By DAVE CARPENTERAP Personal Finance Writer
Banks have temporarily waived a variety of fees and late charges for residents of states hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. It's an effort to ease pressure on customers to make bill payments when many remain without power.
The shelving of fees comes as banks moved Wednesday to reopen thousands of branches and ATMs that had been shut down due to storm damage, power outages or inaccessibility after the blockbuster storm.
Chase, the nation's largest bank, reopened 587 branches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, or 55 percent of its total in the Tri-State region. More than 40 percent of its 3,200 area ATMs were not yet up and running, however.
"Our employees have done simply heroic things to get more than half of our branches open today," said Ryan McInerney, CEO of Chase's consumer bank. He said the bank would go so far as to help customers charge their cellphones.
Others gave similar updates. PNC said it had reopened hundreds of branches in the Northeast, and other banks were doing the same. HSBC said it opened 101 of 189 affected branches in the New York City area, Connecticut and New Jersey.
While it could still be days before some bank branches reopen, any longer-term impact should be limited.
Customers may be inconvenienced by severe storms but generally don't need to worry about their banking information. Financial institutions tend to be well-prepared for natural disasters, according to Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate. Even local and regional banks often have data centers backed up in another part of the country, he said.
Here is a look at what some of the biggest banks are doing:
The country's biggest bank told customers by email Tuesday night that it would extend through Thursday its waiver or automatic refunds of certain fees for those living in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The bank added customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island to the list.
Eligible fees: Those for fund transfers between accounts for overdraft protection, extended overdrafts, returned items and insufficient funds fees for deposit accounts. Also, late fees on credit cards, business and consumer loans, including mortgages, home-equity, auto and student loans. For guidance, visit http://apne.ws/Sxf6uq .
BANK OF AMERICA
Customers affected by severe storms and floods in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia and the District of Columbia may qualify to receive a refund on any overdraft, insufficient funds and non-Bank of America ATM fees incurred as a result of storm conditions.
Also, customers may qualify to receive credit line increases on their existing Bank of America Visa card and MasterCard; modify or extend payments on loans, credit cards or lines of credit; receive special assistance with lost, missing or late loan or card payments; and avoid early withdrawal penalties on bank certificates of deposit (CDs). For guidance, visit http://apne.ws/Sx8MTG .
Customers in affected areas were told via email Wednesday that Citi will proactively waive fees through next Tuesday on overdraft protection, insufficient funds and late payments on credit cards and loans and early withdrawal on certificates of deposit for recovery use. For guidance, visit http://apne.ws/Sx8w7b .
PNC FINANCIAL SERVICES
The bank is waiving fees for customers in the affected areas for overdraft, non-sufficient funds, foreign ATM fees and ATM surcharges for using non-PNC ATMs. Also said it was working on additional offers to consumers in the wake of the storm. For guidance, visit http://apne.ws/T8qR7U .
Customers in storm-affected areas received an e-mail that they can seek additional support, including reversing fees that may be generated due to limited availability of banking services.
Customers can see a waiver of late fees on credit cards, consumer and certain small business loans, including home-equity, auto and student loans. Wells Fargo also said it is waiving the fee it normally charges bank customers for using another bank's ATMs in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia or the District of Columbia.
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