To Prepare for a Disaster, Call Your Bank

It’s hard enough to deal with the worst-case scenario Mother Nature can throw at you, whether it’s a hurricane, flood, or wildfire. But listen, when you’re done filling sandbags or packing for evacuation, make sure all your bills are paid on time, okay?

Whether you’re on a budget or struggling to keep track of your finances, having to deal with an emergency that is completely outside your control can really interfere with day to day tasks like managing your money.

Banks and credit card issuers are aware of this. This is why you may receive a notification similar to the email that some Apple Card users have received. MacRumors posted an email from Apple Card offering a disaster relief program to Houston residents affected by floods following Tropical Storm Imelda.

The program offered customers the option to skip a payment without reporting a late payment and reduced their interest rate to zero for two months. Users were advised to contact Apple Card Support to sign up.

Be careful with such an offer as natural disaster fraud is all too common. But financial institutions often proactively offer their clients in the affected geographic region some sort of grace period. The emergency services they can offer range from canceling late fees or resolving missed payments to options such as expedited card replacement or emergency credit line increases, according to Matt Schultz, chief industry analyst at .

“There is definitely some PR in this,” Schultz said. “But making customers happy is also good business.” He explained that measures such as canceling fees or extending payments for one geographic region have little impact on the bank’s bottom line. In turn, the client will be satisfied with the bank and can stay in it longer.

Don’t wait for your bank to offer help

If your bank doesn’t go first and you expect an uncomfortable, unavoidable natural situation to come, Schultz recommends calling your bank as soon as possible. Even if your payment history is flawed, it’s still worth calling to inquire about the grace period that may apply to you. Calling after a natural disaster may not even be possible if, as a result, telephone or Internet access is temporarily disconnected.

“Whether it’s a disaster or negotiating rates or fees, even in good times, you generally have more power over your credit card issuer than you think,” Schultz said. Banks and credit cards are so competitive right now that the chances are high that the institution you are managing your money with is likely to take action to make you a happy customer.

And no matter if you live in a disaster prone area, it is always helpful to have an emergency plan for your finances. Making copies of cards and documents – and keeping them safe and sound – can greatly simplify the recovery process. “It can save you a real headache if you think about it beforehand and not after the disaster,” Schultz said.


Leave a Reply