Getting Relief From Your Credit Card Company During Coronavirus
Missing credit card payments and paying late fees, and ultimately watching your credit score drop, may be more likely during the coronavirus pandemic, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
More credit card issuers are telling customers that they’re more lenient with customers during the pandemic by waiving fees and allowing them to skip payments.
The relief, however, isn’t automatic. Customers should expect to have to request assistance instead of any help coming directly from the company alone. Some mortgage lenders and landlords are also offering help, but their clients have to ask.
Know How To Ask For Help
Whether you’ve lost your job or have had your work hours drastically cut back, not having enough money to pay your bills can be debilitating, to say the least.
Alert your creditors as early as you can to the problem. We’ll get into what type of assistance to ask credit card companies for below, but first know that asking for them is as easy as calling your card’s customer service number to ask for specific assistance.
Expect to be on hold for a while, though. Just like every company across the globe, credit card companies are getting a high number of calls from customers, so be patient. Some may be trying to hire more workers, and the person you talk to may be working from their home.
Companies may recommend contacting them online, such as through a secure message or webchat.
Some Possible Breaks To Ask For
Payment Delays and Fee Waivers
Skipping payments is probably the biggest form of help you can ask for. Just don’t expect it to last too long.
Minimum payments can usually be delayed two months, along with waiving late fees and interest.
That last item is worth repeating. Ask that no interest be charged while you’re skipping payments. Some creditors may not give you a break on interest, but it’s important to ask for it.
Without it, the interest will accrue at the usual rate. So even if you don’t make any new charges on the card, your balance will still increase and your future minimum payments will be larger.
A penalty APR is sometimes incurred after making a late payment, so be sure to ask that your credit card’s interest rate isn’t jacked up after being allowed to miss a month or more of payments.
You’re more likely to get these concessions if you have an account in good standing, meaning you’ve steadily made on-time payments in the past.
Credit Line Increase
Raising your credit card’s spending ceiling might not sound like a good idea if your income has dropped, but if you were furloughed from your job and expect to return to work soon, then a bigger line of credit could help you pay some immediate bills.
The issuer may need to do an official check of your credit rating, called a “hard pull.” Ask it to avoid this check if necessary because it will temporarily lower your credit scores. However, if you need the money, then the temporary drop is worthwhile.
Extensions On Bonuses
This is probably a minor worry for you, but credit card perks can be extended if you’re not using a card much because your income has dropped.
Some credit cards are offering automatic extensions on perks. If you’re unsure if yours is, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
American Express is giving new cardholders three more months to complete the required spending to earn the welcome offers it includes on certain cards.
A card co-branded with an airline may extend the timeline to use its rewards points while stay-at-home orders are in effect or longer, such as for a year or two.
For valued customers (meaning they pay on time) who are going through a rough financial time, some credit cards with annual fees will waive the fee instead of losing them as customers. This holds for any time of the year, pandemic or not, but usually only happens if customers ask.
If the annual fee won’t be waived, ask for other benefits such as cash back or bonus points that can be used for a free hotel stay or other bonus.
Another option is to downgrade your account to a card without an annual fee. The perks will likely be fewer, but it’s preferable to closing the card and damaging your credit if you’ve had the card for a few years.
New Due Date
You can’t change the due date on your child’s birth, but you can with a credit card bill.
Ask your credit card provider to switch dates that align better with your employer’s pay date, for example.
This won’t change the amount you owe, but it might make you better positioned to pay your credit card bill on time, and possibly in full, each month.
Take Help Now If You Need It
Credit card companies prefer to work with you during a financial hardship than have you default on payments. Expect some assistance during Covid-19, and take it if you need it.
But if you can, make at least the minimum monthly payments and avoid skipping payments. This will mainly help you by lowering your debt, but also will allow you to seek credit card relief later if you need it.
Claiming credit card relief now because of the coronavirus is smart if you need it, but you may not be able to get the help if you need it a second time.