Debt Management Guide – 2020 COVID Update

A debt management guide for South Africans who have lost income as a result of the pandemic and are now struggling to make their debt repayments.

It’s safe to say that every South African has felt the impact of COVID-19 to some extent. But while having to stay indoors or look after young children that cannot go to school will undoubtedly be trying, spare a thought for those who have lost their jobs or have been laid off temporarily and are unable to make their debt repayments as a result. 

The Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, has called on employers to apply for COVID-19 benefits through the Employee Relief Scheme on behalf of their employees. However, with more than 55,000 applications from employers representing 1.6 million employees, it will take time and lost income will quickly add up. 

So, if you have lost income as a result of the pandemic and are struggling to pay your debts, we hope this debt management guide will help.

Contact your lender immediately

If you have upcoming debt repayments that you know you will struggle to make as a result of COVID-19, you should contact your lender immediately. They will do what they can to find a solution. You should also ensure you have any supporting documents you’re likely to need to help to speed up the process. Phone lines will be particularly busy at this time, so if you’re unable to get through, you should send an email or use the live chat feature and make sure you keep a record of your contact. For more information about how to handle your debts amid the COVID-19 crisis, take a look at the Wonga’s debt management guide and explore the full range of support that’s available. 

Act before you miss a payment

If you’re going to struggle to make a loan repayment, the best time to act is as soon as you know you’re going to have difficulties. If you wait until after the payment is due, you may be charged penalty fees and the missed payment could be recorded on your credit record. That will make the situation more difficult to resolve.

Prioritise the payment of the most expensive debt

If you can only afford to pay a proportion of the money you owe, you should contact all of your lenders to see which is prepared to be the most flexible. Some lenders may be willing to defer your debt repayments, which could give you the breathing space you need. However, if all things are equal, rather than making token payments towards all of your debts, we’d advise you to make the full payment on your most expensive debt. That will help to reduce the amount you pay in interest over the longer term.

Consider a debt review

A debt review is a process that can be used if you feel you are over-indebted and cannot afford to repay your debts. You should always contact your lender first to explain how COVID-19 has affected you. However, if you’re still facing an uphill battle, you should get in touch with a debt counsellor, who will review your outstanding debts and work to put a structured repayment plan in place. However, it’s worth noting that a debt review is not a free process and it will be listed on your credit record. That will impact your ability to obtain affordable credit in the future.