Your credit card company may cut you some slack during the coronavirus pandemic.
With repercussions from the outbreak including job cuts, furloughs and business closings, credit card companies are preparing for some cardholders to have problems making their monthly bills.
U.S. companies have already announced more than 1,000 job cuts as a result of COVID-19, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas and USA TODAY research. The travel industry and restaurants are expected to be especially hard-hit as people are asked by health officials to stay at home for weeks.
Credit card bills will still arrive in the mail – or email – in the weeks ahead, and the average American has four credit cards, according to credit bureau Experian. The average credit card balance: almost $6,200.
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Credit card companies can help you
Credit card issuers have programs that can help cardholders when they need assistance – these often kick in during a disaster such as a hurricane, says Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree.
Companies could extend a payment deadline, lower the annual percentage rate (APR) on your card or waive a late fee, he says. “We are seeing that happening right now with the coronavirus,” Schulz said.
The practice is similar to how many phone providers, utilities and automakers are easing shutoffs and waiving late fees for those struggling during the pandemic.
Many credit card companies have notices on their websites urging cardholders to contact them if they are having financial issues.
Nearly two weeks ago, Citi announced its plans to waive fees and other assistance to credit card customers and small businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. “This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we want our customers to know we are here to provide assistance should they need it,” said Anand Selva, CEO of Citi’s U.S. Consumer Bank, at the time.
Apple, Barclays: Some skip March bill
Apple Card recently directly contacted customers and told them in an email they could skip their March payment without interest charges if needed. “We understand that the rapidly-evolving COVID-19 situation poses unique challenges for everyone and some customers may have difficulty making their monthly payments,” the note to customers read. “Apple Card is committed to helping you lead a healthier financial life.”
Barclays, too, is letting some cardholders skip their March monthly payment – or use other measures such as waivers for late fees or cash advances, finance charge adjustments and possible credit line increases, says spokesman George Caudill.
Letting consumers skip a monthly payment would be a good move from more credit card issuers, Schulz says. “We haven’t really seen that sort of big public display to this point,” he said. Perhaps an official “credit card payment holiday concept may end up popping up somewhere along the lines,” Schulz said. “Actually it would surprise me if it didn’t.”
In the meantime, consumers who are worried about missing a payment should “definitely contact their credit card companies and should not expect card companies to automatically waive fees,” said Gannesh Bharadhwaj, general manager of credit cards at finance company Credit Karma.
And if you call, be prepared to be on hold for a while. “Consumers can expect long wait times as customer service and call center staffing may also be affected, so plan accordingly and try to call during off-peak hours or use online mechanisms,” Bharadhway said. And have any documentation handy to explain your situation and request for relief.
Credit card companies’ COVID-19 plans
Here’s a selection of how various cable, utility and other companies are taking action:
Apple Card: Customers affected by the coronavirus pandemic can enroll in the customer assistance program in order to skip their March payment without incurring interest. You can send a text to an Apple Card specialist or call right from inside Apple Wallet.
Bank of America: The bank wants “clients facing a hardship related to coronavirus to call us and let us know they need help,” Bank of America said in a statement to USA TODAY. Assistance for customers – including those beyond credit card customers such as customers with loans – includes deferred payments, fee refunds, deferred payments, and no negative credit bureau reporting, the bank says. Customers should call the number on the back of their credit card or go to the bank’s website and click on the Contact Us tab.
Barclays: The bank and financial firm is “dedicated to helping impacted customers through these difficult times,” Barclays’ Caudill told USA TODAY. “Our cardmembers can continue to use our cards with confidence, and we encourage impacted customers to contact us for assistance by logging onto their account and sending us a secure message by clicking ‘Contact Us’ or using the number on the back of their card.”
Wait times on phone calls could be longer usual, he said, so “we encourage our cardmembers to use our digital channels as much as possible.”
Capital One: Some of the actions the provider of some of the most popular credit cards is now offering includes assistance on minimum payments, suppression of fees and credit bureau reporting and deferred loan payments.
“We understand the concern and uncertainty people may be experiencing surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and are committed to being responsive to the needs of our customers and associates as the situation evolves,” Capital One said in a statement to USA TODAY. “We also understand that there may be instances where customers find themselves facing financial difficulties. Capital One is here to help, and we encourage customers who may be impacted to reach out so we can discuss and help find a solution.”
Citi: Citi continues to monitor the coronavirus spread and encourages cardholders to contact the company if they need help. “We will work with them on an individual basis to understand their particular needs and ensure that they have the assistance they need during this challenging time,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Bombardier.
Comenity: The credit card company, which issues cards for DSW, Forever 21, Sephora and others, is suggesting its cardmembers call the toll-free customer care number on the back of their credit cards to address hardships they may be facing about making payments.
“We are always available to support and work with cardmembers during emergency situations, including hardships they may be facing as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19),” Comenity said in a statement to USA TODAY. “As the situation warrants, we have the ability to help cardmembers by employing tools such as fee and/or finance charge reductions, or waivers and alternative payment options.”
Chase: When customers call with issues, Chase may defer payments, waive fees or extend payment dates, the company says. “If you’re affected by COVID-19 and need help with your accounts or making payments, please reach out to us,” Chase Consumer Banking CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett said in a message on a new coronavirus landing page for consumers on the Chase website.
Beyond that, Chase is recommending consumers use the website or mobile app for banking. “We want to make sure our clients know they can bank, invest, and make payments from wherever they are, particularly if they’re not able to come to a branch,” the company said in a statement sent to USA TODAY.
Discover: Discover will extend relief to “qualified customers who are experiencing financial difficulty caused by the spread of COVID-19,” the credit card company said in a statement to USA TODAY. “Discover customers may receive assistance that can include support related to payment timing, fees and late payments.”
PNC Bank: An update on the PNC Bank website says the bank “is prepared to offer assistance, as needed … through a range of measures” to customers “who encounter hardship as a result of the coronavirus.” The bank suggests customers call.
Synchrony: The credit card company, which issues cards for Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, Amazon, PayPal, Gap and others, is encouraging customers “experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19” to contact them, especially using its online channels and apps, Synchrony said in a statement to USA TODAY. The bank is waiving fees and charges and evaluating credit limits. “We will work with customers individually on areas including waiving certain fees, including ATM fees and evaluating credit line increases,” the company said.
U.S. Bank: The bank is “reactively waving credit card fees and are working to enhance our skip-a-pay and payment deferral programs to meet U.S. Bank cardholders’ needs during this pandemic,” said a statement sent to USA TODAY. Those measures are taken in addition to “several options regularly available” including increased credit limits, waived fees and expedited card replacement. In the COVID-19 notice on its website, U.S. Bank also is offering reduced prices of some loans for consumers and small businesses.
Wells Fargo: The financial services company is working with customers on fee waivers, payment deferrals and other credit card measures. “Wells Fargo is working on a daily basis to ensure we are putting measures in place to support the needs of our customers impacted by COVID-19 in the most effective ways,” the company said in a statement sent to USA TODAY. Wells Fargo is “currently providing assistance (to) … credit card, auto, mortgage, small business and personal lending customers who contact us, and we will continue to communicate with customers as the situation evolves.”
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