In times of economic downturn or financial stress, maintaining good credit is crucial. A hit to your credit score now can affect your ability to access credit and loans when things improve. Here are some tips to protect your credit even when money is tight:

– Prioritize paying at least the minimums on all credit cards and loans. Payment history is the biggest factor in your score. If you miss payments, your score will drop significantly.  

– Avoid closing unused credit cards as a short-term fix. This can hurt your credit utilization ratio and length of credit history. Keep accounts open but unused if needed.

– Try calling creditors to request reduced or skipped payments without penalty. Most creditors will work with you, as long as you communicate proactively. Get any offers in writing.

– Consider balance transfer offers to consolidate high interest debts to a 0% card temporarily. Compare fees carefully first.

– Limit new credit applications when possible. Each application causes an inquiry on your report. Too many can lower your score. Rely on existing credit first.

– Enroll in hardship programs offered by lenders if you are struggling to make ends meet. This can provide some relief.

– Review reports frequently and dispute any errors or suspicious activity immediately. Fraud and mistakes can crop up in turbulent times. 

– Sign up for credit monitoring to stay on top of your score. Check it at least every few months.

With diligence and proactive communication with lenders, you can safeguard your credit through challenging times. Protecting your score now makes recovering financially smoother down the road.