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While Hurricane Irma is history, the lives of many people will never be the same. In Florida alone, 4.4 million homes and businesses lost their power at some point during the storm, and damage estimates have reached into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
When your life has been threatened by a natural disaster, the last thing that you may be able to worry about are your credit card bills. Thankfully, many of the major credit card issuers are taking steps to help hurricane survivors.
Amex has posted the following on its homepage:
“Our thoughts are with those affected by the recent hurricanes. We’re working with customers in FEMA impacted areas. If you need help, please call 800-528-4800 or chat online. We’re also supporting relief efforts through a donation to the American Red Cross. If you’d like to help, you can use your American Express Card or Membership Rewards Points by donating now.”
Bank of America
For customers in FEMA-designated areas, Bank of America is automatically offering fee refunds for credit card cash advance fees and Overdraft Protection transfer fees on its credit cards. It’s also waiving late payment fees on credit cards, and some consumer and small business loans, including mortgage, home equity, auto and personal loans. Bank of America’s Client Assistance team can also review clients’ existing accounts to see if they qualify for credit line increases, or extended payments on loans, credit cards or lines of credit. Finally, it’s created a dedicated assistance line for affected customers: 855-729-1764.
For customers in FEMA-declared disaster areas, Capital One is waiving or refunding late fees on credit cards, as well as other loan products. It’s also waiving or refunding fees for its other banking products. For more information on these fee waivers and Capital One’s contributions to disaster relief, visit its disaster alert web page.
Chase has been proactively notifying customers of its intent to automatically waive or refund all late fees for credit cards through September 24. To qualify, you must live in a FEMA-declared area. You can search a map of these areas by visiting this page on FEMA’s website — here’s a direct link to the map of Florida. Chase will also be refunding or waving late fees for mortgages, business banking, auto loans and leases. Overdraft, service and ATM fees on consumer and business checking and savings accounts are also being waived or refunded. Additionally, Chase is offering hurricane assistance for those with a home mortgage. For more information on what Chase is doing for customers affected by Hurricane Irma, go to this page: www.chase.com/irma.
Those in FEMA-designated disaster areas are eligible to receive automatic waivers or refunds on their credit cards’ late fees, as well as deferred minimum payments. Customers may also be eligible for emergency credit line increases. Citi’s also offering fee waivers and assistance for customers with other banking products such as mortgages, personal loans and CDs. For more information, Citi has posted a page on its website for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
I reached out to a Discover spokesperson who confirmed that it’s waiving late fees and minimum payments for cardmembers affected by Hurricane Irma. He added, “We have proactively reached out in some areas, but always advise cardmembers to email or call Discover if they have been affected by a natural disaster and are worried about paying their bill.”
Customers in FEMA-declared areas who were affected by the recent hurricanes are receiving fee waivers and refunds for their credit cards and other banking products. Wells Fargo is also suppressing negative credit information for 90 days for eligible customers. For more information, visit this page on its website for disaster response services.
What You Can Do If You’ve Been Affected
Above are the public responses from some of the major credit card issuers, but it certainly doesn’t represent the limits of what a bank is willing to do for customers affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The credit card industry is intensely competitive, and banks are willing to go to great lengths to retain your business. Even under normal circumstances, customers in good standing regularly receive refunds of late fees and interest charges when they accidentally make a late payment. Your bank is likely to grant you even greater discretion when you’ve suffered a natural disaster or another type of tragedy.
While your life will be in disarray following a natural disaster, contacting your card issuers and other financial institutions is a good place to start once you’re no longer in any physical danger. Explain to them the nature of your situation, and ask what services they can offer you. If you’re in a FEMA-designated area, be sure to let them know that as well.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance that hasn’t been offered. For example, you could ask to have your late fees, interest charges and even your credit card’s minimum payment waived until you have the ability to make payments. And while I wouldn’t ask for additional points and miles, you could certainly request that you still receive the points and miles you’ve earned, even if they were withheld due to a late payment, as some card issuers normally do.
When a natural disaster strikes, your credit cards probably won’t be anywhere near your biggest concern. But as you begin to put your life back together, be sure to take a moment to reach out to your card issuers and let them know what’s going on. Of all the problems you’ll have to address, you’ll be surprised to find out this is one of the easiest.
If you were affected by the recent hurricanes, have you utilized any assistance from credit card issuers?
Featured image by Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images.
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