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How Consumers Can Avoid Hurricane Banking Fees

Avoid Hurricane Banking Fes

When a storm such as Hurricane Sandy – dubbed the Frankenstorm due to its massive size, anticipated destruction, and proximity to Halloween – is bearing down on your home, there are countless preparations to be made.  For example, you’ll have to brave the crowds at local convenience stores in search of batteries, flashlights, water, non-perishable foods, and toilet paper.  You’ll probably also want to board up doors and windows, put sandbags around your home, move vehicles to higher ground, and trim branches off trees looming precariously overhead.

However, amidst all of the frenzied logistics and news monitoring that comes with the territory of battening down the hatches in the lead up to a natural disaster that is expected to cause billions of dollars in damage and widespread power outages, mundane everyday tasks such as paying your credit card bill and transferring enough money to your checking account can easily fall by the wayside.  The thing is, such tasks are still important given that a failure to take care of them could cost you money, and they’ll be tough to accomplish without Internet access or the ability to get to an open bank branch.

So, what are we to do in such a situation, especially when the window to prepare for the storm has already passed?

Well, a number of major banks have made this largely a moot point, at least as far as Hurricane Sandy is concerned, by announcing policy changes that give customers in the storm’s path a break when it comes to certain fees.  So, if you do your banking with any of the following institutions, you’ve got nothing to worry about:

  • Chase:  Is temporarily waiving deposit accounts fees for overdraft protection transfers, extended overdrafts, returned items, and insufficient funds as well as late fees for credit cards and loans for customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire,  New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware,  Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC.,  Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.  Customers have until the close of business on Monday Nov. 5 to get their accounts up to date without incurring a fee.  Chase is also waiving all mortgage-related fees through Nov. 5 and is offering 90 days of mortgage forbearance payments to affected customers.  Furthermore, Chase would like customers to know that:
    •  Over 2,200 Chase ATMs and more than 70% of its branches are up and running in the NY Tri-State area, and customers who are still without mail service can review their accounts and/or deposit checks by visiting Chase’s website or using a mobile banking application.
    • Customers are advised to contact customer support and inquire about other problematic fees, as Chase says it will generally waive charges for things like early withdrawals from Certificates of Deposit (CDs) in order to help customers improve their cash flow during an emergency.
    • Chase has pledged up to $5 million in donations to aid in the recovery from Hurricane Sandy and plans to offer up to $5 billion in loans with favorable terms to help small businesses rebuild.
  • Citi:  In addition to waiving fees for overdraft protection, insufficient funds, the wiring of funds to affected Citi customers, early Certificate of Deposit withdrawals, and late credit card payments for customers from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, Citi has increased the daily limit for mobile check deposits to $5,000 and says it will waive out-of-network ATM fees for affected customers who alert the bank of their need to use such an ATM.  These changes will be in effect through at least Nov. 5 (Nov. 7 for those in NY and NJ).  Citi would also like customers to know that:
    • Service has been restored to more than 80% of the bank’s ATMs and branches.
    • Payment options and fee support are available to affected CitiMortgage customers.  For example, Citi will be conducting free re-inspections of damaged properties for mortgage applicants where necessary, and homes without damage will be expedited through closing.  Citi representatives will also be available to provide guidance on handling insurance loss claims.
    • You can donate ThankYou Points to disaster relief efforts.
  • Bank of America:  According to a press release issued Tuesday Oct. 30, Bank of America will donate $1 million to disaster relief efforts as well as make the following accommodations available to customers in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia:  credit card spending limit increases, modified payment plans for credit and loan accounts, refunds for overdraft, non-sufficient funds, and out-of-network ATM fees, and waivers for early withdrawal fees on Certificates of Deposit.
  • Wells Fargo:  For customers in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, Wells Fargo has waived out-out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees as well as late fees for credit cards, consumer loans, and certain small business loans from Monday Oct. 29 through Thursday Nov. 1.  Customers with home loans are advised to call customer support to discuss payment options and procedures for handing property insurance claims.
  • Capital One:  Has reached out to its customers in Hurricane Sandy’s path, urging them to contact customer support regarding any account issues they may be having.  In addition, Capital One has announced that it will match up to $200,000 in donations that customers make to the American Red Cross and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) via the Capital One No Hassle Giving site through Nov. 9.

We will be updating this list throughout the day as we receive information from other major banking institutions.  In addition, please feel free to tell us about the accommodations that your bank is making in the comments section below.

Even if you do not see your bank on this list, it’s important to note that there are a number of ways that you can stormproof your personal finances, so to speak.  While they might not all still be relevant to Hurricane Sandy, they’ll certainly prove helpful in anticipation of future natural disasters.

  • Have cash:  It’s important to retain some purchasing power in the event that businesses lose electricity and are unable to process plastic transactions.  If you have not already done so, you’ll likely want to forget about ATM owner fees if the nearest in-network ATM location will be difficult and/or dangerous to get to in the inclement conditions.  The chances are that your bank will waive the charge when you explain that you only incurred it because of the weather conditions.
  • Set up automatic payments:  In order to avoid penalty fees as a result of forgetting or being unable to make a payment during a natural disaster, it’s a good idea to set up automatic payments from a bank account and always ensure that you have sufficient funds in the account to cover all of your monthly financial obligations.
  • Keep your phone charged:  If you anticipate losing power, it’s a good idea to make sure that your phone is always fully charged.  That way, if you forget to pay a bill or transfer money to a certain account, you can either call your bank or make transactions via a mobile account management application.
  • Call your bank about any costs incurred:  If you do end up getting charged a fee or incurring finance charges as a result of a storm, make sure to bring this to your bank’s attention.  Banks are generally more lenient about such things when there are extenuating circumstances than during normal banking conditions, and there’s a good chance they will waive the charges.

Image: Ismagilov/Shutterstock

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