Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Capital One letting you use miles on takeout, delivery, and streaming. Also in the news: Coronavirus auto insurance refunds – how much to expect, how to school kids on money lessons during the outbreak, and how to check if you’re eligible for food stamps.

Capital One Letting You Use Miles on Takeout, Delivery, Streaming
New categories for reward redemption.

Coronavirus Auto Insurance Refunds: How Much to Expect
Why some insurers are giving money back.

How to School Kids on Money Lessons During the COVID-19 Outbreak

How to Check If You’re Eligible for Food Stamps
Getting assistance during this tough time.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Where Coronavirus relief checks go, fraudsters follow. Also in the news: What to do if you’re a U.S. citizen stranded abroad right now, how to strengthen your financial resilience with these 3 insights, and why you should keep paying your federal student loans right now, if you can.

Where Coronavirus Relief Checks Go, Fraudsters Follow
Scammers never take a holiday.

What to Do If You’re a U.S. Citizen Stranded Abroad Right Now
Patience is key.

Strengthen Your Financial Resilience With These 3 Insights
Developing new strategies.

Keep Paying Your Federal Student Loans Right Now, If You Can
Save yourself some interest.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t let your Coronavirus relief check disappear into your debts. Also in the news: How to make your car last 200,000 miles, what kind of credit card relief you can request during the pandemic, and how to check the status of your Coronavirus relief payment.

Don’t Let Your Relief Check Disappear Into Your Debts
How your relief check could be diverted.

How to Make Your Car Last 200,000 Miles
Yes, you read that correctly.

COVID-19: What Kinds of Credit Card Relief Can You Request?
Take the initiative and be prepared to spend a long time on hold.

How to Check the Status of Your Coronavirus Relief Payment
Tracking your money.

How to raid your retirement funds in a crisis

In an ideal world, your retirement accounts would be left alone for retirement. You’ve probably noticed that we’re not living in an ideal world.

Early withdrawals can have serious repercussions, including big tax bills today and potential shortfalls in the future. In my latest for the Associated Press, alternatives to consider and what to do if you absolutely must touch your savings.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to know about buying life insurance during the Coronavirus pandemic. Also in the news: How to earn passive income, deferring a personal loan payment, and how to sell your home during the Coronavirus shutdown.

Buying Life Insurance? What to Know During the Coronavirus Pandemic
It’s not too late for most people to still get coverage.

What Is Passive Income, and How Do I Earn It?
Making money without the pressure of a full-time job.

Can’t Pay Your Personal Loan? Here’s How Deferment Works
The stress relief is only temporary.

How to Sell Your Home During the Coronavirus Shutdown
Get ready to go virtual.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to file for Coronavirus unemployment if you’re self-employed. Also in the news: Should you save your miles and points or spend them, 8 ways to switch up the new at-home normal, and a new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on what to do when you owe the IRS.

How to File for Coronavirus Unemployment if You’re Self-Employed

Double Take: Should You Save Your Miles and Points or Spend Them?

8 Ways to Switch Up the New At-Home Normal

SmartMoney Podcast: “Help! I Owe the IRS!”

Q&A: Push lenders for student loan help

Dear Liz: I saw your previous column about the federal student loan payments being suspended by the CARES Act until Sept. 30, with interest being waived. I reached out to my loan servicer about my loans and was told that while they are federal loans, they were made before 2010 and are not covered by the relief bill.

Answer: Your experience is an excellent example of why loan servicers have attracted so much criticism in recent years for misleading borrowers about their options.

You should have been told that although your Family Federal Education Loan (FFEL) program loans don’t qualify, you can consolidate your loans through the U.S. Department of Education’s direct loan program and the consolidation would qualify for relief. You can get more information at StudentAid.gov.

Q&A: What to do after coronavirus takes away your job

Dear Liz: I’m a single mom who just lost my job because of COVID-19. I have a mortgage, a car payment, credit card debt and a child who is headed to college in the fall. What do I do? I am very scared.

Answer: This is a very scary time. Your job now is to identify and use all the resources that may help you. You’ll need to be patient and persistent because millions of people are in the same boat.

Your first task could be among the hardest: applying for unemployment benefits. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, signed into law on March 27, expanded unemployment relief to include the self-employed (including contract and gig workers), people who work part time, and those whose hours were reduced because of the pandemic.

The act also adds $600 a week to the benefit amount that states offer, a supplement scheduled to last four months, and extends benefits for eligible workers until Dec. 31. In normal times, benefits end after 26 weeks.

The expanded benefits, plus an unprecedented number of job losses, have overwhelmed state unemployment offices. If possible, apply online with your state’s labor department rather than over the phone or in person. You’ll be sent important follow-up information; to avoid delays in starting your checks, carefully read that information and respond to any requests.

Unemployment benefits vary enormously by state. You may get enough to sustain you if you cut unnecessary expenses — or you may not. If you come up short, you have other options.

If your mortgage is federally backed — and most are — the CARES Act gives you a right to forbearance for up to 12 months. There’s also a moratorium on foreclosures and foreclosure-related evictions for these mortgages.

Forbearance means you don’t have to make payments, although interest will typically still accrue. Federally backed mortgages include loans owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and various federal agencies.

If you’re not sure whether your mortgage is federally backed, call your loan servicer — the company that takes your mortgage payments — and ask. Even if your loan is not federally backed, you may be eligible for some kind of relief. Explain your circumstances and ask what help is available.

Many other lenders, including credit card issuers, offer forbearance options as well. Some have information and application forms on their websites while others require you to call the customer service number to request help. Again, be prepared for long hold times.

You also can ask for more financial aid from your child’s college based on your changed circumstances. Check first to see if the financial aid office has an online form you can use or has outlined its preferred procedure for appealing a financial aid offer.

You may be tempted to put off asking for help, hoping that you will land another job before your household is on fumes. It would be more prudent, though, to assume you could be out of work for many months. Not only is unemployment skyrocketing, but a vaccine also could be a year or more away, indicating the economic disruptions likely will continue.

There’s one other part of the CARES Act that could help you: the “coronavirus hardship withdrawal.” The new law allows you to withdraw up to $100,000 from your 401(k) or IRA without penalty.
The withdrawal is taxed, but you can effectively spread the tax bill over three years. If you can repay the money within three years, you also can amend your tax returns and get a refund of those taxes.

Taking the money and not repaying it could have a devastating effect on your future retirement, but if you’ve run out of other options, a retirement plan withdrawal could help keep you afloat.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Can a personal loan help during a crisis? 5 questions to ask. Also in the news: Citi Premier will become less valuable for travelers, how parents can help Gen Z prepare their credit for graduation, and how to protect your credit during the Coronavirus shutdown.

Can a Personal Loan Help During a Crisis? 5 Questions to Ask
What to ask and alternatives to consider.

Citi Premier Will Become Less Valuable for Travelers
Major changes are coming.

How Parents Can Help Gen Z Prepare Their Credit For Graduation
Using the time at home to educate the new grads.

How to Protect Your Credit During the Coronavirus Shutdown
Important measures to take.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Cashing out 401(k) due to COVID-19? Consider these things first. Also in the news: How one man paid off almost $37,000 of debt, what you need to know about COVID-19 and life insurance, and removing late payments from your credit report with a goodwill letter.

Cashing Out a 401(k) Due to COVID-19? Consider These Things First
Don’t make a rash decision.

How I Ditched Debt: Trimming Small Expenses to Achieve a Big Goal
How one man paid off almost $37,000 of debt.

Life insurance and COVID-19: What you need to know
Taking a look at the exceptions.

Remove Late Payments From Your Credit Report With a Goodwill Letter
It never hurts to ask.