Coronavirus credit card payment and debt relief: How issuers are responding to COVID-19

Coronavirus credit card payment and debt relief: How issuers are responding to COVID-19

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, credit card issuers are stepping in to give customers resources during this unprecedented crisis.

In this time of need, many credit card issuers are moving quickly to assist their customers by providing them with information and resources that may alleviate some of their financial burden.

If you need that relief, take a look at our compiled list of credit card issuers’ assistance efforts and eligibility requirements. Find your issuer from the list below and read our sample questions at the end of the article to see what you might be able to request.

American Express

What it’s offering: American Express has a COVID-19 support page that offers advice on how to manage your accounts online. It also directs cardholders with reservations through Amex Travel to a separate COVID-19 information hub for airline-specific details. But the card issuer doesn’t offer any specifics on how it might help affected cardholders with payments or fees during the crisis.

Eligibility: Cardholders can call for more info, but American Express warns that customer support call volumes are higher than normal and encourages affected cardholders to find information online. The card issuer adds that it will keep its website updated with new information as the situations develops.

Bank of America

What it’s offering: Bank of America issued a March 19 press release explaining how it would help customers who need assistance. Currently, it’s offering small-business and consumer credit card holders options that include requests for deferred payments and refunds on late fees.

Eligibility: Bank of America will address those experiencing coronavirus-related financial hardship on a case-by-case basis and encourages customers to reach out to customer support or visit its website and mobile app for assistance.


What it’s offering: Barclays has a dedicated COVID-19 page that offers advice on how to access digital channels. But the issuer doesn’t give specifics on how it might help affected cardholders manage payments.

Eligibility: Cardholders can call for more info, but Barclays warns customers that wait times may be higher than normal and encourages customers to use the tools on its website and mobile app whenever possible.

Capital One

What it’s offering: Capital One says that those experiencing financial hardship can contact customer support for help, but it doesn’t go into specifics about what that might include. You can also view its FAQ page answering questions related to travel reservations and other issues that might affect you.

Eligibility: Capital One hasn’t specified which cardholders might be eligible for assistance. It’s best to check online for updates or call customer support with any questions you may have.


What it’s offering: Chase has a website with coronavirus-related information that offers customers tips on accessing accounts online or through the mobile app. Chase also has a dedicated site to answer travel-related questions for cardholders. But there are currently no details on payment or debt relief options.

Eligibility: Like many other card issuers, Chase isn’t going into specifics about eligibility requirements for relief, but instead encourages cardholders to use the mobile app or website whenever possible.


What it’s offering: Citi has a detailed page that describes its assistance programs for customers. Citi directs its cardholders to existing assistance programs for credit limit increases and collection forbearance that could help you out with your credit card payments.

Eligibility: Citi encourages customers to visit its website, use its mobile app or call the number on the back of their card for support to discuss potential options.


What it’s offering: Comenity has a landing page that says it will work with affected credit card customers on developing payment programs and related assistance.

Eligibility: Comenity suggests that affected customers who want assistance call the number on the back of their card or send a message through the online account center.


What it’s offering: Discover has an FAQ page set up for questions related to COVID-19 and indicates that hardship support may be available. Although there aren’t specific details about what Discover may do to support impacted customers, it’s a good idea to visit this page for the latest updates if you have questions.

Eligibility: Discover doesn’t offer details on who may be eligible for assistance. But it encourages impacted cardholders to contact customer support at 1-800-497-2816 or through the message center online or in-app.

Goldman Sachs (Apple Card)

What it’s offering: Apple Card customers may have received an email about an option to enroll in Apple Card’s customer assistance program, which allows enrolled cardholders to skip their March payment without accruing extra interest or paying penalties. But it’s important to note that anyone who has scheduled an automatic payment for March will have to cancel it after enrolling in the customer assistance program to ensure the payment is not made.

Eligibility: Goldman Sachs and Apple Card made no mention of eligibility requirements to defer March payment. The email encourages cardholders to chat with a customer service agent using the Wallet app or calling 1-877-255-5923 to learn more.


What it’s offering: HSBC has a page for coronavirus updates and encourages affected customers to get in touch for more information.

Eligibility: HSBC hasn’t yet detailed who might be eligible for relief. If you have questions, it’s best to call customer support at 1-866-949-2351, go online or check the mobile app.

What it’s offering: Navy Federal Credit Union has a website with information on options for customers impacted by COVID-19. The site notes that possible solutions include loan extensions, deferred payments, emergency loans and credit limit increases.

Eligibility: The site doesn’t make any mention of eligibility requirements but encourages customers to contact customer support for relief options. Cardholders can also use the mobile app to apply for a credit limit increase.

PNC Bank

What it’s offering: PNC has a customer message about the coronavirus that encourages those experiencing financial hardship to call 1-888-762-2265.

Eligibility: PNC makes no mention of eligibility requirements for customers affected by the coronavirus. So it’s best to call the customer service number or access the website or mobile app if you have questions.


What it’s offering: A pop-up on Synchrony’s website encourages customers financially impacted by the coronavirus to contact the company to discuss options. It also directs customers to use the mobile app and website to manage their accounts.

Eligibility: No eligibility requirements are mentioned.

Truist (BB&T and SunTrust)

What it’s offering: Truist has set up a page with COVID-19 updates that says the company is offering possible relief options, such as payment relief assistance, for customers with credit card accounts. It’s also offering all BB&T and SunTrust credit card holders 5% cash back on their cards when they use them for qualifying purchases at grocery stores and pharmacies through April 15.

Eligibility: Truist doesn’t mention specific eligibility requirements, so it’s best to call customer support for your BB&T or SunTrust accounts. The dedicated phone numbers are 1-800-226-5228 for BB&T and 1-877-820-2103 for SunTrust.

U.S. Bank

What it’s offering: U.S. Bank’s COVID-19 response recommends that customers call 1-888-287-7817 for potential assistance. It also points to several additional financial products for potential relief, though we strongly believe you should do extensive research before choosing one of those options.

Eligibility: U.S. Bank doesn’t mention anything about eligibility requirements for assistance, so it’s probably best to call the customer service number if you have any questions.


What it’s offering: USAA’s COVID-19 response provides a fair amount of detail on its assistance for insurance policies, but it only mentions “special programs” for affected cardholders. We don’t know what that might involve, so it’s worth contacting USAA for more details.

Eligibility: Like many financial institutions, USAA suggests customers use mobile and online banking for non-urgent requests. But for other questions, cardholders can call customer service at 1-800-531-8722.

Wells Fargo

What it’s offering: Wells Fargo has a landing page on its site that says the bank is “committed to helping customers experiencing hardships related to COVID-19,” but no specific information on what that involves. Otherwise, it suggests customers use mobile and online banking and warns that customer service call wait times may be higher than normal.

Eligibility: The bank doesn’t mention specifics about what help it might offer customers, or who might be eligible. If you have questions, it’s best to contact customer service for more information.

Other issuers

This list doesn’t cover every credit card issuer, and yours might not be included. If you’re worried about making credit card payments and aren’t sure what your issuer is doing to help, we recommend checking your card issuer’s website or calling its customer service number to discuss the assistance it may be able to offer you, including no-interest payment deferrals, credit limit increases and hardship plans.

Questions you can ask your issuer

While credit card issuers are offering to help cardholders during this time, it’s not always clear what they may be willing to offer people who’ve been affected by COVID-19. To help, we’ve put together a list of questions you can ask your issuer when you explore your options.

It’s possible that some of these questions may not be relevant to your situation — and there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you want. But we hope they’ll help you start the conversation with your issuer.

1. Can I skip or defer a payment?

If you’d benefit from skipping your payment for a month or longer, it doesn’t hurt to ask your credit card issuer if it’s possible to do so. Some credit card issuers, including Bank of America, have indicated they’ll consider requests to defer payments.

But we recommend you clarify not only if you can pay later, but whether your issuer will also waive the interest charges that you could rack up during this time.

But if your card issuer doesn’t approve this request, you could ask if it’d be willing to waive the interest charges as long as you make the minimum payment.

2. Will you waive my late fee?

Whether you plan to skip a payment or just need a few more days to get the money together, missing a due date can trigger a late fee in addition to interest charges. If you can’t avoid missing a payment or paying late, it’s worth asking for a one-time waiver. For example, Bank of America and Navy Federal Credit Union say they’ll consider waiving late fees on a case-by-case basis.

There are a couple other questions worth asking about a late payment, too.

  • Will I be charged a penalty APR? Some credit card issuers may raise your interest rate when you miss a payment. The higher interest rate is known as a penalty APR. But if you miss a payment because of the financial impact of COVID-19, you could ask your credit card issuer if it would be willing not to charge a penalty APR due to the situation.
  • Will you report my late payment to the credit bureaus? Even if your credit card issuer agrees to waive the late fee and interest charges, it could still report a late payment to the credit bureaus, depending on how late your payment is. When you talk to your card issuer, you should make sure to ask if they intend to do so.

3. Will you lower my interest rate?

If your credit card company won’t allow you to skip a payment or waive your interest charges, you could ask it to at least lower your interest rate. You might qualify for a better rate if your credit has improved since you applied for the card, or the issuer might be open to changing your rate.

4. Will you increase my credit limit?

While we typically recommend you try to pay off your credit card statement balance in full every month, we realize that you might need to lean more heavily on your credit card right now.

If you’re in need of more purchasing power to deal with this crisis, it might be a good time to ask for a credit line increase. Citi and Navy Federal Credit Union have explicitly told cardholders they can request credit limit increases, and other issuers may also be willing to consider this type of request.

5. Will you refund the points or miles I used to book a canceled trip?

If you booked a trip through your card program’s travel portal and need to cancel it, it’s worth trying to get a refund on your rewards in addition to your money. Credit card issuers like Chase, American Express and Capital One say they will follow airlines’ COVID-19 policies on cancellations, which generally make it easier to get your money back. But it’s also worth confirming that you’ll get your points and miles back before you go down that road.

Instead of calling the airline directly, you may be asked to go through your credit card’s reservations team to cancel. Just make sure you’re clear on the process before going through with it.