How California wildfire survivors can get relief from their banks
The California Camp and Woolsey fires continue to destroy lives and homes. It’s the worst wildfire event in terms of loss of life in the state’s history. The wildfires have burned 190,000 acres and destroyed more than 7,000 structures, according to California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection, or Cal Fire.
As victims of these devastating fires deal with immediate needs like finding shelter, national and local financial institutions are offering relief to victims via deferred mortgage payments, waived late fees and access to emergency loans. Many banks and credit unions are also donating to charities and relief organizations.
US Bank, for example, is allowing people to make Red Cross Disaster Relief contributions at their ATMs through the end of the year.
“Our hearts go out to those affected by these devastating California wildfires, as well as our gratitude to the firefighters and first responders. The safety of our team members and customers are the Bank’s top priority,” says Ryan Bailey, executive vice president and head of retail banking at Bank of the West. “We continue to assess the status of the fires with local officials and are ready to mobilize support in the form of volunteers, food, and other assistance as needed.”
Many financial institutions have a policy to consider their customers’ situations on a case-by-case basis or they have a disaster relief program in place.
Wildfire victims who need assistance should check WildfireRecovery.org, which is a one-stop shop for survivor resources, says Brandi Richard, public affairs officer at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
If you want to donate to disaster relief, there are a number of charities assisting, including The American Red Cross.
What financial institutions are doing for customers:
Alliant Credit Union
Alliant has assistance in place to help members during times of hardship, including the California wildfires. Members should contact Alliant by visiting a local branch location or by calling 1-800-328-1935.
Bank of America
Bank of America’s Client Assistance Program will provide personalized financial assistance during a natural disaster such as the wildfires. The assistance ranges from waiving fees on the use of non-bank ATMs and late payments on credit cards to providing temporary payment and forbearance plans on home loans.
Bank of America has set up a dedicated phone number customers can call to discuss their financial needs. That number is 1-855-729-1764.
Bank of the West
The Bank has retail branches as well as commercial banking and wealth management business offices in or near areas affected by the wildfires. The Paradise branch location is closed.
For customers, Bank of the West will be providing support including fee refunds and waivers. Home loan and other credit assistance is available to customers in the FEMA-designated disaster areas. Customers affected have priority assistance through their customer service line at 1-800-488-2265.
Chase is providing support to customers on an individual basis in the form of waiving late fees on credit card and mortgage payments as well as the penalty for early withdrawal from CDs. Members can call or visit a local branch.
CIT Bank/One West Bank
CIT is assisting customers affected by the wildfires and will ensure they can access their savings quickly and without penalty. Customers from both the national direct bank, CIT Bank, and the Southern California retail division, OneWest Bank, should call if they need assistance.
In addition, CIT is supporting several organizations including the California Community Foundation Wildfire Relief Fund.
Golden 1 Credit Union
Golden 1 Credit Union’s Community Emergency Relief Program offers payment options on existing loans and short-term loans of up to $5,000 for wildfire victims. Members can visit a local branch, apply online or call 1-800-442-2361.
Marcus by Goldman Sachs
Marcus by Goldman Sachs has a disaster recovery program in place to support customers impacted by the California wildfires or other disasters. The program allows lending customers to postpone loan payments without being charged interest during the deferral. Contact 1-844-627-2872 for assistance.
Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union is offering special assistance to wildfire victims in FEMA-declared natural disaster areas. There’s an emergency relief package available for people with loan and credit cards. For assistance, customers should call 1-888-842-6328.
Navy Federal has a new loan program that allows borrowers to get $15,000 for related damages or evacuation expenses with terms up to 60 months at a 6 percent APR. If you already have a loan with Navy Federal, you may be able to defer your payments for up to 90 days.
Assistance for current cardholders includes a 0 percent intro APR on new purchases for existing cards for a limited time only. After that, a standard variable purchase APR will apply. New cardholders can get a 0 percent intro APR on purchases for 12 months on Platinum, their lowest-rate card. After that, a variable APR applies.
SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union
The Southern-California based credit union for the educational community is offering relief to their customers affected by the wildfires. They will provide temporary relief on credit card limits, as well as fee waivers, deferments on existing loans, waiving early withdrawal fees from share certificates, and emergency loan and repayment options. Contact them at 1-800-462-8328.
U.S. Bank has disaster assistance programs available to customers impacted by natural disasters, including wildfires. Customers can contact representatives at 888-287-7817 if they have questions or to learn about the assistance programs that may be available. U.S. Bank is allowing customers to make Red Cross donations at all U.S. Bank ATMs, with all funds going directly to the Red Cross. Donations will be accepted through the end of the year.
The San Francisco-based bank is assisting customers affected by wildfires on an individual basis. Wells Fargo is offering a variety of relief options to customers based on their residence in the impacted areas, such as fee waivers and payment assistance. Customers experiencing hardship are encouraged to call the number on their card or statement or visit a branch.