The three major credit reference agencies (CRAs), Experian, Equifax and TransUnion have confirmed that consumer credit scores will be protected when people have agreed ‘payment holidays’ in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Payment holidays refer to a pause agreed between an individual and their lender on regular loan payments. Earlier this month the government announced that homeowners impacted by the crisis can ask their mortgage lender for a payment holiday of up to three months (for both residential and buy-to-let mortgage customers).

To help people applying for payment holidays, CRAs are implementing a special measure called an “emergency payment freeze”. This ensures that an individual’s current credit score is protected for the duration of an agreed payment holiday.

In addition to the Government guidance on mortgage, lenders may be able to make special arrangements across other forms of credit, which may include a payment holiday, reduced payments, paused payments or increased credit limits. These are all covered by the CRA emergency payment freeze agreement, which means that any impact your credit score will be minimised.

Jonathan Westley, Chief Data Officer at Experian said “These are challenging times. While everyone is rightly focused on staying safe and healthy, we know that many people are also concerned about the impact on their income. If you’re worried about meeting regular payments because of the pandemic, it is crucial that you speak to your lenders and other providers as soon as possible so they can help.”

“Many lenders are offering payment holidays or other arrangements to help people who have been affected by the outbreak. Through this new industry agreement, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax are helping protect people’s credit scores during these difficult and unprecedented times.”

Patricio Remon, President of Europe at Equifax, said “Alongside the government and our clients, we want to help households feeling financial strain as a result of coronavirus. Equifax is offering guidance to lenders and credit providers so that they can respond to consumers’ requests for forbearance in a way that minimises the impact on credit files.”

“We continue to monitor the rapidly evolving situation and the impact of COVID-19 on consumers and businesses across the UK. Close collaboration between companies and trade bodies across the sector is vital to provide the support consumers and businesses need in this unprecedented time of uncertainty.”