It’s tough enough having to deal with the worst-case scenario Mother Nature can throw at you, whether it’s a hurricane, flood, or wildfire. But hey, when you’re done filling sandbags or packing up to evacuate, make sure all your bills are paid on time, OK?
Whether you’re a budget stickler or struggle to keep track of your finances, having to deal with an emergency that’s completely outside of your control can really throw a wrench in completing everyday tasks like managing your money.
Banks and credit card issuers know this. In fact, financial institutions often proactively offer their customers in an affected geographic region some sort of grace period. The emergency services they can offer range from waiving late fees or allowing missed payments, to options like expedited card replacement or emergency credit line increases, said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards.com.
“There’s definitely a certain amount of PR to it,” Schulz said. “But it’s also good business to keep your customers happy.” He explained that accommodations like waiving fees or payment extensions for one geographic region doesn’t have a huge impact on a bank’s bottom line. In turn, a customer will be happy with the bank, and might stick around longer.
Don’t wait for your bank to offer assistance
If your bank doesn’t reach out first and you expect there’s an inconvenient, unavoidable natural situation headed your way, Schulz recommends calling your bank as soon as possible. Even if your payment history isn’t spotless, it’s still worth making the call to ask about a grace period that might apply to you. Calling after a disaster strikes may not even be possible, if the event knocks out phone or internet service for a while.
“Whether it’s a disaster or whether you’re negotiating rates or fees, even in good times, generally you have more power over your credit card issuer than you realise you do,” Schulz said. Banks and credit cards are so competitive right now that the odds are an institution you manage your money with is likely to make accommodations to keep you a happy customer.
And regardless of whether you live in a disaster-prone area, it’s always a good idea to have an emergency plan in place for your finances. Making copies of cards and documents — and keeping them safe and dry – can make the recovery process go a lot smoother. “It can save you some real headaches if you think about it in advance rather than after a disaster,” Schulz said.