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Consumer Confidential: Banks say cardholders can get help during the pandemic. But it may not be easy

By David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Like many people in these strange and unwelcome times, Brienna Prowler has been making ends meet by running up hefty balances on her credit cards.

Specifically, she's carrying a combined $15,000 in family medical bills on her Chase and Barclays cards - bills she can't pay down since losing her gig as a bartender because of the pandemic.

Prowler, 36, says she's never missed a payment. She has a good credit score (over 700). However, both her cards have annual interest rates topping 23%.

"I asked Chase and Barclays if they would lower my rate, at least for a while," the Simi Valley, Calif., resident told me. "They both said there was nothing they could do."

The frustration was plain in her voice.

"At the rate they're charging me, it's difficult to make a dent in what I owe," Prowler said. "I'm not asking to forgive or defer my balances. Just give me an interest rate that doesn't border on usury."

 

I imagine more than a few readers are thinking, "You go, girl!"

Prowler's experience notwithstanding, most banks have announced programs to assist cardholders in distress.

"Banks of all sizes are working with their customers to help them weather the economic downturn from the pandemic," said Jeff Sigmund, a spokesman for the American Bankers Association.

"While accommodations vary by institution and depend on a customer's individual circumstances, banks across the country continue to offer a range of assistance to those affected by the pandemic," he told me.

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