Card Issuers May Still Offer Pandemic-Related Payment Relief

Some banks advertise payment deferrals, but relief options vary

woman looking at credit card statement
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 Peter Cade/Getty Images

As the coronavirus pandemic persists, The Balance is keeping tabs on which major credit card issuers are doing to help struggling borrowers. 

While some banks, such as Citi and Synchrony Bank, are no longer outlining formal pandemic-related relief programs, those having a hard time making payments can still ask for help. Relief options will depend on individual situations. In some cases, you may qualify for additional help even if you already had payments deferred or fees waived in 2020.

We are updating this article as card-issuing banks provide us with more information.   

What Major Card Issuers Are Offering Struggling Consumers

If you’re finding it difficult to manage credit card payments and debt these days, here are some relief options you may have: 

t Card Issuers are Helping Cardholders During COVID-19

American Express

Amex has a coronavirus support page on its website, which directs cardholders who need help to its standard financial hardship program webpage. The hardship provisions listed in that area of the website include temporarily lowering your monthly payment or interest rate and providing relief from late fees. You may, however, have a reduced spending limit while under a short-term hardship plan.

How to Ask for Help

  • Call 1-866-703-4169
  • Log into your online account to chat with customer service  

Bank of America 

If you’re having trouble making payments, you’re encouraged to contact the bank directly because Bank of America is offering help on a case-by-case basis. This bank is no longer specifying what assistance they are offering, just that help may be available. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Call the phone number on the back of your card

Barclays

A Barclays spokesperson emailed us this when we reached out and provided the following description of their relief programs: “We offer a range of options for cardmembers facing financial difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak, including allowing them to skip a monthly payment while offering late fee waivers, cash advance fee waivers, finance charge adjustments, and flexible review for credit line increases. We will continue to monitor the situation and will take additional measures as needed to best support our customers who are struggling financially as a result of the current outbreak.” 

If you already received assistance from Barclays this year but need more help, reach out again. The issuer told us they have offered 90 days of payment relief to those who have asked. The bank is offering 24/7 customer service hours for cardholders, too.

How to Ask for Help

  • Request payment relief through your online account
  • Call the number on the back of your card
  • More details are on the bank’s COVID-19 page

Capital One

Capital One has a webpage for customers impacted by the pandemic, and credit cardholders who need financial help are advised to call the bank. 

“We encourage customers who may be impacted to reach out so we can discuss their situation and determine how best to assist,” said a spokesperson in an email to The Balance. “Options for customers vary but can include deferring payments and reducing or waiving fees.”

How to Ask for Help

Chase 

If you’re having trouble making on-time monthly credit card payments, you can request to defer a payment, according to a Chase COVID-19 webpage.

How to Ask for Help

  • Request a deferred payment online
  • Call 1-888-356-0023
  • Send a message after logging into your online account 

Citi 

This issuers pandemic-related relief program is technically coming to an end, but help may still be available for those who qualify. 

“Due to a significant and steady decline in enrollments, our formal COVID-19 assistance program will end as of December 31st and we will focus on providing assistance options to those customers financially affected by COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis,” a Citi spokesperson told The Balance via email. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation and will evaluate additional actions to support our customers and communities as needs arise.”

How to Ask for Help

  • Call the number on the back of your card 

Comenity Bank

Comenity Bank, which issues a lot of retail credit cards, still has a web page up that says assistance may be available to those struggling to make payments right now. The Balance has reached out to the bank for more information and was told via email that short-term assistance options may include lower minimum payments and lower APRs. Some cardholders may also be able to skip a payment without incurring a late fee. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Call the number listed on the back of your card or look up the customer service number here

If you already received financial relief from Comenity this year, the issuer also told us that in some cases, you may be able to receive assistance again. If you need help, reach out to learn more about the options you may have.

Discover

Discover told The Balance that cardholders who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 may receive assistance related to payments, fees, and interest, but options will vary depending on your situation. If you have already requested assistance from Discover this year but still need help, you can submit another request, too, according to the issuer. A Discover FAQ page outlines instructions on contacting Discover.

How to Ask for Help

  • Call 1-800-497-2816 any time
  • Send a message through your account online or through the mobile app 

First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO)

The bank has a dedicated webpage for coronavirus updates, which says customers financially impacted by the pandemic may be able to defer payments. When you defer payments, FNBO won’t charge you any late fees, but your account balance will still accrue interest. FNBO won’t report negative information to the credit bureaus during payment deferment either.  

How to Ask for Help

  • Call 1-855-350-6482

First PREMIER Bank

The First PREMIER Bank coronavirus webpage doesn’t disclose much about what specifically the bank is doing to help struggling cardholders, so The Balance reached out to the bank for more information. According to a spokesperson, you can call to request payment deferral for two consecutive billing cycles. If you need help beyond that, you can call and ask for the relief option again, too. You won’t owe any late fees while enrolled in this relief option, but interest will continue to accrue. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Call 1-800-987-5521

Goldman Sachs Bank (Apple Card)

Apple Card customers can submit an online request to skip the current monthly payment without incurring interest charges. We confirmed with Goldman Sachs Bank that there will be no negative impact to your credit history, either. As an added bonus, the Apple Card doesn’t ever charge late fees. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Send a message via Apple Wallet (using iMessages)

HSBC

HSBC is offering credit card holders what it calls the “90-day Relief Program.” Once you are enrolled, your monthly payment will be cut in half (to a minimum of $15), and HSBC won’t charge you interest or late fees while in the relief program. Note that when you are enrolled in this relief program, you won’t be able to use your credit card. HSBC will continue to report your payment activity to the credit bureaus, too. The bank has set up a webpage about its services during the pandemic. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Submit an enrollment form through your online account (which is likely the fastest way to get help)
  • Call 1-800-524-9686, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST

Navy Federal Credit Union

This credit union’s COVID-19 web page outlines a couple of specific ways credit card holders can get a break, including deferred payments and late fee refunds. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Call 1-800-336-3767
  • Send a secure message or chat online or through the Navy Federal Credit Union mobile app
  • Apply for a credit card limit increase in the mobile app 

Pentagon Federal Credit Union

This credit union’s COVID-19 information page states you can log into your online account to see if you are eligible to skip a payment. You can call PenFed with additional questions. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Log into your online account and select “Financial Assistance for Members Affected by COVID-19” 
  • Call 1-800-247-5626
  • Send an email to info@hq.penfed.org 
  • Send an online message through your account

PNC 

If you’re financially struggling right now, PNC says on its COVID-19 page that there are options. Among them, you may be able to reduce or defer payments (but interest will continue to accrue). Submitting a request for payment assistance online is the fastest way to apply for help, and PNC says it is able to review applications for most customers immediately. If you need more information than what is available online, credit card customer service representatives can be reached by phone 24/7 right now. 

How to Ask for Help

If you previously received payment assistance from PNC during the pandemic but need more help, you can apply again.

Regions Bank

Regions is offering credit card payment relief, which also includes waived late fees, according to their COVID-19 information page. How long your relief options will last and other terms will be shared when you make your request. Interest will continue to accrue during your deferral period. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Call 1-866-298-1113

If you already received assistance, but still need more help, you can submit another request. Just know that the request may require additional review and the assistance could be different than what Regions granted you the first time around.

SunTrust and BB&T (Truist)

SunTrust and BB&T, which have merged into an entity called Truist Financial Corp., told The Balance in an email that cardholders, “can defer the minimum payments for consumer and business credit cards for up to 90 days upon request. This allows clients to defer payment but remain current and avoid late fees.” Cardholders who need more help are encouraged to contact the bank directly to learn what their options may be. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Apply for payment relief online (this is the fastest way to request help)
  • Call SunTrust at 1-888-893-1773 for consumer card help, or 1-877-864-0197 for business cards
  • Call BB&T at 1-800-289-6385 for consumer cards, or 1-800-528-4920 for business cards
  • Visit the Truist Coronavirus Response page

Synchrony

Synchrony—the bank that issues credit cards for many big-name retail outlets such as GAP, Amazon.com, and Sam's Club—mentions on its coronavirus webpage that waived fees and credit limit increases may be offered to cardholders who need help, but doesn’t offer specific relief program details anymore. Cardholders who need financial assistance are encouraged to call the bank to see what your options might be. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Call the number on the back of your card 

USAA

USAA told The Balance via email that credit card financial assistance may include a 90-day payment deferral for cardholders. If you have already had payments deferred but need additional help, you can call and extend the relief for an additional 90 days. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Call 1-855-764-4617

U.S. Bank

The U.S. Bank coronavirus page doesn’t disclose specifics about what the company is doing to help struggling cardholders. We reached out to the bank for more information and were told waived payments and fees may be available options, but accommodations will vary based on individual situations. Like many other banks, it’s encouraging customers to use online banking and app resources to manage accounts, and to call customer support.

How to Ask for Help

  • Call the number on the back of your card 

Wells Fargo

Like many other big banks, Wells Fargo has a webpage with information about COVID-19 assistance for card customers, which may include deferred monthly payments without late fees. If you are charged an annual fee while your payments are deferred, you can pay it after the deferment period ends, along with any other fees charged during that time.

The bank is advising struggling customers to contact the bank directly, noting that call volume is still higher than normal.  

How to Ask for Help

  • Apply for help online (sign into your online account and click on the payment assistance banner on your account summary page to get started)
  • Call the number on the back of your credit card or 1-844-583-6686

Besides offering borrowers a break on their payments, some credit card issuers have adjusted their rewards schemes to make up for the fact that travel rewards are such a challenge to earn and use right now.

What Does Payment Forbearance or Deferment Mean? 

An account in forbearance or deferment usually means the card holder has been allowed to skip payments temporarily. If you can’t afford your monthly payment due to financial hardship, credit card issuers may allow you to miss a monthly payment or two. Most of the banks in this article have said this may be an option for consumers struggling to make payments due to COVID-19.

Typically an account in forbearance won’t accrue interest, but one marked as “deferred” will accrue interest. To learn more, read “Credit Card Payment Forbearance vs. Deferment: What’s the Difference?” Make sure to clarify how your credit card issuer is categorizing the financial assistance and what that means for your debt in the long run. 

However, you can’t just choose not to pay if money is tight. You’ll need to contact your card issuer to explain your situation and find out if forbearance is an option. 

Does Your Credit Take a Hit When You Skip Payments? 

If you are late making a payment by at least 30 days—or you don’t make a payment at all—and you haven’t contacted your card issuer, that negative behavior can be reported to the credit bureaus. This is important to understand because payment history is the most heavily weighted factor when your credit score is calculated. However, if you’ve worked out an arrangement with your credit card issuer to skip a payment, it may extend the due date, waive late fees, and report your payment status as current, which means your payment history will be safe. 

During disasters and emergencies (like this one), lenders can choose not to report delinquencies (late or missed payments) to help preserve your credit score. And while forbearance and deferment may still show up on your credit report, they will not harm your credit score. 

Before agreeing to a financial assistance offer from your card issuer, ask how skipped or late payments will be relayed to the credit bureaus. Even better, get the agreement terms in writing just in case you see something amiss on your credit report later. 

If You Need Help, It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask For It

If your card company hasn’t clearly outlined how it’s helping struggling consumers right now, that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren't options. If you are unable to make a monthly payment, worried you might need to pay late, or concerned about your financial stability in general right now, reach out to your credit card issuer(s) before you fall behind. 

When contacting issuers, be persistent but patient. Many banks have noted that call volumes are high, wait times may be long, and online communication options such as sending a secure message through your online account or customer service may be a faster alternative. 

Lastly, keep tabs on your credit report to make sure any financial assistance you take advantage of isn’t hurting your credit history. Under normal circumstances, you get three free reports from the bureaus each year (via AnnualCreditReport.com), but right now, all three bureaus are generously offering free access to your reports each week through April 2021.

Article Sources

  1. Barclays. "COVID-19 – We’re here to help." Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.

  2. Apple. "About the COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program for Apple Card." Accessed Dec. 29, 2020

  3. myFICO. "What's in my FICO scores?" Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.

  4. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Protecting your credit during the coronavirus pandemic." Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.

  5. Experian. "COVID-19 and Your Credit Report." Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.

  6. AnnualCreditReport.com. "3 steps to your free credit reports." Accessed Dec. 29, 2020.