be waived.
Of course, the best way to get bill payment relief is to get some money into the bank to pay your bills.
For PAYE employees the government has set up the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, where you can claim 80% of your wages. Details are online here.
For businesses the government has created a range of grants and loans, including the new Bounce Back loans of up to £50,000 for smaller businesses. These are 100% guaranteed by the government and interest-free for the first 12 months. You’ll find the information on all the schemes here.
If you need to apply for benefits – whether it’s Universal Credit, Statutory Sick Pay or the new Employment Support Allowance – the best place to start is the Citizens Advice Bureau, who have comprehensive information online.
When you’ve done all you can to get bill payment relief from your providers, you can move on to search for better value on everything from energy to insurances and credit cards. That way, your bills will be lower each month. Check out our top tips for credit balance transfers.