Americans are facing more than health concerns as a result of the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19, recently labeled a pandemic. As events and attractions postpone operations, many workers are being laid off until further notice. Those who can work may be faced with the choice between showing up sick or losing income needed to pay rent.
The Federal Reserve, joined by other government agencies, has called on the financial services industry to “meet the financial needs” of people who are affected by COVID-19. Some of the country’s largest financial institutions have responded with measures to help their customers cope.
Which financial institutions are offering coronavirus assistance?
Starting March 9, 2020, the following are in place for 30 days, according to the company website:
- “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.”
Citi also has support available for eligible customers needing credit line increases and collection forbearance assistance, as well as programs available for eligible mortgage customers.
Wells Fargo shared its response to the coronavirus disease, stating that “Wells Fargo is committed to helping customers experiencing hardships, including from the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). If in need of assistance, we encourage customers to call us at 1-800-219-9739 to speak with a trained specialist to discuss options available for their consumer lending, small business and deposit products.”
It also included its efforts to keep branches safe with sanitizing products as well as warning customers to look out for potential scammers impersonating government employees or charities during the crisis.
U.S. Bank is directing customers to reach out to 888-287-7817 if in need of “immediate assistance.”
Capital One published an update to its website, urging customers to take advantage of digital options whenever possible, and sharing their Contact Us page as a resource for those in need as a result of the coronavirus.
PNC posted the following statement to its website: “PNC is prepared to offer assistance, as needed, to impacted customers through a range of measures. Should you, as a current customer of PNC, encounter hardship as a result of the coronavirus, please call us at 1-888-762-2265 (7 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET Monday – Friday; 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET Saturday & Sunday).”
PNC also left open the possibility to expand assistance programs in the future, if needed.
The product of a December merger between SunTrust and BB&T, Truist announced on its website that its team is “committed to working with our clients to reduce financial stress during this challenging and uncertain time.
- Heritage SunTrust clients, please contact 800-SUNTRUST (800-786-8787).
- Heritage BB&T clients, please contact 800-226-5228
What can you do if you’re not a customer of a company currently advertising assistance?
1.Talk with your employer
Some companies have also been responding to this pandemic by expanding sick leave policies and creating safety nets for affected employees. Before resigning to falling behind on your bills, try communicating with your employer to see if they can offer any other options.
Amazon announced a new policy on Wednesday in response to the pandemic, offering part-time and full-time employees additional time off for illness or quarantine related to COVID-19.
2. Reach out to your credit card company
Even if your credit card issuer has not formally released a statement of support, if you are at risk of missing a payment it is worthwhile to contact the company to discuss your options. The FDIC advises on its website: “Your creditors will likely work with you on a solution, but it’s important to contact them as soon as possible and explain your situation.”
Late payments can hurt your credit score and pile on extra charges and fees so getting ahead of the issue will save you down the road.
3. Consider a balance transfer
If you’re concerned you will only be able to make minimum payments on your debt with a high interest rate, a credit card that offers balance transfer could be a helpful tool. Transferring your credit card balance from another card has pros and cons, but if you are a good candidate for the move, it could save you money on interest and buy you some time to repay your debt within the introductory rate period.
How can U.S. financial institutions better support consumers?
These measures are an important start to getting people the help they need, but the financial impact of the crisis is spreading along with the virus.
We asked experts from around the globe what more could be done to protect consumers, as well as the economy:
Raise awareness of scams
Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful, urges leaders to educate consumers on the dangers of investment fraud in this time of panic. He told us that these scams “will become a major issue as fraudsters try and trick people into making unsound investments out of desperation. Oftentimes they may claim that their proposal is the only ‘safe’ place to put money.”
Take a few cues from other countries
“In Europe in particular, several large banks are allowing homeowners to delay mortgage payments during the crisis. This is an extremely important gesture, since it allows people to keep up with daily expenses while they are out of work. Since most people do not work from home, a drop in income while quarantined can be devastating.” Steiner also recommends that the U.S. follow suit.
“Here in the UK, the Bank of England has cut interest rates to 0.25%, equalling its lowest level since World War II. This will hopefully maintain confidence in the markets, while also reducing costs for households and businesses,” says Pete Mugleston, Managing Director of Online Mortgage Advisor.
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