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COVID-related credit card relief in 2021

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Although 2021 is the year that the COVID-19 vaccine could offer hope for many Americans, the pandemic’s lasting effects will undoubtedly leave some credit card holders struggling financially and looking for help from their card issuers.

Banks, credit unions and other issuers continue to offer cardholder-assistance programs, but such programs typically grant relief on a case-by-case basis and only when requested, which means you’ll have to contact your issuer for help.

Most major issuers have dedicated web pages that explain their COVID-19 financial-hardship options. You might have to log in to your account to see the help offered. You can call the phone number on the back of your card or use online correspondence via chat or secure message.

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Examples of relief some issuers continue to offer in 2021 include:

  • Allowing deferred, delayed or skipped payments.

  • Waiving fees or penalty interest rates.

  • Extending the time period for certain benefits.

Even so, don’t expect a free ride in 2021. There are potential downsides to participating in an issuer’s relief program. They might include:

  • Inability to get a card from that issuer in the near future.

  • Damage to your credit scores.

American Express

AmEx allows you to enroll for assistance online. It says it might be able to temporarily lower monthly payments and interest rates. Eligibility factors include delinquency status, prior enrollment in the program and the balance on your account.

Note that the formal American Express program requires an immediate payment to enroll. AmEx’s relief program page explains how joining the program could harm your credit scores and your ability to get a new account in the future.

For information, call 866-703-4169.

Bank of America®

Bank of America® has been offering help for credit card customers, including payment deferrals and waived or refunded late fees. Log in to your account to learn more about financial assistance. Or call 855-891-3401.

Capital One

Capital One encourages cardholders to contact its customer service representatives at 800-227-4825.

Chase

Citi

Citi said it ended its formal COVID-19 assistance program on Dec. 31 after a steady decline in the number of people enrolling in the program. But it continues to offer assistance on a case-by-case basis. Citi has offered options such as waivers on late fees and the deferral of minimum payments for two months. You can log in to your account and send a secure message to Citi customer service, or call the payment assistance team at 866-905-2784.

Discover

Discover is still providing financial hardship assistance to cardmembers who have been affected by the pandemic, including options such as skip-a-pay, which defers payments temporarily without negatively affecting credit. It also offers support related to payment timing, fees and late payments.

Cardholders can make contact through the mobile app or website or by calling 800-347-2683.

Wells Fargo

Cardholders have been able to defer monthly payments, have fees and interest waived and receive “other expanded assistance” on a case-by-case basis.

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