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It's unclear if a second stimulus check is coming—here's how to protect your credit score in the meantime

Will there be a second stimulus check? Experts explain how to protect your credit and overall finances until it arrives — or in case it never does.

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With the Senate officially adjourning Thursday for their summer recess without a second coronavirus relief package finalized, the chances of Americans receiving another round of stimulus checks this month are slim.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that members will return to Washington, D.C. for a vote if an agreement is reached during the break, but as negotiations ended in a standstill it doesn't look likely.

With Congress not back in session to negotiate a new deal until mid-September, any sort of second stimulus package looks weeks away, if at all. For the many Americans who were relying on this stimulus aid to pay their bills, it's important to be proactive now about protecting their finances.

If you're struggling to make ends meet, there are steps you can take to protect your credit score. This three-digit number can have a big impact on your overall financial health. Fortunately, there are several ways to maintain your good score — and your finances overall — you just have to do a little work. 

CNBC Select spoke to a number of experts about their best advice for those who were hoping to get a stimulus check to help cover their bills. Here's how to help protect your credit and overall finances until one arrives.

1. Contact your lenders or service providers right away

As a first step, contact your lenders for financial assistance.

If you know there are upcoming bills you won't be able to afford, contact the lender or service provider in advance — before you miss a payment.

"Explain your situation and ask if there is anyway they can work with you while you get back on your feet," says Rod Griffin, senior director of public education and advocacy for Experian.

For those who already have accommodations in place, ask your lenders if they can be extended so you have a bit of cushion to fall back on if things get worse. "We are in extraordinary times, and lenders may be able to find ways to help you stay on track," Griffin says.

Keep in mind that you can also add a consumer statement to your credit report. This is a note that explains your financial situation and can be seen by anyone who views your report. Credit bureaus make it easy for you to add this info.

If you wanted to add a consumer statement to your TransUnion report, for example, you can choose from pre-worded options, such as, "I am unable to make timely payments due to the impact on my job/wages as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic," or you can write your own statement.

2. Re-evaluate your budget

It's worth going back to the drawing board to see what expenses you can cut out that are not high priority. Now is the time to drop unnecessary expenses like subscription boxes and streaming services. You can also call up your phone or Internet company to see if they'll negotiate your monthly rate.

"Finding areas to trim expenses, even a little bit, can add up," Griffin says. "Putting those funds aside now gives you a greater chance of being able to make all your payments on time, even if that stimulus check doesn't come."

Learn more: Short on cash? A behavioral expert recommends trying these 3 budgeting tips during the coronavirus pandemic

3. Take advantage of other payment accommodations

Even if there isn't a second stimulus check, there may be other accommodations or protections that are extended, such as unemployment insurance and student loan deferment. Many financial institutions, including credit card issuers, are offering financial assistance, including waiving late fees and temporarily lowering interest rates. You can also look into putting your mortgage into deferment or forbearance.

Griffin advises to just be sure you fully understand any agreement you reach. Make sure to ask "if interest will continue to accrue, if there will be a lump-sum payment due at the end of the period or if the accommodation will extend the repayment term," he says.

If you are granted further relief or payment accommodations, be sure to continue to save as much as possible so that you will have an easier time covering that expense once payments resume. 

Consider depositing any of that cash into a high-yield savings account, so you can earn a higher interest rate than you would in a traditional savings account and start building an emergency fund for the future.

CNBC Select ranked our top high-yield savings accounts, and there are three that come with zero monthly fees and no balance or deposit minimums: the Ally Online Savings Account, the Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings and the Varo Savings Account.

4.  Check your credit report often

It's always a good idea to stay on top of your credit report and know what's in it, but doing so is especially important right now as the future is uncertain and your finances are in limbo.

Through April 2021, you can get a free credit report once a week from each of the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — through AnnualCreditReport.com.

"Reviewing your credit report frequently can help you stay organized and help you manage your credit more effectively during this time," Griffin says.

It's even more important right now if you are working with multiple lenders on payment plans, such as forbearance or deferment, and want to be sure your credit report is being updated accurately to reflect those new accommodations.

"During times of crisis, fraudsters are also on the prowl, and we've begun to see an increase in various schemes," Griffin says. "Watching your credit report, and perhaps enrolling in a monitoring service, can help you identify signs of fraud and take action to protect yourself."

CNBC Select ranked the best credit monitoring services and although some come with a monthly cost, the top free services include CreditWise® from Capital One and Experian free credit monitoring.

As you keep an eye on your credit during this time, it may also make sense to understand how certain actions you take these next few weeks impact your credit score. Take advantage of the free credit score websites and simulators. "Websites that have good simulators are Amex's MyCredit Guide and Credit Karma," a VantageScore Solutions spokesperson tells CNBC Select.

5. Have a back-up plan

Make a plan in advance for how you will manage your finances if a second stimulus check doesn't come your way.

"If you know you won't be able to cover all your expenses, consider picking up a side gig for a few months to help you cover any outstanding debts," Griffin says. With businesses in limbo right now, consider other opportunities like dog walking in your neighborhood or earning money from your couch by taking online surveys.

Bill Fay of Debt.org says that for long-term financial help, call a nonprofit credit counseling agency.

"They offer free advice on creating an affordable budget and the best options for dealing with credit card debt," Fay tells CNBC Select. "Nonprofit agencies are a lifeline when you're drowning in debt."

A good place to start is with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), which offers a free portal people can call to receive guidance on paying their debt, preventing foreclosure and managing their student loans amid the coronavirus pandemic. You can access the NFCC's free credit counseling service either through their website or by calling 844-865-1971.

Information about the Ally Online Savings Account, Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings, and Varo Savings Account has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the bank prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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