How Credit Card Companies Are Helping During the COVID-19 Outbreak

woman looking at credit card statement
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The coronavirus (COVID-19) is disrupting financial livelihoods everywhere. To help struggling borrowers understand their options during this difficult time, The Balance has compiled a summary of the help that major credit card issuers are offering. 

The financial impact of this global pandemic is fluid, and much like all of us, card-issuing banks continue to develop plans to cope. We are monitoring this topic and updating this article as they 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. Keep in mind that aid will depend on your particular situation: 

American Express

Amex has a coronavirus support page on its website, but it contains few specifics. The hardship provisions listed on the site include temporarily lowering your monthly payment or interest rate and providing relief from late fees.

“When [cardholders] reach out to us, we will work with them to find a solution for their particular situation, such as discussing payment options or available financial hardship programs that offer a range of short-term and long-term assistance,” a spokesperson emailed The Balance. “The situation is changing rapidly, so our approach to providing the best possible support and service to our customers will continue to evolve in real-time.”

How to Ask for Help

  • Call 1-866-703-4169 (wait times may be long due to high call volumes)
  • Log into your online account to chat with customer service  

Bank of America 

If you’re having trouble making payments, you may be able to defer payments or have late fees refunded. The bank won’t report negative information to the credit bureaus because of those actions, as long as your account is up to date, according to a press release posted on March 19. If you need help, you’re encouraged to contact the bank directly because Bank of America is offering help on a case-by-case basis. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Submit a request for payment deferral online
  • Call the phone number on the back of your card

Barclays

A Barclays spokesperson emailed us this when we reached out: “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.”

Barclays also told us that since everybody’s situation is different, cardholders should contact the bank to learn their options. The bank is offering extended customer service hours for cardholders from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday.

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 card holders who need financial help are advised to call the bank, understanding that wait times may be longer than usual. 

Much like other banks, Capital One told The Balance that because financial struggles are so personal, relief options may vary. “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,” a spokesperson emailed The Balance.

How to Ask for Help

Chase 

If you’re having trouble making on-time monthly credit card payments, you can delay up to three payments, according to a Chase COVID-19 webpage. The bank recommends enrolling online to request a delay, since wait times on the phone are very high. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Request deferred payments online
  • Call the number on the back of your credit card or on your monthly statement
  • Send a message after logging into your online account 

If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you may also get some relief on the annual fee. If your account is set to renew before July 1, 2020, a one-time, automatic $100 statement credit will post to your account once the $550 fee comes through, Chase told The Balance. Essentially that means the increase you were supposed to see this year (it recently went up from $450) won’t actually hit until next year. 

Citi 

According to Citi’s coronavirus page, credit card customers should log into their online account to request financial assistance. Minimum payments can be deferred and late fees can be waived for two months, Citi told The Balance in an email. This won’t affect credit reports unless the account was delinquent before the waivers. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Call the number on the back of your card (you’ll likely experience long wait times)
  • Text “App” to 692-484 for help through the Citi mobile app
  • Apply to skip monthly payments online

Comenity Bank

Comenity Bank, which issues a lot of retail credit cards, has a web page on its website that says payment programs are 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, lower APRs, and/or 90-day extensions on promotional offers if applicable.

How to Ask for Help

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

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. A Discover FAQ page doesn’t provide much more information than that, except for 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)

This bank is letting cardholders skip monthly payments in April and May, according to an email sent to customers on March 31. It won’t happen automatically, but you can delay payment until June by enrolling through your online account or calling customer service. When payments are skipped, you won’t be charged any late fees, but your account balance will still accrue interest.

The bank also has a dedicated webpage for coronavirus updates. It says customers impacted by the coronavirus may be able to get refunds on fees, as well.

How to Ask for Help

  • Log into your online account and select “Skip-Payment Plan” when prompted
  • Call 1-855-350-6482

First PREMIER Bank

If you are struggling to make payments and need help with your credit card account, First PREMIER Bank advises customers to call to learn more about potential assistance options. Its coronavirus webpage doesn’t disclose much about what specifically they are doing to help, but The Balance has reached out for more information. 

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 their May 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 “Breathing Space” during this stressful time. Financial assistance includes freezing your account status (your account won’t be reported as past due), deferring or reducing payments, and waiving cash advance, insufficient funds, overdraft protection, and late fees for 120 days from the time you enroll. Interest, however, will continue to accrue. The bank has also set up a webpage about its services during the pandemic. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Send a message online via chat (which is likely the fastest way to get help)
  • Call 1-866-949-2351

Until further notice, HSBC’s extended hours for phone, chat, and email help (except for lost or stolen cards) are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time. 

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 during this difficult time, including deferred payments, refunds on late fees, and credit limit increases.

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 now 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” 
  • 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 defer payments for up to three months with no late fees (but interest will continue to accrue). Call the bank to learn more about what it can offer you, as it will vary depending on your particular situation and the products you have. Credit card customer service representatives can be reached 24/7 right now. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Apply online for assistance. The form is the fastest way to apply for help and asks for contact information, account details, and the reason for your request.  
  • Call 1-888-558-8472 any time

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. 

How to Ask for Help

  • Call 1-866-298-1113

SunTrust and BB&T (Truist)

SunTrust and BB&T, which have merged and are transitioning into an entity called Truist Financial Corp., told The Balance they are offering deferred monthly payments for 90 days for credit card holders affected by the coronavirus who make the request each month. Your account will still be considered current and you won’t be charged late fees. 

How to Ask for Help

Synchrony

According to a statement sent to The Balance, Synchrony—the bank that issues credit cards for many big-name retail outlets such as GAP, Amazon.com, and Sam's Club—is working with cardholders on an individual basis to provide relief, which may include waiving fees, deferring payments, extending existing card promotions, and increasing credit limits. If money is tight right now, call to discuss your options. 

How to Ask for Help

USAA

Credit card financial assistance may include a 90-day payment deferral for credit cardholders, according to USAA’s coronavirus assistance page. The Balance has reached out to USAA for more information, but has not heard back. 

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. Monthly payments can be deferred without late fees or interest accrued for three consecutive billing cycles. Even the annual fee on your card will be waived if it would have been due between the payment assistance activation date and Sept. 30, 2020.

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

“We work with our customers on a case-by-case basis, and if a customer is struggling to make a payment, or foresees difficulty doing so, we encourage them to contact us as soon as possible,” Wells Fargo told The Balance in an email. “There are no specific factors a customer needs in order to qualify for assistance.”

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

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

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. 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. You get three free reports from the bureaus each year (via AnnualCreditReport.com), and all three bureaus offer ways to monitor report changes month-to-month.

Article Sources

  1. Barclays. "COVID-19 – We’re here to help." Accessed May 6, 2020.

  2. myFICO. "What's in my FICO scores?" Accessed May 6, 2020.

  3. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Protecting your credit during the coronavirus pandemic." Accessed May 6, 2020.

  4. Experian. "COVID-19 and Your Credit Report." Accessed May 6, 2020.