Credit cards offering coronavirus relief with fee waivers, payment flexibility

110M Americans entered coronavirus outbreak with credit card debt: Survey

Creditcards.com Industry Analyst Ted Rossman discusses how credit card companies are helping cardholders during the coronavirus pandemic.

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As the coronavirus outbreak reached the U.S., 110 million people had underlying credit card debt, according to a new to a CreditCards.com poll.

With the uncertainty surrounding the virus and the economic hardships it's caused for many Americans, some credit card issuers are offering relief to cardholders — including those in debt.

“Banks are being remarkably generous when it comes to cardholders who are struggling,” CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Monday. “They'll give you a break if they know about it.”

PRE-CORONAVIRUS CREDIT CARD DEBT CARRIED OVER FOR 110M AMERICANS

For example, American Express tailors credit relief to individuals, which could include flexibility in paying bills. And under its financial hardship program, customers can potentially have reduced monthly payments and temporary relief from late payment fees, according to CreditCards.com. Citibank credit relief includes increased credit lines and forbearance from collections.

An American Express card in New Orleans. Aug. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

Among the best programs, Rossman said Apple Card has waived March payments without charging interest, which is “really important” on a case-by-case basis.

Most banks are also offering a direct line of contact for assistance. Rossman urged cardholders to “speak up” and contact their banks to advocate for relief.

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“Ask for a break,” he said. “See if they can waive that next payment, ideally without charging interest. Maybe they can also waive other fees.”

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Rossman said just about all other banks are willing to rearrange due dates and waive payments, but most are still charging interest.

Cardholders should be wary of their credit score while relief packages and hardship programs are in effect, he said, and should double-check with their banks that joining these programs will not damage credit.

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“They are willing to work with you in times of stress,” he said. “The thing is, though, we just don't know how long this is going to go on. So whatever you do, be practical here."

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Kellyanne Conway Gets Hit With Unexpected Fact-Check Live On Fox News

Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday slammed New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s slow response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in his city while defending President Donald Trump. 

But her attacks on de Blasio didn’t quite go as expected when Fox News host Martha MacCallum noted Trump himself followed a similar timeline. 

Conway, who is counselor to the president, went after de Blasio by noting his statements earlier this month urging New Yorkers to go out despite the pandemic threat, including this March 2 tweet: 

New York is now the nation’s epicenter of the crisis, with nearly half of all the confirmed cases in the country.

“I think that’s absolutely true,” MacCallum said, adding that de Blasio wasn’t giving his citizens a “positive message” on how he’d lead the city through the crisis. But then MacCallum noted Trump made similar pronouncements at around the same time: 

“But in terms of the things that you’re mentioning, you could probably match up some of those early March statements from him with also similarly optimistic statements from President Trump, although they’ve handled it very differently since then.”

Conway insisted there’s “no comparison” and said the administration had been working behind the scenes on the situation since Jan. 12.  

However, Trump has also publicly downplayed the threat, especially in February and early March.

On Feb. 26, he said the country had 15 cases and predicted that “within a couple of days it’s going to be down to close to zero.”

And on March 9, he complained on Twitter that the flu kills more Americans but “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.”

See Conway’s interview with MacCallum below:

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Labor secretary warns coronavirus pandemic to cause unemployment spike: 'It's going to be a large number'

US labor secretary: Want to keep employees attached to employers

Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia discusses how large-scale unemployment is to be handled amid the coronavirus.

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia acknowledged on Monday the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced American life to come to a near standstill, threatening to plunge the economy into a recession that could rival the 2008 financial crisis, will cause a significant spike in unemployment.

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Although Scalia declined to provide specific numbers — or comment on speculation from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard that unemployment could surge to 30 percent in the second quarter — he stressed that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is "going to go up."

CORONAVIRUS LAYOFFS SKYROCKET, CATCHING NEARLY HALF OF STATE UNEMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS UNPREPARED

"We know it’s going to be a large number," he told FOX Business' Stuart Varney.

Still, Scalia noted that the U.S. economy was coming into the headwinds on a "very strong" foundation. In February, employers added 273,000 jobs, while unemployment returned to 3.5 percent, a half-century low.

"Let's keep in mind that we are coming into this from a strong foundation, with a president who’s shown an ability to help the private sector grow jobs," Scalia said.

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Jobless claims in the U.S. are already climbing — last Thursday, the Labor Department said the number of Americans filing applications for jobless benefits jumped to 281,000 for the week ending March 14, the highest level since June 2017 — and are expected to surge in coming weeks.

A recent Goldman Sachs analyst note estimated that filings for U.S. unemployment benefits likely skyrocketed to a record 2.25 million last week as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses across the country to shut down. The previous record of 695,000 was set in 1982.

One concern as unemployment rises is states' inability to handle the influx of requests. Despite the historically long, 11-year economic expansion, 22 states' unemployment trust funds are unprepared to pay out enough in unemployment benefits in the case of a recession, according to Labor Department data.

But Scalia said the federal government was coordinating with the unemployment offices to ensure they're able to make insurance available to Americans.

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"We are working with them on a constant basis to make the funds available," he said.

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COVID-19 Mar.10: Containment Zone, No Gatherings, Crisis Not To End This Year?

Here are the latest updates of the COVID-19 outbreak as of Tuesday, March 10, 2020.

British MP Nadine Dorries, a junior minister in the health department, has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first British politician to be diagnosed with this illness.

In the UK, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is 382 and the number of deaths is 6, as per the latest reports.

Globally, 117,709 people have been infected and 4,288 people have died of the novel coronavirus so far.

China, which accounts for 80,924 cases and 3,140 deaths, is seeing a steady drop in the number of new infections.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, on Tuesday, for the first time since the start of the epidemic. Wuhan city and the surrounding province of Hubei continue to be under lockdown since January 23.

According to Professor Yuen Kwok-Yung, a top infectious disease expert from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), the coronavirus epidemic might not end this year.

Hong Kong has reported 120 cases of COVID-19 and 3 deaths.

In the U.S., the number of coronavirus infections has crossed 1,000 and the death toll has risen to 30, as on March 10.

California’s Santa Clara County has banned gatherings of over 1,000 people for three weeks beginning on Wednesday to contain the spread of the virus. Three people have died in California – 1 each in Sacramento County, Placer County, and Santa Clara County.

In New Rochelle, a city in Westchester County, which accounts for a majority of the coronavirus cases in New York, a one-mile “containment zone” has been created around the Young Israel synagogue. All schools and facilities that host large gatherings like community centers and houses of worship that fall under the containment zone will be closed from March 12 through March 25.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the FDA has postponed inspections of foreign-produced FDA-regulated products or manufacturers through April.

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EU’s Breton Urges Banks to Lend to Businesses Amid Outbreak

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The European Union is urging banks to lend to businesses as the coronavirus outbreak is bound to hit the continent’s economy.

“Banks will have to lend what’s required during this period, with perhaps restrictions a bit less stringent, including their own ratios,” so that small- and medium-sized enterprises in the EU can stay afloat, Thierry Breton, internal market commissioner for the bloc, said during a radio interview on France Inter on Sunday.

Although it’s “too early” to assess the virus’s economic impact, Breton said SMEs face cash-flow problems. “My immediate concern is making sure that SMEs can overcome” this situation, he said, citing the hit to the tourism industry in Europe, which has been losing 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) a month in revenue due to the drop in Chinese visitors over the past two months.

Breton also said that the European Central Bank has little room for maneuver regarding its capacity to lower interest rates compared with the U.S. Federal Reserve.

He reiterated that Italy’s extraordinary 7.5 billion-euro stimulus measures to cushion the impact of the outbreak won’t be factored in when the EU assesses the country’s compliance with its fiscal rules.

Italy unveiled drastic measures earlier on Sunday to restrict the spread of the deadly virus, which has struck more than 5,800 people so far and claimed the lives of 233. Europe’s fourth-biggest economy is dramatically restricting movement and activity for a quarter of its population in the economic powerhouse that is the region around Milan.

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Trichet Says Coordinated Rate Cut Would Have Risked Panic Effect

A coordinated interest-rate cut this week could have induced panic and wasn’t warranted, former European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said.

The Frenchman, who led the euro-zone institution during the 2008 financial crisis and participated in joint easing with the U.S. Federal Reserve after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, suggested in a Bloomberg Television interview that you can’t really compare that episode with the coronavirus outbreak.

“I have experienced myself coordinated action,” he told Tom Keene and Guy Johnson on Thursday. “At the time, the drama was unfolding in a much worse manner, if I may. The idea that we had an absolute necessity to coordinate action at the level of the major central banks was something very natural.”

The Federal Reserve cut its interest rate by half a percentage point on Tuesday, acting alone after Group of Seven officials agreed on a joint statement that stopped short of promising coordinated action. Joint monetary stimulus would have been an overreaction, Trichet said.

“I am not sure it was really more appropriate,” he said. “It could have also had an impact of panicking, if I may, or giving the message of too much of a panic.”

The ECB meets next Thursday, and markets are pricing in a 10 basis-point cut that would bring borrowing costs deeper below zero. President Christine Lagarde has said the institution is ready to take appropriate and targeted measures.

Trichet said what looked initially like a supply shock that could lead to a V-shaped recovery is now being accompanied by a hit to demand as well. That’s why fiscal authorities should step in more resolutely, he said.

In the euro area, making sure liquidity is available to all is more important that the price of interest rates, Trichet said, adding he had no recommendations for what the ECB should do.

“The Governing Council has taken extremely wise decisions since the crisis so I have full confidence they will do what is appropriate in the case,” Trichet said. “But it’s clear that the availability of credit will be something essential all over the euro area, whatever the level of interest rates.”

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Britain’s economy dangerously exposed as coronavirus fear grips global markets

A sense of panic was palpable in all corners of the international financial system on Friday as coronavirus cases spread relentlessly across Europe, the Americas and reached sub-Saharan Africa for the first time.

Determined efforts of the Chinese authorities to contain the outbreak failed to settle frayed nerves after the World Health Organization, reacting to the news that four continents had at least six affected countries, raised its impact risk alert from “high” to “very high”.

Oil prices slumped to below $50 a barrel for the first time since the summer of 2017 and stock markets saw a week’s worth of frenzied trading translate into a $5 trillion loss – equal to an 11% fall in the value of all listed companies.

This massive sell-off, the worst since the 2008 financial crash, triggered a rush to buy assets considered safe havens in times of stress – including government bonds and gold. The interest rate on US treasury bonds, considered the safest of such havens, dropped to the lowest level on record.

The extent of the panic and the potential for widespread global economic damage brought a response from central bankers, led by Bank of England governor Mark Carney and Jerome Powell, chair of the US Federal Reserve, who took the unusual step of issuing a statement to reassure Americans.

Carney said it was clear that global economic growth this year “would be lower than it otherwise would be, and that has a knock-on effect on the UK”. He hinted that an interest-rate cut could be the bank’s next move to shore up business and consumer confidence, because “if the world is slower than the UK, a very open economy, it will have an impact”. But he insisted the UK economy remained in good health for the time being.

Within hours of Carney’s comments, Powell said: “We will use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.”

City analysts, struggling to cope with the implications on their economic forecasts, were unable to give a sense of how individual economies could be affected or where stock markets might settle.

There were several strands to their thinking. What if China and Japan’s factories were forced to close, in China’s case for a second time, limiting the supply of vital industrial components to the rest of the world? Japan has already shut its schools and may need to order the closure of business parks and factories to prevent the virus’s spread.

Without the parts that Japan and China produce by the shipload, there will be little to supply Germany’s factories, and the rest of Europe’s for that matter, when they are already struggling after 18 months of a tit-for-tat trade war between the US and China. Analysts worry that a supply shock will hit manufacturing businesses hard. Worse could befall service companies if the fresh cases in the US and Europe that have no known source become a source of dread among consumers.

The clampdown by the Swiss on commercial gatherings of more than 1,000 people, which forced the cancellation of the Geneva motor show, could become a more widely used measure to contain the virus.

If consumers shun shopping malls and high streets for fear of getting the virus, economies could be pushed into recession. In sub-Saharan Africa, where there is already concern about high government and corporate borrowing levels, a virus outbreak and economic downturn could be the tipping point into unsustainable debt for several countries.

The economic consultancy Oxford Economics said the UK, while on the periphery of the virus outbreak so far, was always going to suffer from the negative impact on tourism and disruption to imports from east Asia. But the slump in share prices had opened up “a new channel through which the coronavirus outbreak could weigh on the UK economy”.

It said: “Stock market losses have already exceeded those that we modelled in our ‘global pandemic’ scenario, in which high infection rates spread globally and the combination of disruption to activity and tighter financial conditions cause world GDP growth to slow to near-zero in the first quarter of 2020.”

There could be a quick bounce back if the virus is seen to be contained, but with dire manufacturing data already out this weekend from China, markets probably have further to fall before they finally turn.

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Amazon worrying about coronavirus impact on Prime Day

Goldman Sachs warns coronavirus market correction could come soon

Former undersecretary of state for economic growth Bob Hormats talks about all three major indices only seeing small pullbacks from coronavirus fears.

Amazon is working to avoid potential disruptions in its supply chain from coronavirus, stockpiling Chinese-made products while privately worrying about how the deadly outbreak could impact its blowout midsummer Prime Day sale.

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The world’s biggest online retailer has responded to the crisis by making larger and more frequent orders of goods made in China, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, some of its suppliers have reduced advertising and promotions on the site so they don’t run out of products too quickly.

Amazon, whose massive e-commerce business relies on the flow of goods between the U.S. and China, also sent an urgent email to brands indicating that it has started to worry about having enough inventory for Prime Day, the monster sales event that celebrates Amazon’s 20th anniversary. The Times reported that Amazon contacted some of its third-party merchants, whose products account for 60 percent of its sales, could be affected by the rapidly spreading disease.

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“Hello!” read one recent email from Amazon to a seller, which the Times reviewed. “We have identified that part of your supply chain process might be China dependent and in light of the coronavirus outbreak affecting manufacturing and logistics in China, we are reaching out to you to understand its impact on your business operations.”

China, the world’s second-largest economy, has responded to the outbreak by all but halting its production of consumer goods like phones, clothing and automobiles; instituting mass quarantines in some cities and placing severe restrictions on an estimated 780 million people, the Verge reported. Multiple companies and countries are limiting travel to and from mainland China, evacuating citizens and scaling back operations.

The virus has killed 2,236 people, with more than 75,000 cases reported worldwide, mostly in China.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
AMZN AMAZON.COM INC. 2,115.08 -38.02 -1.77%
AAPL APPLE INC. 316.76 -3.54 -1.10%

Amazon is not the only American company warning about potential fallout from the virus: Earlier this week, Apple said it will likely fall short of its revenue guidance in the second quarter and that worldwide iPhone supply will be “temporarily constrained.”

“Work is starting to resume around the country, but we are experiencing a slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated,” Apple said in a news release. “As a result, we do not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided for the March quarter due to two main factors.”

Amazon appears to share similar concerns: One supplier said it takes about four months to make his product — western wear — and that around this time of year, he generally has products already in process for Prime Day. But this year, he said, the factory in China that produced his cowboy hats were closed, and he’s unsure when they’ll reopen.

“Amazon is trying to establish an inventory risk for your business moving forward and specifically for Prime Day,” Amazon wrote in an email to a different supplier, which the Times reviewed. “We appreciate your feedback by TODAY.”

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The dates for Prime Day 2020 have not yet been announced, but based on previous years, it will likely take place in mid-July. Last year, Jeff Bezos’ e-commerce behemoth said Prime Day was the largest shopping event in Amazon history, with sales surpassing those of Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined.

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