EXPLAINER-Do I get more time to pay my credit-card bill?

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall

NEW YORK, April 8 (Reuters) - Some U.S. banks are offering assistance for credit-card borrowers, as the coronavirus crisis causes widespread unemployment. JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM) and Citigroup Inc (C), two of the biggest U.S. credit card lenders, this week said customers could have extra time to make monthly payments. Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS) extended its late payment program last week after initially launching it in March.

Here are some answers to questions that borrowers have expressed in interviews or online.

How do the credit-card forbearance programs work?

There are only a few programs that have been announced, and terms and conditions vary.

In general, they allow borrowers to delay payments for 2-3 months.

At the end of the deferral period, customers must resume making the minimum payments.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is giving customers up to three months, while Citi and Goldman Sachs (GS) have given customers two months.

Citi and Chase are also removing minimum payment requirements during that time. That means customers can pay as much as they can afford, if anything, and not face fees or other penalties, like higher interest rates. They also will not report late payments to credit-rating agencies.

Goldman does not charge late fees, and customers can avoid incurring the interest normally charged for paying a bill late by enrolling in the program. Goldman then puts a freeze on the account, which the bank says does not negatively impact a customers’ credit.

Will not paying my bill cause my interest rate to spike?

Banks that have so far announced relief programs have said they will continue to charge the annual percentage rate (APR) listed in the terms of the credit card account. At Citi and Chase, interest will continue to be added to the unpaid balance. Goldman will waive the interest customers would normally incur for paying a card late if customers enroll in the relief program.

Interest rates for other kinds of loans have declined dramatically in recent weeks, but because credit cards have no collateral and come with extra risk, banks tend to keep these rates high during times of economic stress.

How do I know if I qualify?

Any credit-card customers whose lender is Chase, Citi or Goldman are eligible. At Citi, this extends to branded cards and retail services cards, too. If you are having trouble paying your bill, it is worth calling the number on the back of any card to see if there is a relief program offered by the lender.

What do I need to show for eligibility?

Nothing. Citi, Chase and Goldman do not require any documentation to prove customers have been impacted by COVID-19. How do I apply?

Customers can apply for relief on their banks' websites. They can also call the number on the back of their credit cards, but most banks are reporting long waits.

Are there any other catches I may not be aware of?

Under current terms, Chase customers can only request relief one time per account. (Reporting By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall, Additional reporting by Imani Moise; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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