We’ll continue updating this page with resources and information as new details emerge on how Canadian leaders and businesses are responding to COVID-19.
Business closures in response to coronavirus have left many service workers temporarily without income. Without a clear indication of when businesses will reopen, workers will have to find ways to make ends meet in the meantime. Of course, this includes paying outstanding bills.
Thankfully, banks are sympathetic to the pressure placed on their customers and are taking action. Many issuers have created COVID-19 relief pages highlighting how the bank is handling the pandemic and directing cardholders to contact the bank in the event of hardship caused by coronavirus.
Canada’s big 5 banks have made a commitment to work with personal and small business banking customers on a case-by-case basis help them through financial trouble they experience from COVID-19. This includes loss of income, childcare disruption due to school closures or facing illness from COVID-19.
Across the board, this support will include up to a 6-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products.
If you are facing financial hardship, you are encouraged to contact your bank directly to discuss options available to you. Below are the issuers that have published a response to coronavirus, what types of assistance they’re offering, and where you can go to request help.
Apple is arguably leading the charge when it comes to a coronavirus relief for cardholders. It has created a whole new program — called the Customer Assistance Program — dedicated to coronavirus response. Enrolling in the assistance program will let you skip Apple Card payment for a month without incurring interest or penalty fees. This relief is the same for everyone and is clearly explained in emails to cardholders.
Types of credit card consumer assistance
Even when it’s not a national emergency, most banks are willing to work with you during times of financial hardship so that you can continue to make your payments. Your credit card assistance options tend to involve the following:
Due date extensions
If a financial difficulty has made it impossible for you to make a specific payment on time, you can request a due date extension on your balance. This is most helpful for sudden, short-term obstacles, like an unexpected expense prior to your normal payment. For furloughed workers, this might not prove very helpful.
A hardship plan
Ongoing financial difficulties, such as illnesses or loss of income, may qualify you for a hardship plan. A hardship plan can include a variety of changes to your repayment terms, including lower fees, lower APR or a fixed payment schedule.
In some cases, your credit card issuer may offer to waive interest on your balance for a month or more. This is the route Apple has taken with its Customer Assistance Program.
A forbearance program lets you postpone all payments on your credit card for a set period of time. However, you’ll still need to pay off your balance eventually. What’s more, a forbearance will not necessarily stop your account from accruing interest during your non-payment period. This makes forbearance the least desirable solution if you can’t make your credit card payments. If you’re considering forbearance, have a look at your balance transfer card options first.
Tips for making your monthly payments
No matter the status of your repayment agreement, you’ll want to ensure you have the financial means to make your required payments each month. You can read our full guide for making timely payments, but here are a few quick tips:
Review your budget. The first step to creating a workable repayment plan is to understand how much income you make each month and how much you spend on essentials. If you didn’t have a budget in place before, create one.
Prioritize. You’ll want to move card payments to the top of your list, especially if you’re working with a hardship plan or under the terms of a balance transfer card.
Set up autopay. Don’t risk forgetting a payment. Set up your automatic card payments through your online credit card account.
Even if your credit card issuer hasn’t released an official statement on coronavirus, you should give them a call if you expect to experience financial hardship. You can also review and apply for a balance transfer card with a low intro APR to take interest out of the equation for a much longer period of time.
Steven Dashiell is a credit cards writer at Finder. He's worked on 250 Finder articles and counting, helping readers embrace and maximize credit cards. Backed by nearly a decade of research and reporting experience, Steve's work can be seen on Debt.com, CreditCards.com and Lifehacker.
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