The pandemic is still taking a toll on the financial well-being of many Americans, and the 2021 American Rescue Plan is intended to ease some of the burdens. The third round of economic stimulus payments is expected to be sent out soon. You can learn more about who’s eligible, and the timing at IRS.gov/coronavirus.
Whether the money means help with necessities or being able to afford a few extras, it’s important to think about how you can make the best use of any relief payment.
If the pandemic has left you in a hardship situation, the first thing to do with any stimulus check is to use those funds to cover essentials for you and your family. The intent of economic relief bills is to help those in need with necessities like housing payments, utility bills and groceries. Navigator Members who are dealing with financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19 can request a review of your situation. While automatic COVID-related payment extensions and COVID Relief Loans are no longer available, you can ask for consideration due to special circumstances by calling our Member Contact Center, 800-344-3281. Each request will be handled confidentially and on a case-by-case basis.
Start or supplement an emergency fund
Although Congress continues to consider sending additional relief checks, if, when and how much will be approved is not certain. If at all possible, consider using at least a portion of your stimulus check to create or add to a “rainy day” fund. Many financial experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a liquid savings account available to support you and your family during an emergency. That may have to remain a goal for the future, but any amount you can set aside gives you a cushion. Consider setting up an automatic transfer to your Navigator savings account to help make saving easy, as well as easy to access.
Pay off debt
While completely paying off debt may not be possible, it’s a good idea to pay down debt whenever you can. Every little bit helps, so focus on whittling down debt by paying more than the required minimum amount. Refinancing to a lower interest rate (such as for a personal or car loan) may also help you pay down debt faster. Talk to a Navigator Team Member to see if an auto loan refinance, a credit card balance transfer or a debt consolidation loan can help your financial situation. With auto loan rates as low as 1.99%, credit card rates as low as 10.9% and an array of personal loan options, you may be able to lower your monthly payments, helping relieve some of the stress of a challenging time. You can even apply online safely and quickly.
Build great credit
Making on-time payments and handling credit responsibly will raise your credit score, a number that is considered for a large loan such as a mortgage, or even getting a job or apartment in some cases. Navigator’s online bill pay and other e-services can help you make payments on schedule. In addition to paying accounts on time, preferably for at least six months, another way to boost your credit score is with a secured credit card. No credit or poor credit isn’t an issue with a secured credit card which is backed by the cash deposit you make when you open the account. The deposit is usually equal to the credit limit available to make purchases. Account activity and payment history are reported to credit bureaus. Responsible use can help increase your credit score to be eligible for an unsecured card and the return of your initial deposit. Navigator’s Secure Credit Card has no application fee, no annual fee, no prepayment penalty and can be used anywhere Visa® is accepted. Plus the interest rate is a low fixed 12.9% APR. You can even apply online.
Save toward a long-term goal
Whether you’re looking ahead to retirement, making plans for a mortgage down payment, hoping to send your kids to college or simply dreaming of an extra special Christmas this year, Navigator offers convenient and flexible savings options designed to meet your needs. If you’re in a position to set aside a portion of your income or a portion of your stimulus check, the sooner you begin to set aside even a small amount, the quicker you’ll reach your savings goal. Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” meaning to save money is as beneficial as earning the same amount. In truth, a penny saved is worth more than a penny due to earning interest over time. Even if you’re not able to contribute to a savings plan, you can begin saving money with every purchase made with your Navigator debit card if you’re enrolled in our Save’N Up Debit Card Savings Program. Rounded-up savings earn 5.5% APY, and Navigator will even match your rounded up saving up to $300 per year.
The effects of COVID-19 have left even the most experienced economists debating the long-term effects on the economy. But despite all the uncertainly, you can rely on Navigator Credit Union for more ways to save, pay off debt, manage loans and prepare for your future. We’re thankful for the trust you have placed in us, and we’re as committed as ever to providing the strength, stability and financial resources our Members need – no matter what happens on life’s journey. For details about banking with Navigator while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our communities, visit navigatorcu.org/community-strong.
On March 11, President Biden signed into law The American Rescue Plan aimed to ease some of the financial difficulties still experienced by so many Americans. The third round of economic stimulus payments will be coming soon by direct deposit, checks or a debit card to those eligible. Individual amounts may vary, and you can get the latest information about what you can expect from IRS.gov/coronavirus.
As a reminder, Navigator Credit Union does not have advance information about individual relief payments; you can view pending deposits on the mobile app and/or set up pending deposit alerts through online banking.
While you wait for your payment, someone else is too: scammers. Navigator has some tips from the FTC on how you can spot and avoid scammers.
- The government will never ask you to pay anything upfront to get your economic stimulus payment.
- The government will not call, text, email or message you to ask for your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number.
- A legitimate entity will NOT ask you to pay by gift card, cryptocurrency or wire transfer.
The new law also has some language about health insurance, temporarily increasing subsidies for newly laid-off people and many people buying their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The above tips apply here too! A legitimate entity will never call, text, email or message you out of the blue about getting or keeping health insurance coverage, demand payment or your account numbers. If they do, it’s a scam.
If you spot one of these scams, please tell the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
The Internal Revenue Service has delayed the start of the tax filing season to Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. The agency normally begins tax season in late January, however this year the IRS says it needs more time after Congress passed a second COVID relief package in late December 2020.
The IRS is still urging Americans to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need. People can begin filing their tax returns immediately with tax software companies, including IRS Free File partners. These groups have started to accept tax returns, and the returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting February 12.
The IRS anticipates nine out of 10 taxpayers will receive their refunds within 21 days of when they file electronically with direct deposit if there are no issues with their tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers and tax professionals to file electronically to avoid delays in processing, avoiding filing paper returns wherever possible.
More than 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year, with the vast majority before the Thursday, April 15, deadline. For additional information about steps to speed up your tax refund during the pandemic, click here.
The Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department have begun delivering a second round of Coronavirus relief Economic Impact Payments or stimulus checks. If you’re wondering when or if you’ll receive a payment, Navigator Credit Union has some helpful information.
When will I get my money?
Individuals who have their direct payment information on file with the IRS will see the payments first. The IRS and Treasury announced that stimulus payments started going out via direct deposit Dec. 29. The department says some may see the direct deposit payments as pending or as provisional payments before the official payment date of Jan. 4, 2021.
Paper checks were scheduled to begin being mailed Dec. 30. The IRS says paper checks or debit cards could be arriving in mailboxes as early as the first week of 2021.
The IRS is reminding taxpayers there is no action required by eligible individuals to receive this second relief payment.
You can check payment status and confirm payment type by visiting the IRS website and click Get My Payment.
How much money will I get?
The full amount of the stimulus payments and applicable income levels have yet to be defined. However, the recovery bill that President Trump signed currently includes direct payments up to $600 to eligible adults, plus $600 per dependent child.
Visit www.irs.gov/coronavirus for the latest information about the Economic Impact Payments, including answers to questions about eligibility and what to expect on payment timing and amounts.
Avoiding Coronavirus stimulus payment scams
Scammers are using stimulus payments to try to rip people off. They might try to get you to pay a fee in order to receive your stimulus payment. Or they might try to convince you to give them your Social Security number, bank account or government benefits debit card account number.
Here are four tips for avoiding a stimulus payment scam:
Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS – and never in response to a call, text or email.
The IRS won’t contact you by phone, email, text message or social media with information about your stimulus payment or to ask you for your Social Security number, bank account or government benefits debit card account number. Anyone who does is a scammer phishing for your information in order to commit fraud.
You don’t have to pay to get your stimulus money.
The IRS won’t tell you to deposit your stimulus check then send them money back because they paid you more than they owed you. That’s a fake check scam.
Navigator Credit Union’s Member Promise includes working in your best interest, helping you achieve financial success and protecting your privacy. We want to help make sure the Coronavirus relief payments benefit our Members and not scammers. If you remember these four things, you’ll cut scammers’ success rates. And, when you spot a scam, tell the FTC: ftc.gov/complaint. Together, we can help put a stop to these scams.