The recent pandemic related to the novel coronavirus has changed just about every part of our lives in what seems like no time at all. With all of the shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders being sent out, either by government order or by request, the economy is changing in ways most of us have never seen.
Many industries are directly impacted – and this includes diverse industries from dentists to massage therapists, restaurants and the entire travel and tourism industry. Even industries not directly affected are feeling some of the impact, including ones you may not have realized. Consider traffic surveyors and engineers – nobody wants a traffic survey because traffic is so anomalous that any data they gather now will essentially be useless.
With so many people in financially precarious situations, either out of work or otherwise impacted, many banks and financial institutions have changed policies or put additional policies in place to aid their affected customers. Most financial institutions have a coronavirus page that details what they are doing to help impacted customers – here is a brief rundown of what some of the major financial institutions are doing to help their customers.
American Express is offering support for impacted customers in a variety of ways. If you’re suffering a financial hardship, American Express is encouraging you to contact them directly. They are working with customers to lower monthly payments, provide relief from late payment fees, temporarily lower the interest rate or prevent accounts from going past due or further past due.
Also, due to the impact of COVID-19, for eligible Card accounts approved from January 1, 2020 through April 30, 2020 for which you are eligible for a welcome offer, the period to make eligible purchases to earn your welcome bonus will be extended for an additional three months. Eligible Cards are U.S. Consumer and Business Cards issued by American Express National Bank to a Basic Card Member.
For more information, check out American Express’s coronavirus help and information page.
Bank of America
Bank of America is using their Client Assistance Program to help their consumer and small business clients. If you’re a Bank of America customer who is impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and need help with credit card, vehicle or home loan payments, you can request a payment deferral through Bank of America’s main Coronavirus relief page.
Capital One’s main Coronavirus assistance page indicates that Capital One customers who are experiencing financial hardship should reach out directly to see what relief Capital One can offer. Assistance will vary based on the type of customer and might include any or all of minimum payment assistance, deferred loan assistance or fee suppression.
Chase is also offering assistance to impacted customers. They have closed several of their branches and limited hours at others, and are encouraging customers to connect digitally. They are encouraging those who are able to continue to make their credit card, mortgage and other loan payments to do so and offering help to those who are not able to.
Citi is offering several things for impacted customers, including:
- Waivers on safe deposit box fees, non-Citi ATM usage fees, monthly service fees and penalty fees for early certificate of deposit withdrawals.
- For eligible credit card holders, waivers on late fees and deferral of minimum payments for two months.
- A 90-day forbearance for Citi’s mortgage loans as well as a 60-day pause on foreclosures and evictions
Discover is extending relief to qualified customers financially impacted by COVID-19. This includes customers having trouble making credit card payments and customers with student loans. They suggest reaching out to Discover by phone where their 100% U.S.-based Customer Service team is available 24/7 to help. Discover has worked hard to keep average call volumes down by mobilizing their 8,000 call center agents to work from home in a matter of days. By the end of March they were reporting 95% of call center agents working from home, with wait times at an average of only 74 seconds.
Fifth Third Bank
Fifth Third Bank is keeping its branches open but in order to protect employees and customers, branches are open by appointment only. They have also enacted policies to help customers who are impacted by COVID-19, including hardship related to auto loans, credit card balances and loans secured by real estate. Contact your local Fifth Third banker to apply for these programs.
PNC is encouraging impacted customers to contact them directly to receive the fastest response. Customers can fill out either a Consumer Loan Hardship Request Form or a Mortgage Hardship Request Form on PNC’s coronavirus relief page.
TD Bank is offering many avenues of support for its impacted customers, including deferment of payments and waiving late payment fees on credit cards, mortgages and other loans. They have also kept their branches open by appointment only.
US Bank is offering assistance programs where you may be able to suspend mortgage, credit card or other loan payments for up to 180 days with no late fees. For more information on this and other policies, visit the US Bank Coronavirus help page.
Wells Fargo is currently suspending residential property foreclosure sales, evictions and involuntary automobile repossessions. Also there is assistance available including fee waivers, payment deferrals and other assistance for impacted customers. Wells Fargo is currently only providing these services to customers who contact them – you can do that as well as find out more information on the Wells Fargo Coronavirus help page.
What to say when you contact your bank
You may have noticed many similarities when looking through what different banks are offering to help impacted customers. Of course at a time like this, no bank will tell customers that they aren’t going to help them at all! And if we assume good faith, it’s probably likely that banks and credit unions truly do care about helping people – it makes for good business as well as good marketing. But as with all things, the devil is in the details. Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind to ask for when contacting your bank, credit union or other financial institution.
- Ask for any fees to be waived – you should be doing this anyway, especially if late fees or other fees are a rare occurrence on your account. Most banks will generally waive fees for long-standing customers, and that goes double during the current pandemic.
- Check if your interest rate can be lowered – If you are carrying a balance on any credit cards, see if your bank will lower the interest rate. This is especially true if you are going to need to miss or defer any payments – make sure that won’t impact your interest rate.
- Ask if you can defer payments – If you still have the means to make your payments without affecting the rest of your financial situation, it probably makes sense to still do so. If you’re under financial hardship, ask if you can defer payments. If the bank agrees, ask if they will waive or lower the interest charged on any outstanding balance.
- Get the points you used for travel refunded – This mostly applies to the larger banks like American Express, Chase and Citi whose proprietary points currencies (Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, ThankYou Points) are often used to book travel. With many flights canceled and trips being postponed, you’ll, of course, want any points used to book the trips refunded. It’s best to start with the airline or hotel first – once they cancel the flight or hotel reservation your points should automatically go back to your account. If you’re not getting anywhere with the travel providers, you may be able to get your bank on your side for you.