As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to incite global economic fears and threaten public health, credit card issuers are beginning to roll out assistance programs for cardholders who may be financially affected by the outbreak.
Credit card issuers and networks are seeing impact from the virus, too. Already, Visa and Mastercard have made cuts to their revenue outlooks in response to decreased spending, especially on travel.
And as more cardholders’ wallets across the country are affected, whether by a decline in business, reduced work schedules or other limitations to income, banks are responding by implementing assistance programs. These programs can both help you remain in good standing with your issuer in the short-term and safeguard your credit score from long-lasting effects.
Here’s a rundown of what’s being offered so far and other options you may have if you face payment difficulties:
In response to the virus outbreak so far, several issuing banks have released statements regarding their ongoing monitoring and response for customers. For credit cardholders specifically, here’s what each issuer stated:
According to reporting from The Points Guy, American Express cardmembers who experience financial hardship as a result of coronavirus can reach out to Customer Care Professionals by calling the number on the back of any Amex card, using online chat or through the Amex app. The issuer is working with customers on an individual basis to find personal solutions which may include waiving late fees or return check fees, waiving interest charges for a period of time, reduced monthly payments or a temporary interest rate reduction.
Bank of America
Bank of America has a help page for customers to find resources they can use if affected by coronavirus. Call the number on the back of your card or reach out online or via mobile app to ask about individual assistance options or the bank’s hardship program. According to a recent report from the New York Times, Bank of America may allow skipped payments due to hardship, but will not waive interest.
Customers already experiencing difficulty or anticipating problems making payments are encouraged to reach out to the specialist teams at Barclays for assistance. The issuer is also “enabling customers to apply for a temporary increase on their credit card limit.”
Cardholders are encouraged to use digital tools online and via the Capital One mobile app for account management. According to the same New York Times report, Capital One may allow eligible cardholders facing hardship to skip payments without accruing interest, but those impacted financially by the virus should contact Capital One to work out an individual solution.
“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,” a Capital One spokesperson said via email. “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.“
Account holders who have been affected by coronavirus should call the number on the back of their credit card or on their monthly statement. As a precaution against potential scams, the issuer also advises that, if someone from Chase reaches out to you, they will not ask for confidential information such as your name, password, PIN or other account information.
Eligible Citi credit cardholders may make use of “always on” assistance programs, which include credit line increases and collection forbearance options. According to a representative from the issuer, cardholders are encouraged to reach out if they need assistance so Citi can work with them individually to understand their particular needs and ensure assistance accordingly.
In a statement, Discover said it “will be extending relief to qualified customers who are experiencing financial difficulty caused by the spread of COVID-19. Discover customers may receive assistance that can include support related to payment timing, fees and late payments.”
Fifth Third Bank
Fifth Third developed an assistance program for customers facing hardship due to the coronavirus. Credit cardholders may defer payments (up to three payments) and will not be charged late fees during the deferral period. The bank has a dedicated hardship assistance line which customers can reach by calling 866-601-6391 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
Goldman Sachs (Apple Card)
Apple notified its Apple Card customers via email that any cardholder seeking assistance may enroll in a Customer Assistance Program, allowing them to skip March payments without accruing additional interest charges on their balances.
Navy Federal’s assistance program for members in response to coronavirus includes credit card limit increases, which cardholders can apply for within the mobile app and late fee refunds, which the issuer recommends using its eMessage function to request.
Synchrony, which issues retail credit cards for many popular national brands like Lowe’s, Sam’s Club and PayPal, is available to assist cardholders impacted by the coronavirus and will work with customers individually, according to a statement via email.
Customers facing financial hardship should contact Synchrony and engage with the issuer’s customer service teams to discuss options. These may include waiving fees and charges across credit card accounts, evaluating credit limits to assist with purchasing power and waiving fees on Synchrony Bank deposit accounts as needed.
U.S. Bank advises customers who have been impacted by coronavirus to reach out by calling 888-287-7817 to discuss individual solutions.
Wells Fargo customers experiencing hardship related to coronavirus and in need of assistance are encouraged to call 1-800-219-9739 to speak with a trained specialist about available options.
“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,” a representative from the issuer said in a statement via email. “We are currently providing assistance including fee waivers, payment deferrals, and other expanded assistance for 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.”
Reach out to your issuer
If you’re facing financial hardship and finding it difficult to meet your payment minimums, some issuer-specific options may not be the best fit for you.
“I’d advise against forbearance unless you’re really desperate, because interest still accrues,” says Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate. “All that would do is get you out of paying the monthly minimum for a time, but you’d end up paying extra later on.”
Forbearance plans offered by your issuer may include postponing payments for several months, lowering monthly minimum payments or even eliminating some fees. But you should consider forbearance as a last resort. Reach out to your issuer first to discuss your individual circumstances.
“If you’re really in a pinch, contact your credit card company and explain your specific situation,” Rossman says. “Maybe they can offer you a better deal.”
“Most credit card issuers have off-menu options for those struggling financially,” says Bruce McClary, vice president of communications and spokesperson at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “All that’s required is to be honest about your circumstances when speaking with the account representative and asking direct questions about available short term hardship programs.”
Think about other options
Rossman recommends looking beyond your issuer for other options, as well. If you have an emergency savings, this may be a time that necessitates dipping into it. If your credit is healthy enough to qualify for a card with a zero percent introductory rate on balance transfers, that could help stave off mounting interest payments for a few months. You may want to look into a personal loan with a lower interest rate as well.
Consider seeking assistance within your community, too. Look to resources such as community centers and places of worship or even friends and neighbors.
“If the issue is serious enough to last more than a few months to get back on track, or if your accounts are already seriously delinquent, it’s best to reach out to a nonprofit credit counseling agency like those affiliated with the NFCC,” McClary says.
For more information about how banks may assist customers with other consumer banking products, see Bankrate’s updated list here.
This story was originally published March 10, 2020. As Bankrate continues to monitor credit card issuer responses to coronavirus, this page is updated.