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Card customers in Irma’s path get help, fee waivers from banks


Many banks are cutting Hurricane Irma victims some slack, waiving fees and offering financial help

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For the millions of Floridians trying to put the pieces of their lives back together after Hurricane Irma, many major financial institutions are cutting them some slack, waiving credit card late fees and out-of-network ATM fees. Some also are offering to boost credit card limit increases to help cover costs caused by the storm.

Many banks and credit card companies also are pitching in cash of their own to help with hurricane recovery, and are encouraging customers across the U.S. to do the same.

“At times like these, everything we can do to help clients and the communities we support matters,” says Sue Mallino, a spokeswoman for SunTrust Bank.

“We are here for our customers and our communities as they begin to rebuild from this devastating storm,” Mel Martinez, the Florida-based chairman of the Southeast for JPMorgan Chase said in a statement.

Irma is blamed for the deaths of at least 42 people in Florida and caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage. It left two-thirds of Florida customers without electricity, and hundreds of thousands of customers are still without power days after Irma brushed the Sunshine State.

Irma was the second major hurricane to wallop the United States in two weeks. Hurricane Harvey dumped 4 feet of rain in parts of Texas and left at least 70 dead.

Bank regulators urge forbearance
Following Harvey, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insures bank deposits, encouraged financial institutions to “consider all reasonable and prudent steps to assist customers in communities affected by recent storms,” including waiving fees, boosting ATM cash limits and relaxing credit card limits.

While banks aren’t required to make modifications, the practice became more common after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, says Doug Johnson, senior vice president of payments ad cybersecurity policy for the American Bankers Association.

After Katrina, which swamped Louisiana, banks contacted the ABA, asking if they had the authority to do such things as waive late fees and ATM surcharges, Johnson says. Banks “really lacked clarity” from regulatory agencies.

Now that regulators have clarified that banks can make such moves, they “by and large do it as a very practical and sound business practice,” he says. Usually the decision is tied to the federal government declaring that a region is a disaster area.

So far, 37 Florida counties – from the Florida Keys to Northeast Florida – have been declared federal disaster areas due to Irma.

Many of these financial relief efforts are available to residents in those 37 counties, but some also apply to states such as Georgia and South Carolina, which were also impacted by Irma.

A break from banks, credit card companies
Here are measures being taken by various credit card companies and financial institutions:

  • American Express – Waiving or refunding late fees and returned check fees through Oct. 6.
  • Bank of America – Waiving late payment fees for credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, home equity loans and auto loans. Waiving overdraft and out-of-network ATM fees, debit card rush and replacement fees, and credit card cash advance fees. Not sending negative information to credit bureaus for up to 30 days about credit cards and some unspecified lines of credit. Offering to review accounts and possibly increase credit limits on existing Visa and Mastercard accounts and possibly modifying or extending payments on credit cards, loans and lines of credit.
  • BB&T – Waiving out-of-network ATM fees through Sept. 30.
  • Capital One – Waiving late fees on credit cards, home loans and auto loans. Waiving overdraft and insufficient funds fees and ATM fees.
  • Chase – Waiving or refunding late fees for credit card, mortgage and auto loan payments, as well as overdraft and ATM fees through Sept. 24. Starting a 90-day grace period for mortgage and home equity loan payments and not sending negative information to credit bureaus during that time.
  • Citi – Waiving or refunding late fees on credit cards, personal loans and lines of credit. Deferring minimum payments on credit cards. Offering emergency credit line increases. Waiving late fees for September mortgage payments and setting up mortgage forbearance program.
  • Fifth Third – Waiving late charges for credit card payments through Dec. 31 and not reporting negative information to credit bureaus. Waiving out-of-network ATM and overdraft fees through Sept. 25. Providing payment relief for personal loans and lines of credit, auto loans and mortgage and home equity loans and lines of credit for 90 days, effective Sept. 7. Not reporting negative information to credit bureaus during that time.
  • PNC –  Refunding late fees on credit cards, personal, auto and home equity loans through Sept. 18. Refunding overdraft and out-of-network ATM fees through Sept. 18.
  • RegionsBank – Offering credit card and personal loan payment extensions. Waiving out-of-network ATM fees. Offering 0.50 percent discount and waiving processing fees for personal loans to help with recovery needs.
  • Suncoast Credit Union – Urging customers to call and discuss personal situation if they can’t make loan payments. Waiving out-of-network ATM fees. Offering small emergency credit card limit increases. Temporarily increasing ATM withdrawal limits.
  • SunTrust – Waiving or refunding late fees for credit cards, secured and unsecured personal loans and lines of credit, mortgages, home equity loans and lines of credit and auto loans for payments through Dec. 15. No negative information will be sent to credit bureaus during that time. Refunding out-of-network ATM fees and overdraft fees until Sept. 18. Setting up mobile ATMs in Naples area.
  • Synchrony – Increasing ATM withdrawal limits for those customers affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, from $1000 to $1500 as the daily limit.
  • TD Bank – Waiving late fees and finance charges for credit cards through Nov. 7. Waiving or refunding out-of-network ATM and overdraft fees until Sept. 22. Expediting free delivery of debit and credit cards and offering instant-issue credit cards and debit cards at TD Bank locations. Waiving late fees on personal loans, mortgages, home equity loans and auto loans through Nov. 15 and offering the possibility of 60-day period of payment relief.
  • Wells Fargo – Reversing late fees for credit cards, personal loans and lines of credit and auto loans. Waiving out-of-network ATM fees. Providing credit card payment relief and not reporting negative information to credit bureaus for 90 days. Setting up mobile ATMs in certain areas.

Offering hurricane relief
Along with assisting their customers, many credit card companies and financial institutions are also making major contributions to relief efforts.

Many also are taking part in efforts to aid Hurricane Harvey victims.

  • American Express – Pledging up to $1 million to help Hurricane Irma victims in Florida and the Caribbean, as well as Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas and Louisiana. The money goes to help with such needs as shelter and food. This includes a $500,000 grant and up to $350,000 to match employee donations to the American Red Cross, along with a $150,000 grant to Feeding America for food banks in South Florida and Southeast Texas.
  • BB&T – Donating $500,000, with half going to the Red Cross and half paying for eight truckloads of supplies, such as bottled water, to help with recovery.
  • Citi – Citi Foundation donating $1 million to the Red Cross for Hurricane Irma relief. It previously donated $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief. Citi cardholders can donate Thank You Rewards points for relief efforts.
  • Chase – Donating $1 million to the hurricane response in the United States and the Caribbean. That includes $250,000 to the American Red Cross, $250,000 to the International Medical Corps, and $500,000 to local nonprofits in hardest-hit communities.
  • Discover – Pledging $1 million in relief for Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. The company will match donations, up to $1 million, for each cardholder who donates to the Red Cross either using their cash back bonus or making a donation using their Discover card. Discover is also matching donations from its employees. “Our card members and employees have been supporting relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, and I’m pleased that Discover is now expanding our support to also support those affected by Hurricane Irma,” Discover Chairman and CEO David Nelms said in a statement.
  • SunTrust – The SunTrust Foundation is donating $500,000 for hurricane relief  $250,000 to the American Red Cross to provide immediate assistance and $250,000 to other nonprofits as needs are identified.
  • Synchrony – The company donated more than $300,000 to hurricane relief efforts.
  • TD Bank – Donating $600,000 to the Red Cross and community organizations. Also sending volunteers, 25,000 bottles of water and other supplies to areas affected by Irma.

See related: Hurricane Harvey: how to help, After Hurricane Harvey: How cardholders can help

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