The COVID-19 pandemic has made keeping up with monthly bill payments challenging for many Americans. As a result, many credit card companies have introduced policies to provide financial relief and help that can include a deferment of payments, fee waivers, and a reduced annual interest rate—or annual percentage rate (APR).

Taking advantage of these benefits may be as simple as calling your credit card company, although some companies may also extend help online. If you have credit card debt and you're struggling to manage your payments during the coronavirus crisis, this guide breaks down what's available from the 10 top card issuers.

Key Takeaways

  • Many credit card companies and banks are offering temporary financial relief to borrowers who are experiencing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Financial relief can include deferment of monthly payments, reduced monthly payments, reduced interest rates, or fee waivers.
  • Managing your credit card payments is important for protecting your credit score and avoiding negative reporting to the credit bureaus.
  • Credit card relief isn't automatic; you'll need to reach out to your card issuer to determine which options are available and what you qualify for.

Major Credit Card Issuers Offer a Variety of COVID-19 Relief Options

Credit card companies can use their own discretion when deciding what financial relief, if any, to offer cardholders who are experiencing financial difficulties. Help can take different forms from one issuer to the next, so it's important to follow up with all of your credit card companies if you're having trouble making payments because of the coronavirus pandemic. The table below sums up some of our findings (blank spaces mean the information was unavailable):

COVID-19 Credit Card Relief: Top 10 Card Issuers
Card Issuer Temporary Suspension of Payments Fee Waivers Temporary Credit Limit Increases
American Express No, but minimum monthly payments may be reduced Yes, for late payment fees and annual membership fees while enrolled in the program  
Bank of America Yes, by request and on a case-by-case basis No, but late fees can be refunded  
Barclays Yes, payment relief is available by request Yes Yes, on a case-by-case basis
Capital One Contact Capital One for options Contact Capital One for options Contact Capital One for options
Chase Yes, for personal and business credit cards Late fees can be refunded  
Citi Yes for two months and collection forbearance is available Yes
Discover Contact Discover for options Contact Discover for options Contact Discover for options
HSBC No, but payments may be reduced Yes, late fees and interest charges can be waived  
U.S. Bank Contact U.S. Bank for options Contact U.S. Bank for options  
Wells Fargo Contact Wells Fargo for options Yes  

American Express

American Express offers a financial relief program designed to help make payments more manageable. Your monthly payments and your regular variable APR can be temporarily reduced. Late payment fees and annual card membership fees can be waived while you're enrolled in the program.

Eligible customers can request to enroll in either the short-term or long-term payment plan. The short-term payment plan can provide relief for 12 months while the long-term payment plan runs for 36 or 60 months. Eligibility for the long-term plan could be based on factors, including delinquency status, prior enrollment in the program, or the card balance. After exiting the short-term payment plan, the standard late fees, minimum due calculation, APR, and annual membership fee, if any, will resume in accordance with the cardmember agreement.

Note that your credit limit may be temporarily reduced while you're enrolled in the program but those who are in the short-term payment plan, may be able to continue making purchases with their card up to a certain limit. American Express will continue reporting your account as current to the credit bureaus. And enrolling in financial relief doesn't mean you have to reapply for your American Express card once you complete the program.

How to Get Help

  • Call 1-866-703-4169
  • Log into your online account to discuss options via live chat

Bank of America

Bank of America's client assistance program is designed to help customers who are having trouble making credit card payments. Relief options include deferral for personal and business credit card payments and refunds for late fees you may have been charged if you missed a due date. Help is available on a case-by-case basis and you'll need to contact Bank of America to discuss credit card relief options.

How to Get Help

  • Request payment deferral through the program online.
  • Call customer service at 844-219-0690.

Tip

Be sure to ask your credit card company how making a reduced payment or no payment at all during a forbearance period will be reported on your credit report. If the forbearance will negatively impact your credit score, it can detract from the program's benefits.

Barclays

Barclays has introduced a number of measures to help its banking and credit card customers navigate COVID-19's financial impacts. A request for payment relief can be made online for consumer credit card customers. Although the details of relief are not outlined, the bank encourages customers to reach out for help. Payment relief is also available for both personal loans and business credit cards. If you previously applied for payment relief and those benefits have run out, you can reapply for additional help.

How to Get Help

  • Request payment relief when you log in to your account online.
  • Call the customer service number on the back of your card.

Capital One

Capital One doesn't offer a lot of detail online about what coronavirus relief options are available to its credit card customers. Logging into your online account won't yield any additional information, either. Instead, you'll need to call Capital One's credit card customer service to find out what options you may have. Capital One is currently offering relief on a case-by-case basis, with options tailored to fit each cardholder's financial situation, for both personal and business credit card holders.

How to Get Help

  • Call customer service at 1-800-227-4825. 

Chase

Chase is allowing cardholders who have been affected financially by COVID-19 to delay making payments temporarily. That includes both personal and business credit cards. You can also delay payments on a Chase mortgage or auto loan. The easiest way to take advantage of these options is to log in to your Chase account and defer a payment yourself. If that isn't available in your account menu, you'll need to reach out to Chase directly for additional help.

How to Get Help

  • Enroll online (the fastest option, according to Chase).
  • Log into your account to send a secure message.
  • Call the number on the back of your card.

Citi

If you have a Citi credit card you may be eligible for temporary collection forbearance, which temporarily stops any collection actions if you've fallen behind in your payments. Citi also offers possible fee waivers on late fees and a deferral of minimum payments for two months. The bank will continue to report the account as current to the credit bureaus during the waiver period. However, if the account was delinquent before the waiver period began, the account will continue to be reported as delinquent.

How to Get Help

  • Log into your account to request payment assistance.
  • Text "App" to 692-484 to sign up through the Citi mobile app.
  • Call the customer service number on the back of your card.

Warning

If interest and fees continue to accrue during a deferment or forbearance period, you could end up with a larger credit card balance to pay off when your temporary suspension of payments ends.

Discover

Discover doesn't offer specific information about coronavirus relief options for credit cardholders through its website or through online account access. While it's possible to have payments reduced or deferred and have certain fees waived, eligibility is determined case-by-case. You'll need to contact Discover to find out what relief if any, you might qualify for with both personal and business credit cards.

How to Get Help

  • Call 1-800-497-2816.
  • Send a message to customer service through your online account access.

HSBC

HSBC has a credit card relief program for people who are experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19. Some of the possible solutions offered include reduced payments, waivers for late fees and interest charges as well as no change to the reporting of your account status.

For example, when enrolled in the bank's 90-day Relief Program, the monthly payment is reduced by 50%— or a minimum of $15 per month. The bank won’t charge any interest or late fees for the duration of the program.

How to Get Help

  • The fastest way to enroll in the program is to use the bank's Personal Internet Banking and submit an enrollment form through the portal.
  • You can also call 1-866-949-2351.

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank doesn't specify on its website what options there are for people who need COVID-19 credit card relief. Instead, the bank encourages customers to reach out directly to discuss whether fee waivers or deferring payments may be a good solution, based on their circumstances.

How to Get Help

  • Call the number on the back of your card.
  • Log into your account to send a secure message.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo states that if you're experiencing hardship or have other needs, the bank will work with you—offering assistance on a case-by-case basis. Relief options may include payment deferral but you'll need to call to see if you're eligible. If you previously enrolled in the payment deferral program, you may still be able to take advantage of late fee waivers and delay payment of your credit card's annual fee.

How to Get Help

  • For credit card accounts, call 1-854-853-6686 or the number on the back of your card.
  • Log into your online account to send a secure message.

If you're struggling to pay your bills or credit card payments, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has resources for what's typically offered by banks and credit card companies as a way of providing financial relief.

Contact Your Credit Card Company for More Options

The above guide covers 10 of the largest credit card companies, but it's not an exhaustive list. Also, please bear in mind that credit card companies and banks may revise their COVID-19 policies at any time. If your credit card company wasn't included here, reach out to your card issuer to find out what type of COVID-19 financial relief might be available. Having your payments reduced or suspended, reducing your APR, or getting fees waived can all help make your credit card debt more manageable during difficult financial times.

If you're planning to contact your credit card company to see what's available, first think about what type of relief would be most helpful to you. For example, if you can still pay something toward your cards but not your regular monthly payment you could just ask for a payment reduction. But if you can't pay anything at all, you'll want to make that clear upfront to see if a temporary deferment is available.

Also, don't be afraid to point to your past history as a good customer when asking for a temporary or permanent interest rate reduction or a fee waiver. If you've always paid on time up to this point, that may give the credit card company more incentive to work with you toward finding a solution.

Aside from asking for payment deferrals or fee waivers, consider what other account changes you might benefit from. For example, if you have a card that has a high annual fee you might ask about switching to a different card that has no annual fee. Or if you need a little more wiggle room in making your payment you might ask for a change in the payment due date.

Any time you're requesting changes to your credit card accounts and those changes are approved, whether they're coronavirus-related or not, get the changes in writing. This way, you'll have documented proof of what you and the credit card company have agreed upon. And if your coronavirus credit card relief runs out, don't hesitate to get back in touch with the credit card company to ask for a new arrangement.