Published November 05, 2012
Millions of people on the East Coast are still without power after Hurricane Sandy devastated the region, and for many the last thing on their mind is checking their bank balance. But major banks are helping those affected by waiving bank fees and extending the period of when waivers are in effect.
"[People] are just trying to get their basic needs met. It's a good thing if you can take something off their plate and give them leeway on their banking and financial issues," said Claes Bell, spokesperson for Bankrate.com.
"Banks are well advised to do something like this. It's good press and good PR and good customer relations. It also will help some of these clients, " said David Jones, president of Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.
Many people are faced with several unexpected costs and without electricity, phones, or access to the internet it can be tough to keep track of the your balance.
Bank of America said in a note to customers online "due to prolonged power outages, we recognize that calling may be difficult. Please by assured that we will automatically refund fees incurred for customers between last Monday, October 29th and next Monday, November 5th in the affected areas." The bank lists 14 states which it will provide continued support.
Citigroup is also helping out saying in a post online, "We hope you and your family are safe following Hurricane Sandy, and we want you to know we are here if you need us." Citibank will help with waived fees, which include overdraft protection, non sufficient funds, and late payment for credit products.
"It's nice to see the banks are taking some of that action to alleviate that," said Bell.
The nation's largest bank, JP Morgan Chase & Co., is trying to reopen closed branches, waiving or automatically refunding a range of fees until November 5th for customers in the Northeast region.
Major banks are also encouraging customers to donate to disaster relief organizations like the Red Cross and earn reward points or if customers donate through an ATM they will not have a fee.
Jones does caution people to get back to paying their bills as quickly as possible.
"[I] suggest consumers get back on track as soon they can because this will not last forever -- this is a short-term thing. While it's good and does give them a breathing spell they did to make every effort to get back on track."
Bell says customers should contact their bank to verify what fees are being waived and enforced.
"In times like these, if your bank isn't going to help you out in this situation it might be time to switching to a new bank," said Bell.