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How Credit Card Issuers Are Responding to COVID-19

General assistance is available with a phone call or online chat, but some issuers are taking specific steps for individual cards.
April 3, 2020
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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As the COVID-19 crisis grows, most major credit card issuers have alerted cardholders that help is available. Initial guidance was mostly general: Conduct transactions online; be aware of updated customer service hours; contact us and we may be able to help.

But many issuers have been releasing more details about the terms and conditions of assistance, with certain aid even targeted to individual credit card products. Here’s what you can expect from your issuer.

American Express

  • Hardship program online: American Express allows cardholders in difficult circumstances to directly access its financial hardship program online. Most issuers don’t have dedicated websites for such programs and don’t publicize them in this way. (To inquire about hardship accommodations with other issuers, you often must go through general-purpose customer service first, which can increase your wait time for assistance.)
  • More time to earn bonuses: More specifically, AmEx announced in early April 2020 that new cardholders would get more time to earn the welcome bonus on eligible credit cards. The three-month extension was phrased this way: “Due to the impact of COVID-19, for eligible card accounts approved from December 1, 2019, through May 31, 2020, for which you are eligible for a welcome offer, the period to make eligible purchases to earn your welcome bonus will be extended for an additional 3 months. Eligible cards are U.S. consumer and business cards issued by American Express National Bank to a basic card member.” Terms apply. This offer extends to AmEx’s co-branded hotel and airline cards, too.
  • Limited-time bonus rewards on multiple cards: And in May, American Express unveiled multiple limited-time offerings across a number of its credit cards, including bonus rewards on groceries plus statement credits in new categories such as select streaming services. See our story for a full list of cards affected. Terms apply.
  • Additional limited-time travel credit for select holders of The Platinum Card® from American Express: “To show our appreciation for their ongoing membership,” AmEx says that select holders of The Platinum Card® from American Express will get up to $200 in statement credits when they use the card for qualifying purchases via the American Express Travel platform from August 2020 through December 2021. Terms apply. AmEx notes that eligible cardholders will get more information about this offer “when it becomes available.”

» MORE: What to know about American Express’ COVID-19 credit card relief 

NerdWallet Guide to COVID-19

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

Delta credit cards issued by American Express

Delta is extending certain benefits for eligible cardholders because of the impact from the pandemic, the airline said in a statement. (NOTE: American Express is Delta’s credit card partner, but these extensions come from the airline, not the issuer.)

According to Delta, the extensions apply for any benefit listed below “that is valid now or has expired since March 1, 2020”:

  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: This card offers a $100 Delta flight credit toward future travel when you spend $10,000 in purchases on the card during a calendar year. Typically, the credit expires one year from the date it’s issued, but Delta notes that members who have earned a flight credit will get a six-month extension. Terms apply.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: This card grants an annual companion certificate upon renewal, which is good for one round-trip domestic flight in the main cabin for someone traveling with you (minus taxes and fees). Normally, travel for the companion certificate must be booked and completed by the date on the front of the certificate. But Delta says that members with companion certificates that have an original expiration date between March 1 and June 30, 2020, can use them when they book and fly by Dec. 31, 2020. And certificates that expire between July 1, 2020, and April 1, 2021, will receive an additional six months beyond the expiration date. Terms apply.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: This card also offers an annual companion certificate upon renewal, but it’s good for one round-trip domestic flight in first class, Delta Comfort+ or the main cabin for someone traveling with you (minus taxes and fees). Usually, the same booking rules apply as with the Platinum version of the card, but Delta is granting the same extension terms. In addition, the Reserve card normally offers two one-time guest passes each year to Delta Sky Club lounges, and those guest passes typically expire within one year from the date they’re issued. But Delta is giving members a six-month extension for those passes. Terms apply.

» MORE: What to know before accepting COVID-19 credit card relief

“As coronavirus continues to dramatically impact travel across the globe, you don’t have to worry about your benefits — they’ll be extended so you can enjoy them when you are ready to travel again,” said Sandeep Dube, Delta’s senior vice president of customer engagement and loyalty, in a statement.

Bank of America®‎

  • Payment deferrals: Bank of America®‎ is offering payment deferrals for 60 days to cardholders who request them. To do so, customers can visit the issuer’s dedicated coronavirus resource page, click the “request payment deferral” button and follow the prompts for information. “We are committed to working with our clients through this crisis,” a Bank of America®‎ representative tells NerdWallet.
  • More time to earn bonuses: Like American Express, Bank of America® is also extending the amount of time eligible cardholders have to earn sign-up bonuses. The issuer’s 90-day extension applies to consumer and business cards opened between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2020.

Of the more than 1 million clients the bank has helped as of April 8 with some form of payment deferral, 80% have been credit card-related, the bank says.

» MORE: What to know about Bank of America’s COVID-19 credit card relief

Barclays

Payment deferrals: Barclays is allowing eligible cardholders to skip the minimum payment due on their next two payment due dates, noting that interest will continue to accrue during those two months. (The issuer also notes that you’ll need to cancel repeat payments on your account yourself.)

American Airlines credit cards issued by Barclays

In early May 2020, Barclays announced changes meant to help customers who hold its co-branded AAdvantage Aviator credit card products:

  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Eligible cardholders who earned a flight discount certificate that expires between March 31, 2020, and May 31, 2021, will get a six-month extension to redeem it from that initial expiration date. In addition, eligible cardholders who have a companion certificate that expires anytime between those dates will get an extension through June 30, 2021.
  • The same companion certificate extension terms apply to eligible holders of the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®.

» MORE: 5 things to know about the AAdvantage Aviator Red and Silver Mastercards

Brex

  • New limited-time bonus reward categories: As of March 31, 2020, and for a limited time, customers who have the Brex Card for Startups can opt in to new bonus rewards categories. Normally, the card offers bonus rewards on things like rideshares, travel and restaurants. The new rewards structure focuses on categories such as remote collaboration tools and food delivery. In a news release, the corporate card issuer noted that the move reflects “the new operational and business climate borne from the effects of COVID-19.” The new rewards structure is optional, available upon request, and you can switch back to the old rewards at any time. You’ll automatically revert back to the card’s original rewards on Sept. 30, 2020.
  • New discounts: Brex also rolled out additional one-time discounts with select vendors, accessible to all Brex cardholders, not just those with the Brex Card for Startups. They include deals for Amazon Web Services, Slack and Dropbox.

“The economic and public health ramifications of COVID-19 are devastating to many, and Brex wants to do everything it can to help its customers during this time,” said Henrique Dubugras, co-founder and co-CEO of Brex, in a statement.

» MORE: What is a credit card hardship program?

Capital One

More flexible redemptions for a limited time: Through June 30, 2020, Capital One is allowing eligible travel credit card customers to use their miles to cover purchases of things like restaurant delivery and takeout, as well as qualifying streaming services and phone services (depending on the card.) Miles will be worth a penny apiece for these categories for the following cards.

Venture cards

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card will allow redemption for eligible restaurant takeout and delivery, plus qualifying streaming services.

Spark cards

The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business and the Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business will also allow redemption toward qualifying takeout and delivery, but instead of streaming services the offer includes eligible phone services.

“We understand that our customers’ day-to-day lives have changed, so we’re continually looking at providing value in new and different ways,” a Capital One representative tells NerdWallet.

» MORE: Need help from your card issuer? A phone call is typically best

Chase

  • Grace period, fee waivers/refunds: In Chase’s Q1 2020 earnings call, held in mid-April, CEO Jamie Dimon discussed some general the ways the bank was helping struggling customers, including credit cardholders. “We’re providing relief such as a 90-day grace period for mortgage, auto and card payments as well as waiving or refunding certain fees,” Dimon noted.
  • More time to earn bonuses: Also, the week of April 13, Chase began notifying eligible cardholders that they would be getting more time to earn welcome bonuses, much like AmEx and Bank of America® are doing. Chase’s three-month extension applies to credit card accounts opened from Jan. 1 through March 31, 2020, a Chase representative confirms. The extension will be automatic and doesn’t require activation.
  • Limited-time bonus rewards on multiple cards: And on May 1, Chase announced that more than two-dozen travel credit cards in its portfolio would start earning bonus rewards on groceries for a limited time. See our story for a full list of cards affected.

Chase is also offering highly targeted help for specific cardholders, such as:

Chase Freedom®

When the Chase Freedom® announced its bonus categories for the second quarter of the year in mid-March 2020, initially there were only two:

  • Grocery stores.
  • Gym memberships and fitness clubs.

But by the time the quarter officially began April 1, “select streaming services” had been added to the list — or rather held over from the previous quarter’s bonus categories. Eligible services include Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Sling, YouTube TV, SiriusXM, Spotify and more.

“We wanted to provide our customers opportunity for additional earning given the current environment where we are all looking for creative ways to stay occupied,” a Chase spokesperson said.

The Chase Freedom® earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending per quarter in categories that rotate (activation required). All other purchases earn 1% back.

» MORE: Eligible Chase cards offer 5X back on DoorDash and Tock (limited time)

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is also making accommodations for eligible cardholders. In January 2020, the card increased its already steep annual fee to $550, from $450. But for existing cardholders, the timing of that fee increase depended on your card renewal date. Those with cards that renewed after April 1, 2020, were to be charged the new $550 fee. (Cards renewed before then retained the $450 fee for another year, before incurring the $100 increase.)

The fee increase still took effect April 1. But Chase sent a notification to some cardholders that day, noting that it would be issuing a $100 statement credit to offset the annual fee and acknowledging that “COVID-19 has affected people in many different ways.”

To be eligible for the credit, your card renewal date must be from April 1 to July 1, 2020.

» MORE: See Chase’s trip management hub if you need to change or cancel travel

Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card

Chase announced that on May 21, 2020, holders of the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card would be getting 150 bonus Stars (the card’s rewards currency) deposited into their accounts automatically. No action is required.

Chase notes that the rewards can be used to buy a beverage, breakfast item or parfait.

“Everyone could use a little surprise and delight right now,” a Chase representiave said in an email.

» MORE: What to know about Chase’s COVID-19 credit card relief

Citi

  • Credit line increases, collection forbearance: In early March 2020, Citi told cardholders via email that relief may be available for those affected by COVID-19. “Please contact us at the number on the back of your card to find out about ‘always on’ assistance programs that may be available to you, such as credit line increases and collection forbearance.”
  • Late-fee waivers, payment deferrals: In early April, Citi expanded upon that assistance, noting in a news release that cardholders who request help might qualify for waivers on late fees and deferral of minimum payments for two months. “We will report an account as current to the credit bureaus during the waiver period, unless the account was delinquent before the waiver period began,” Citi noted in the release. Citi says cardholders should submit requests for help digitally. For forbearance programs, the issuer was more specific: “Customers should text ‘App’ to 692-484 and we’ll send them a link to Message Us in the Citi Mobile App.”
  • More time to earn to earn bonuses, more flexibility for the Citi Prestige® Card: In early May, Citi announced a temporary sign-up bonus extension period for its cards, as well as a significant change to the Citi Prestige® Card. That card offers a $250 travel-credit benefit, but until Dec. 31 customers can also use that credit toward purchases at supermarkets and restaurants, including takeout.

» MORE: What to know about Citi’s COVID-19 credit card relief 

American Airlines credit cards issued by Citi

In early May 2020, Citi announced changes in benefits for the following airline credit cards, to ensure that they “continue to drive value for our customers throughout these unprecedented times.”

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®: Eligible cardholders who had an open account as of March 31, 2020, or before will receive a one-time “courtesy credit” of $225 credit upon renewal of the card. Citi notes this is in recognition of the fact that Admirals Club lounges have been temporarily closed as a result of the pandemic. “Cardmembers will see the credit within two billing statements after the annual fee bills to their account,” Citi said.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Eligible cardholders who have earned the card’s $125 Flight Discount certificate will get a six-month extension to use it, as long as the certificate has an expiration date between March 31, 2020, and May 31, 2021.
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®: Eligible cardholders who earned a companion certificate with an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2020, will get a six-month extension, meaning the new expiration date is June 30, 2021.

» MORE: Visit Citi’s coronavirus resource page for more information

Discover

Possible payment deferrals: Discover hasn’t released specifics about COVID-19-related relief, but the issuer confirmed to NerdWallet that help may be available and that it varies by customer. “Qualified customers who are experiencing financial difficulty caused by the spread of the COVID-19 [virus] may receive assistance that can include support related to payment timing, fees and late payments,” Discover said via email.

The issuer noted the possibility of “skip-a-pay payments,” which it said are the same thing as payment deferrals. 

To learn more about your possible options, call Discover customer service or message the issuer, either via your account on desktop or via Discover’s mobile app.

» MORE: What to know about Discover’s COVID-19 credit card relief

Goldman Sachs (Apple Card)

Payment deferrals: In March 2020, the Apple Card, issued by Goldman Sachs, offered customers the option to defer that month’s payments by enrolling in a “customer assistance program.’ That option was also made available for April and May.

“We understand that the COVID-19 situation poses unique challenges for everyone and some customers may have difficulty making their monthly payments,” Apple told cardholders via email. “Should you need assistance, please click here to be connected to Apple Card Support via Messages and enroll in our Customer Assistance Program, which will allow you to skip your May payment without incurring interest charges.”

The email notes that enrollment is required, even if you already did so for April.

HSBC

Payment deferrals, fee waivers: In an email to customers in early April, HSBC noted that help was available. “We can defer or reduce your payments during the hardship, and waive cash advance, insufficient funds, overdraft protection and late fees for 60 days from the time you enroll,” the message noted. “We’re also protecting your credit by preventing negative credit reporting.”

To take advantage of the assistance, HSBC said credit cardholders should log into their personal banking accounts and send a secure message, or call 866-949-2351, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET.

Also, HSBC announced “COVID-related product changes” for the following credit cards, from May 1 through June 30, 2020:

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard® credit card:

  • Earn 3X points at grocery stores, convenience stores and wholesale clubs. (These are not typically bonus categories for this card.)
  • The card’s annual $100 rideshare statement credit now extends to Uber Eats orders. Cardholders will automatically receive a statement credit worth up to $20 per order.

HSBC Premier World Mastercard® credit card

  • Earn 2X points at grocery stores, convenience stores and wholesale clubs. (These are not typically bonus categories for this card.)
  • The card’s annual $50 rideshare statement credit now also includes Uber Eats orders. Cardholders will automatically get a statement credit worth 20% per order.

Also, from April 1 to June 30, all of HSBC’s consumer cards — except for the HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card and HSBC Platinum Mastercard® credit card — will offer the following reward redemption promotions:

  • 10% off all charity items (Red Cross donations or CharityChoice gift cards).
  • 20% off all merchandise.

» MORE: Visa making introductory trial terms more transparent

Wells Fargo

Payment deferrals, fee waivers: Wells Fargo is offering credit card payment deferrals for three billing cycles, although terms and conditions apply. During this time, your balance won’t accrue interest, and all fees will be waived — including annual fees in some cases.

“If you have an annual fee, that fee will be waived if your annual fee would have posted to your account between the payment assistance activation date and September 30, 2020,” Wells Fargo says on its website.

During a deferral period, the issuer notes you’ll still be able to use your credit card as normal within your credit limit, assuming your account is in good standing.

Wells Fargo suggests applying online via your account, which will be faster than by phone given high call volumes.

» MORE: What to know about Wells Fargo’s COVID-19 credit card relief

Where to start if you need assistance

All major credit card issuers have coronavirus resource pages, which discuss generally how they may be able to help cardholders experiencing hardships. For more specific assistance, contact your issuer directly.

NerdWallet writers Sara Rathner, Claire Tsosie, Melissa Lambarena and Greg Karp contributed to this report. We will continue to update this page as developments unfold.

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