The banking industry is front and center during the pandemic sparked by the coronavirus. They are offering Small Business Administration loans through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), doing their part to keep businesses open and people employed. Banks hold the nation’s purse strings and are working overtime to meet customer’s needs during this difficult time.
Further, many banks are donating millions of dollars to community organizations and charities, locally, nationally and around the world.
Individual banks are coming up with ways to get individuals and businesses through the crisis. According to the American Banker Association, customers can take advantage of fee waivers, deferred payments for credit cards, loans, and mortgages.
You can also seek out loan modifications, low-rate and zero-rate loans, and other accommodations. If you want to get a sense of which banks are doing what, check out the ABA’s coronavirus response page.
How are people banking during COVID-19?
For sure people are banking online and using apps in greater numbers. While some branches may be closed, many are open, and ATMs are available. But going inside the branch makes some folks uneasy in this time of social distancing, so online banking has never looked more appealing.
In an interview with Matt Woodley, founder of CreditInformative.com shared his experience,
“I’ve been a big fan of online banking before COVID-19 and I’ve been using Capital One’s digital services to ensure I don’t need to go anywhere near a physical bank office. I have found the call times have been considerably longer than usual when I had to recently call the bank as I was struggling to get something done online. Other than that it’s been smooth sailing in terms of banking, and everything is ticking along okay.”
Much like people have had trouble getting through to file unemployment, there have been long wait times when you’re reaching out to your bank. They know it and there are apologies on many bank websites. The volume of calls is enormous, and banks may have employees out sick or otherwise not be fully staffed.
Fear is in the air and some would rather not go into a bank at all. Becky Beach, owner of MomBeach.com – a work at home resource for moms – is still ticked off with a recent banking experience.
“Last week I had to visit a bank branch because my business account was going to be closed. I opened the account online and was sent a letter that I had to visit a branch, or they would close my account. I tried to resolve the issue over the phone but was told that I had to visit a branch in person, or my account would be closed.”
What was the issue? “I was very angry about this because I’m worried because I suffer from asthma so the coronavirus could be a death sentence. I didn’t want my account to be closed, so decided to visit the branch. The whole time, I was very nervous and made sure to avoid people. I had to sit face to face with a business banker, so this made me highly agitated. I’m terrified of getting the coronavirus.”
The bank’s inflexibility will cost them a customer. “When I was at Bank of America, I never had to visit a bank branch for my business account…When the pandemic goes away, I’m going back with Bank of America…”
Are bank branches open?
The answer to the question is mostly yes, as they are deemed an essential business. But that’s not to say all banks are open. Some banks have closed some of their branches.
Be aware too, that an open branch may be conducting business a bit differently.
Find out if your bank has reduced its hours. You may not have access to the lobby, so you’ll do your transaction with a teller by way of a drive-thru window.
What about ATMs?
As usual, you have 24/7 access to ATMs, though suddenly they seem like germ magnets. People are working around it by wearing gloves. You might even find hand sanitizer if the ATM is inside the branch.
You can practice social distancing, and there’s not likely to be much of a line. Many are choosing to use the drive-thru, so they don’t have to get out of their car.
Each bank is responding to the coronavirus in its own way. The pandemic will no doubt distinguish one bank from another. For a tiny glimpse of what’s happening here’s a look at a few institutions.
According to the bank’s website, CIT is waiving fees for ATMs, overdrafts, and early withdrawals on CDs, as well as working to increase the daily ATM withdrawal limits for those needing access to funds as a result of COVID-19.
You can bank online and use your phone for transactions. Mortgage holders and small business customers hard hit by COVID-19 can reach for assistance.
CIT is dedicating $1 million in relief to New York City and L.A. County, headquarters for the company and its bank subsidiary. In addition, it will provide support for several community initiatives across the company’s footprint that aim to provide relief to those impacted by the pandemic, with approximately half of the funding supporting nonprofits assisting small businesses in California.
Novo is all about business banking. It’s not surprising then, that they are on spot with information for small business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers looking for comprehensive information about The Paycheck Protection Program. They will even assist by matching you with a PPP-lender.
Similarly, there’s information about the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL, the low-interest loan that can provide business owners up to $2 million.
Ally Bank is allowing its auto loan customers and those with mortgages to defer payments for up to 120 days without late fees, though finance charges will accrue.
If you’re a new auto loan customer, you can defer your first payment for 90 days. All fees related to expedited checks and debit cards, overdrafts, and excessive transactions on savings accounts will be waived 120 days.
Ally is dedicating $3 million in relief efforts for food/food distribution, health care, emergency housing, and childcare with emphasis on Ally’s hometown locations of Detroit and Charlotte, as well as key markets it serves. Ally is also offering to match employee’s donations to organizations supporting relief efforts, $1,000 for an individual or up to $10,000 for an employee group.
You’ll find plenty of info on Chase’s website. They’ve tweaked phone and branch hours and services. Some branches are shuttered. You can find essential details about your branch and more if you use the Chase app.
Chase touts that it is cleaning branches, ATM screens, and keypads with EPA-approved disinfectants.
Chase is also offering recommendations about how to prepare for the government stimulus payments. In addition, there is payment assistance for credit cards, car loans and leases, mortgages, and home equity lines of credit.
Chase has committed $1 million to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation.
Bank of America
In addition to banking online, Bank of America encourages using their Mobile app where you have access to their virtual assistant Erica who can help you respond to questions about coronavirus and other issues.
Small business owners can get the latest information on PPP, payment deferrals, and other valuable resources. Another cool thing BofA is doing is supporting Khan Academy’s efforts to deliver a virtual classroom experience and curriculum during school closures. These resources will help educators and families ensure that students continue to learn over the weeks and months ahead.
You’ll also find helpful links on Bank of America’s site to information to request COVID-19 assistance.
Bank of America is supporting communities around the world, some $250 million in capital to Community Development Financial Institutions and up to $10 million in philanthropic grants to help fund CDFI operations, with emphasis on small businesses, schools, and health care centers.
Investors’ 150+ branches are open.
“Clients are using ATMs (bank has increased amount of cash in ATMs and are allowing larger withdrawals), drive-thru windows and making appointments for in-branch visits, if they are needed,” says spokesperson Bob Rinklin.
The bank has started relief programs, including deferring mortgage payments 90-days for those experiencing financial hardships, waiving fees for using a peer bank’s ATM, liquidating CDs before the time frame is completed, and increasing courtesy waivers for such charges as monthly maintenance and overdrafts.
The Bank is participating in the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP). They are also encouraging clients to use their mobile app to deposit checks, pay bills, and for transfers and account balances. Homebuyers may complete residential mortgage applications online.
Check out Wells Fargo’s website for the latest on what it’s doing. They’re suspending residential property foreclosure sales, evictions, and involuntary automobile repossessions. Depending on the circumstances they’re offering fee waivers, payment deferrals, and other expanded assistance for credit card, auto, mortgage, small business, and personal lending customers.
As always, you can bank online and via your cell phone. Like other banks, they have reduced access to lobbies, branches and some locations are closed.
The Wells Fargo Foundation is donating $175 million to help out with relief efforts locally in cities where they operate as well as through national and international organizations.
There may be some inconvenience if you’re trying to connect with your bank via telephone. The way to go is online and to take advantage of your bank’s mobile app.
You might have a branch close or it may be opener fewer hours, but overall there’s no need to worry about accessing your money. Your bank has your back.