Many banks, credit card issuers and other lenders have promised to help those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. They’re offering to defer or reduce payments and waive interest charges and rebate fees for those who have lost jobs, had their hours reduced or otherwise lost income to the COVID-19 crisis.
The help usually isn’t automatic, however. You have to ask for it — and ask the right way.
“In many cases, you only get the help if you contact your creditor and mention that you need relief due to the coronavirus situation,” says Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center. “And that’s very frustrating because it’s very difficult to get through to your bank or lender.”
Many financial institutions are encouraging people to reach out digitally — through live chats or messaging on the companies’ sites or in their mobile apps. However you connect, there are important questions that need to be answered.
‘WHAT STEPS DO I NEED TO TAKE TO QUALIFY?’
You can start your research on the financial institution’s site to see what kinds of help may be available and how to apply. Generally, you’ll want to confirm the details with a human being, including the steps you must take to apply, says Saunders, who advises keeping a record of the conversation and what you were told. You can take written notes of phone calls, including the time, date and name of the company representative, or take screenshots of electronic communications.