Personal Finance

How Credit Card Issuers Are Responding to COVID-19

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As the COVID-19 crisis grows, most major credit card issuers have alerted cardholders that assistance is available, but much of the guidance has been general: Conduct transactions online; be aware of updated customer service hours; contact us if you’re experiencing a hardship and we may be able to help.

But some issuers have taken more specific actions for individual products in this pandemic. Below are examples of those more targeted responses.

» MORE: What is a credit card hardship program?

American Express

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.

American Express also 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; to inquire about hardship accommodations, you must go through general-purpose customer service first, which can increase your wait time for assistance.

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

NerdWallet Guide to COVID-19

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

Brex

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.

“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. “This new rewards program is one of the many such examples.”

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.

Chase

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.

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 coronavirus resource page for more information

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

Citi

Citi hasn’t announced specific steps regarding specific products. But in an email to cardholders in early March 2020, it noted that assistance may be available for those affected by COVID-19, and it went into a bit more detail than other issuers have provided:

“We will have dedicated assistance available 24/7 — 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.”

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

Goldman Sachs (Apple Card)

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,” and that option is also available for April.

“We understand that the COVID-19 situation poses unique challenges for everyone and some customers may have difficulty making their monthly payments,” read an April 1 email from Apple to cardholders. “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 April payment without incurring interest charges.”

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

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 writer Sara Rathner contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on NerdWallet