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COVID-19: What Kinds of Credit Card Relief Can You Request?

From deferred payments and waived fees to extensions and credit line increases, options exist — but you usually have to ask first.
May 5, 2020
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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Credit card issuers have announced they are being more lenient with customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but typically you have to take initiative and ask for help.

Instead of automatically getting breaks, such as skipped payments and waived fees, you’ll have to contact customer service and specifically request certain types of assistance. In normal times, that would mean calling the number on the back of your card. But as a result of the outbreak, many issuers are experiencing extremely high call volume and are instead advising customers to first try online correspondence, often via webchat or secure message.

If you’ll have trouble paying your next credit card bill in full or need other help with your card’s terms, perks, features and rewards, here are examples of things you can ask for.

Deferred/late/skipped payments

Knowing that the income of some cardholders has been disrupted by the pandemic, issuers say they are generally willing to offer breaks, although most say it’s on a case-by-case basis.

For example, Citi said it is making available waivers on late fees and deferral of minimum payments for two months.

Contact your issuer and ask for help, with the goal of buying additional time to pay and avoiding fees and interest.

NerdWallet Guide to COVID-19

Get answers about stimulus checks, debt relief, changing travel policies and managing your finances.

Waived late fees/penalty fees/penalty APR

This is another offering that is available during the health crisis — and, actually, it’s available most of the time if you specifically request the help and have an account in good standing.

The last thing you want to do is add to your credit card totals unnecessarily during this time.

Credit line increase

When you’re short on cash, the line of credit on your credit card can be a lifeline. If you’re a valued customer, your issuer may consider increasing your card’s spending ceiling. 

Ideally, you want the issuer to raise your credit line without an official check of your credit rating (otherwise known as a “hard pull,” which will temporarily ding your credit scores). But if you’re in a desperate situation, a hard pull is a minor consideration.

Time extensions for bonuses, perks, benefits

Because normal spending patterns are out of whack, some issuers are making accommodations.

For example, American Express is giving new cardholders a three-month extension to complete the required spending to earn the welcome offers it includes on eligible cards. Terms apply.

Or an airline might grant you an extension on a certain perk from its co-branded credit card because you didn’t have as much time to capitalize on it after state stay-at-home orders went into effect.

Waived annual fee or retention bonus

If you’re a valued customer but enduring a hardship, now is the time to exploit all those years of paying on time. For cards with annual fees that you are thinking about canceling, ask what your issuer is willing to do to keep you as a customer. Will it waive your annual fee this year? Will it offer you a special bonus of points or cash back to remain a customer?

Product changes

If you need to ditch a card with an annual fee and the issuer is unwilling to waive the fee, you can ask for a “product change.” In this case, that might mean downgrading your account to a different credit card without an annual fee. That’s preferable to closing the card, which is likely to damage your credit, depending on the card’s credit limit and how long you’ve had it open. 

Refunds on purchases you can’t use

If you bought tickets to an event that was then canceled and the venue is giving you a hassle about a refund, you could try a last-resort tactic, called a chargeback. You contest the charge and let the card issuer duke it out with the merchant. Many issuers allow you to dispute charges online from your account webpage.

New due date

Most issuers will let you change your billing due date. That might help you spread out your bills over a month, or you can make sure the due date is after you get paid. You won’t get a break on how much you owe, just when you have to pay it.

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