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Credit card issuers offer customer assistance amid coronavirus financial hardship

Credit card issuers, including Chase and Citi, are offering support through flexible bill payments and waived late fees and interest in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The coronavirus pandemic is altering the way Americans live and work and unfortunately causing financial hardship for thousands of consumers. Whether you've been laid off or have seen a reduction in working hours, you may find it difficult to make credit card bill payments.

Thankfully, most major card issuers have released statements outlining how they plan to assist customers during this challenging time. Cardholders may be able to skip payments, avoid late fees and receive lower interest rates. Keep in mind, the assistance you receive depends on your individual situation. Not everyone will qualify for the same coverage.

Card issuers encourage customers to use online account management and mobile apps for 24/7 account access and call or chat to speak to a representative about available options.

Below, CNBC Select rounds up what assistance card issuers are currently offering credit card holders.

Credit card issuer customer assistance

Many of the top credit card issuers have released statements and created webpages dedicated to customers' coronavirus concerns. See below for a summary of what card issuers are offering as relief.

American Express

To ease the financial hardship and difficulties many Americans are already facing, American Express is waiving interest and late payment fees for eligible personal and business cardholders. Amex also suggests members consider its Financial Hardship program, which offers both short-term and long-term assistance, such as monthly payment or interest rates temporarily lowered or relief from late payment fees for qualifying cardholders. Learn more about Amex's coronavirus assistance.

Goldman Sachs, Apple

The Goldman Sachs-backed Apple Card was one of the first to offer relief to cardholders. Apple sent out an email on March 15 that stated: "We understand that the rapidly-evolving COVID-19 situation poses unique challenges for everyone and some customers may have difficulty making their monthly payments. Apple Card is committed to helping you lead a healthier financial life."

Upon enrollment in Apple's Customer Assistance Program, cardholders are able to skip their March credit card payment without incurring interest charges. Learn more about Apple's coronavirus assistance.

Bank of America

Bank of America has one of the most extensive webpages dedicated to coronavirus assistance, including statements from top executives. "If you have been negatively impacted by coronavirus and need additional assistance related to your account please visit our website or you can give us a call," Holly O'Neill, head of consumer, small business and wealth management client care at Bank of America, said in a video statement on the client assistance webpage.

Available assistance includes the ability for credit card holders to submit an online request form for a payment deferral. Learn more about Bank of America's coronavirus assistance.

Capital One

Like Amex, Capital One is also including waived interest and fees in its assistance program for both personal and business cardholders. According to a Capital One spokesperson, "The specific provisions offered really depend on the individual customer's needs, but can include fee suppression, minimum payment assistance and deferred loan payments." Learn more about Capital One's coronavirus assistance.

Chase

Chase cardholders may receive assistance with both bill payments and travel bookings. "When customers call us with financial challenges related to coronavirus, our customer service specialists have been helping them with things like waiving fees, extending payment due dates for cards, auto loans and mortgages, or increasing credit lines for consumer and small business customers," a Chase spokesperson tells CNBC Select.

Chase also created a coronavirus trip management page dedicated to changing or canceling travel booking, which states they will work with customers "to help find solutions for changing or cancelling a trip whether you paid with your credit card, debit card, or with rewards." Learn more about Chase's coronavirus assistance.

Citi

Citi's coronavirus webpage states that eligible Citi credit card customers can receive credit line increases and enroll in collection forbearance programs. If you qualify for assistance, you may be able to ask for a larger line of credit or the ability to temporarily pause minimum payments. Learn more about Citi's coronavirus assistance.

Discover

A Discover spokesperson tells CNBC Select that, "Discover customers may receive assistance that can include support related to payment timing, fees and late payments." Cardholders can call customer service or chat with a representative about available options. Learn more about Discover's coronavirus assistance.

Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and other issuers

Other card issuers, such as Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, encourage customers to call and discuss possible solutions. If your card issuer doesn't provide the assistance you need, consider opening a new credit card with benefits that are better suited to your needs.

Consider 0% APR credit cards to get out of debt

If you're in a temporary bind due to the coronavirus, you may want to consider cards that offer no interest for up to 21 months. These typically require a good credit score, but if you qualify a 0% APR credit card can help you pay off debt or new purchases over time without incurring interest charges, as long as you make the minimum payment and pay off your balance before the intro period ends. Below, we list some of our favorite no-interest credit cards.

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
On Citi’s secure site
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 21 months on balance transfers and 0% for the first 12 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    14.74% - 24.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 21 months of no interest on balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • Balances can be transferred within 4 months from account opening
  • 12 months of no interest on purchases

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • No rewards program
  • Transfer timeline: Balances must be transferred within 4 months from account opening
  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment: $480

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Discover it® Balance Transfer
On Discover's secure site
  • Rewards

    5% cash back at different places each quarter after you activate bonus categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%). Plus, unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    At the end of your first year, Discover automatically matches all the cash back you earned

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for the first 6 months on purchases; 0% APR for the first 18 months on balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    13.49% to 24.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

*See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 18 months of no interest on balance transfers
  • Cash-back program
  • No annual fee
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • Bonus categories must be activated each quarter
  • Cash-back program limits 5% cash-back earnings to $1,500 a quarter
  • Fee charged on balance transfers
  • Transfer timeline: Balances must be transferred by a specific date, refer to your cardmember agreement for the exact date
  • Estimated total fees and interest on debt repayment: $478

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card
On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    1.5% cash back on every purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    $150 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    16.49% to 25.24% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a $5 minimum. After, 5% ($5 minimum).

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Long intro 0% APR period for purchases and balance transfers
  • Rewards can be transferred to a Chase Ultimate Rewards card
  • Generous welcome bonus

Cons

  • Below average 1.5% cash back
  • 3% fee charged on foreign transactions
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $482
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,809

Rewards totals incorporate the cash back earned from the welcome bonus

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.