Millions of people have been or are expected to be affected by the current pandemic. In addition to those diagnosed with the virus, many more will feel financial effects through layoffs or having their work hours reduced.

If you are experiencing those repercussions, or expect to in the near future, using credit cards strategically to get by can be a big help. However, remember that it should only be viewed as a temporary measure.

Three smart ways to use credit cards during a crisis

The financial website NerdWallet has advice on getting the best use of your cards if you run low on funds, including:

  • Preserving cash: If you have limited savings, consider using credit cards to pay essential expenses each month, such as rent or mortgage payments and utilities. Using a card will help stretch out the reserves you do have.
  • Interest-free purchases: If you have good credit, look for credit cards with introductory 0% APR for purchases. Many interest-free periods last a year or more. Avoiding interest charges on balances can make a big difference until your income resumes.
  • Transfer existing debt: The average interest rate Americans pay on credit cards in 2020 is 21.21%, and old balances can balloon as a result. To avoid piling up added debt, consider moving or consolidating all current debts to a 0% or low-interest card, or take out a low-interest personal loan.

Talk to your card issuer

Be aware that you typically need good or excellent credit to qualify for the best deals, and that moving debt may not be free. Some companies charge transfer fees from 3% to 5%. However, you may be able to get some relief by contacting credit card companies and explaining your situation. Some may offer lower monthly payments or reduced interest rates during difficult economic times.