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With no end in sight for the government shutdown, we need to start taking a look at how this shutdown could affect the economy, and more importantly, how it will affect our own wallets. For now, the only real economic effects are focused on those government employees that have been furloughed. But some key dates are coming up that can cause some serious economic issues for the rest of us.
The biggest of those dates is the Oct. 17. That is when the Treasury runs out of money to continue paying off the country’s debts. If the government isn’t reopened and the debt ceiling is not raised, the country will not be able to pay its bills and will default. This would probably result in the US credit rating being downgraded, which would affect interest rates across the board. What does this mean for personal finances?
If interest rates go up, credit cards will definitely be affected. Credit card interest rates will increase, and with the economy taking another major hit, credit card lenders could not only reduce rewards and cut perks, but they also could start enforcing tougher criteria for screening possible credit card holders. That means that it will be tougher to be approved for a credit card.
What to do: If you are thinking you are going to need or want a credit card in the near future, now might be a good time to get one. While interest rates will go up regardless, you can lock in a long 0% intro APR (no interest) and current reward and perk offers. Here is a good list of credit cards that have the longest 0% intro APR period (14 months) and the best rewards and perks that can help you through the economic crisis.
The mortgage industry is already being affected by the government shutdown, as most home loans are backed by the government, and getting approval has slowed considerably. If interest rates are going to rise, mortgage interest rates are surely the first to go up. In addition, banks will probably tighten their lending criteria even further, making it even more difficult to qualify for a home loan.
What to do: Mortgage interest rates are still extremely low at this point, and if you are in the process of looking for a home, you can talk to your bank about locking your mortgage rate. If you think you might want to refinance, it might be a good time to do it since rates are low and will only go up with the continued government shutdown.
Just as interest rates for credit cards and mortgages have the potential to rise as the government shutdown continues, so do the interest rates for other loans like students loans or car loans. This will all depend on whether the US defaults on their debt. While avoiding a default would save the country’s credit rating, continuing the government shutdown could still hurt the economy enough that interest rates would still be affected.
What to do: Talk to your lender about the possibility of a interest rate increase and see what your best options are as far as applying for a loan now. On top of rising interest rates, a fragile economy will also make it harder to get approved for loans, so acting now is in your best interest.