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As workplaces temporarily shut down and thousands of Americans are quarantined because of the coronavirus, some major credit card issuers have begun offering relief to their customers.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday labeled COVID-19 a pandemic, with more than 135,000 cases confirmed and more than 4,900 deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In the U.S., more than 1,600 cases have been diagnosed and the number is expected to soar as more testing is rolled out. At least 41 people have died from the virus in the U.S., according to The New York Times.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we want our customers to know we are here to provide assistance should they need it,” Anand Selva, chief executive officer of Citi’s consumer bank, said in a statement.
At the same time, scammers are now trying to take advantage of coronavirus concerns by sending out fake emails about the virus that are designed to steal consumers’ personal and financial information, or to infect their computers with malware.
See related: Coronavirus: Can credit card travel insurance help?
What to do if you’re struggling to pay your credit card bills
While some credit card issuers are still determining the measures they will take to aid credit card users, many companies are urging consumers to contact them to discuss the financial hardships they face because of the coronavirus.
Cardholders who are having difficulties paying their bills can contact American Express by calling the number on the back of their card or by online chat or the Amex app to discuss their situation.
Solutions are tailored to an individual’s situation. These might include offering flexibility in paying bills or directing them to American Express’s financial hardship program. Under the financial hardship program, consumers might be able to have reduced monthly payments, get temporary relief from late payment fees, get a temporary reduction in interest rates or prevent their accounts from going past due.
In a March 17 report, CreditCards.com sister site The Points Guy noted some of its readers were getting relief from Amex in the form of refunded interest charges and waived or refunded late fees on both personal and business credit cards. However, one reader reported that if you accept the assistance, your account is frozen until it’s paid off and you can’t use your Membership Rewards.
Bank of America
A customer who has trouble paying their credit card bill related to the coronavirus is encouraged to call Bank of America customer service at 800-732-9194, visit a bank branch or connect via online banking or mobile application for assistance. The company also has a hardship program in place to provide assistance to consumers and small-business clients.
Barclays urges credit card account holders to call for assistance if they have problems paying their bills because of COVID-19. Barclaycard’s number for general inquiries in the U.S. is 866-928-8598.
“We understand that this is a time of uncertainty for many people, and we know that there may be instances where customers find themselves facing financial difficulties. Capital One is here to help and we encourage customers who may be impacted to reach out to discuss how we might be of assistance,” Capital One said in a statement.
Because each customer’s situation is different, the bank encourages customers to call it directly. To contact Capital One customer service about an existing account, call 800-227-4825. Options might include reduced minimum payments or fee waivers.
A March 17 report by the New York Times suggested Capital One is allowing cardholders to skip payments without incurring interest if they request it. (The same report noted Barclays and Bank of America are allowing some customers to pause their payments while still accruing interest, while Discover “would not commit” to stopping interest charges.)
Chase encouraged its customers to call the number on the back of their cards if they’re affected by COVID-19 and need help with their accounts.
The bank said it is offering a range of assistance to impacted credit card customers, including offering increases in credit lines and forbearance from collections. Cardholders can call the number on the back of their cards to find out about assistance programs.
For those with bank accounts, Citi is offering waivers on monthly service fees and penalty waivers for early withdrawals from CDs. Customers can contact the bank for assistance with their individual or small business needs.
“We continue to monitor developments closely and will evaluate additional actions to support our clients and communities as needs arise,” Selva said.
Discover will be extending relief to qualified customers who are experiencing financial difficulty caused by the spread of COVID-19. Discover customers may receive assistance that can include support related to payment timing, fees and late payments.
Apple Card customers were sent an email offering enrollment in an assistance program that will allow affected cardholders to skip their March card payments without incurring interest charges. If you have questions, contact an Apple Card specialist at 877-255-5923 or via chat in the Wallet app.
The bank said it is monitoring the situation to determine what action is needed.
The bank encourages consumers to call customer service at 800-219-9739 to discuss options to aid in their specific situation.
- Your guide to travel insurance ahead of your next trip
- 5 tips on how to safely travel during the coronavirus outbreak
- Coronavirus is making the economy ill, and it’s likely to get worse
Another coronavirus complication: Scams
As consumers wrestle with the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, scammers are trying to take advantage of the situation by using phishing emails and malware.
In one such scam, cybercriminals are sending emails claiming to contain updates about the coronavirus. But if a consumer clicks on the links, they are redirected to a website that steals their personal information, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
Scammers also are targeting businesses by sending fake emails that resemble a company’s purchase order for face masks or other supplies in hopes employees will make payments into fraudulent accounts.
Another scam is to send an email about a company’s plans for remote work, hoping the recipient will provide personal information that the scammers can use for nefarious purposes. Other emails contain malware, according to the ITRC.
“When anything newsworthy happens, scammers will make every attempt to take advantage of it and benefit from all of the visibility and potential unknowns,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the ITRC.
She warns consumers not to click links, open attachments or download files from unknown sources about the coronavirus, and instead check reputable websites such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
The outbreak of a disease can upset daily life in many ways, and the ripple effects go beyond our physical health. If you’re feeling financially vulnerable, contact your credit card issuer and find out what assistance is available. And while data security may seem like a secondary consideration, it’s still important to be vigilant when conducting business or seeking information about the coronavirus online.
The post Credit card issuers offer cardholders relief amid coronavirus fears appeared first on CreditCards.com. Susan Ladika is the original author of this story.
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