ALERT: Bank Customer Service Coronavirus Assistance

The coronavirus is not just attacking humans….it’s attacking banks!   If you’ve tried to access customer service at your bank or credit card issuer, you’ll likely encounter a notification that it is experiencing extremely high call volumes.   Many sites, including Chase.com, have disabled their chat functions and all-but-refuse to accept phone calls unless it is an emergency.   If you have a question about your credit card or bank account, you may find yourself cut-off entirely from the bank.   What is going on?

It turns out that banks are having difficulty staffing their call centers and customer service operations.  At the same time, more consumers are calling these companies looking for assistance due to job loss or quarantined-fueled financial constraints.  As a result, these companies have substantially reduced their service to customers.   There is a silver lining though.   The same banks have also announced that they are waiving overdraft fees and deferring payments on your credit cards, mortgage and auto loans.

Credit card issuers such as CitiChaseCapital OneDiscoverApple,  Bank of America and American Express, are offering “emergency support” to its consumer and small business clients who are experiencing financial hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic.  We’ll provide a list of that support  below and offer tips about how to contact these companies in the coming weeks.

Bank of America

  • Clients can request refunds including overdraft fees, non-sufficient funds fees, and monthly maintenance fees.
  • Consumer and Small Business credit cards: clients can request to defer payments, refunds on late fees.
  • Small business loans: clients can request to defer payments, refunds on late fees.
  • Auto loans: clients can request to defer payments, with payments added to the end of the loan.
  • Mortgages and home equity: clients can request to defer payments, with payments added to the end of the loan.
  • In all of these instances, there will be no negative credit bureau reporting for up-to-date clients.
  • We have also paused foreclosure sales, evictions and repossessions.

American Express

Amex is waiving interest and late payment fees for both its personal and business cardholders.  It is also offering to:

  • Lower your monthly payment
  • Provide relief from late payment fees
  • Temporarily lower your interest rate
  • Prevent your account(s) from going past due or further past due if you abide by the terms and conditions of the program  

Chase

This bank’s customer service appears to have been hardest hit by the pandemic.  It has disabled its chat function and phone callers are greeted with a message asking consumers to hang-up unless it is an emergency.  Wait times are unusually long.   It claims in a press release to help its customers with things like waiving fees, extending payment due dates for cards, auto loans and mortgages, or increasing credit lines for consumer and small business customers, but only via phone calls — which is not easy.    However their website dedicated to the coronavirus challenges, offers no such assistance.   In short, Chase customer will not fare well during this emergency.   You might want to think about changing your financial services to a different bank.

Capital One

Like Chase, Capital One is vague about the assistance it will provide to its customers.  According to CNBC, relief available to customers include fee suppression, minimum payment assistance and deferred loan payments.   But Capital One’s website does not mention these options.  You need to get through to their customer service reps in order to avail yourself of this assistance.  Good luck!

Citi Card

  • For Retail Bank Customers: Fee waivers on monthly service fees; waived penalties for early CD withdrawal
  • For Retail Bank Small Business Customers: Fee waivers on monthly service fees and remote deposit capture; waived penalties for early CD withdrawal; Bankers available after hours and on weekends for support
  • For eligible Credit Card Customers: Credit line increases and collection forbearance programs
  • For eligible Mortgage Customers: A range of hardship programs through our service provider, Cenlar FSB. Please contact them at 1-855-839-6253 

Discover

This credit card issuer claims it will assist customers who are experiencing health or financial hardships, but is vague about the relief they’ll provide.  You need to call their customer service in order to get help.

Apple

Yup, Apple is a financial institution…..in that they offer an Apple credit card.  It sent out an email to its cardholders in March saying it will allow them to skip payments on their cards that month without penalty.  In order to qualify for this relief, cardmembers have to contact Apple Card Support and request to enroll in Apple’s Customer Assistance Program. Upon enrollment, you will be able to skip your March credit card payment without incurring interest charges.  To join the Customer Assistance Program, Apple Card customers can either click the link in the email (here) or message or call an Apple support rep directly through the Apple Wallet app.  You might try to send the following message to Apple Card support via iMessage: “I would like to enroll in the Customer Assistance Program.”

Best Way to Access Bank Customer Service

Probably the best way to contact your bank’s customer service is by using their chat feature.  However, if your bank has disabled that feature (yes, we are talking to you, Chase) then try calling the number on the back of their credit cards.   You might also want to check out Get Human, a website dedicated to helping consumers contact customer service departments.

Additional Financial Assistance

There are a number of other private, local philanthropic and governmental assistance programs available to people affected by the virus-fueled recession.   You should check out this page to get your started finding additional help.

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