As the coronavirus continues to spread across the UK, more and more people are self-isolating due to existing symptoms or are awaiting news from their employers regarding taking unpaid leave or living off statutory sick pay (SSP) while they remain in isolation.
Understandably, this is leaving a lot of the public in a state of panic and worry as they fear COVID-19 will have an impact on their finances, meaning they may be unable to pay off loans and keep up-to-date with mortgage payments, etc.
Thankfully, banks and lenders are taking charge, enforcing emergency measures to help coronavirus sufferers who are currently taking a financial hit.
Coronavirus help: Interest rate cuts and ‘payment holidays’
Last week, the Bank of England (BoE) lowered its base interest rate from 0.75% to 0.25% to support the UK’s economy, with one aim being to make tracker mortgages (variable rate mortgages) cheaper, alleviating the financial strain placed on families and homeowners - there are currently around 2.2 million homeowners in the UK with variable rate mortgages.
Many banks and lenders are also offering extra support to those currently affected with coronavirus, such as payment holidays on loans, mortgages and credit cards, as well as increased overdrafts and other support options.
What is a payment holiday?
Offered by certain banks, lenders and mortgage companies, a payment holiday is usually put in place to allow people to miss monthly payments and defer their payment terms – mainly for those who need short-term relief on their outgoings. This is agreed in advance and will only occur if you have been informed about it – check this feature with your specific provider, as it will only apply to certain people.
What lenders and banks are offering support to COVID-19 sufferers?
Lenders, banks, building societies and credit card providers are currently putting support systems in place to help those who have been affected, such as ‘mortgage holidays’ on mortgage payments and ‘payment holidays’ on other things like loans.
The lenders and banks currently offering support to sufferers are:
- Banks under the Lloyds Banking Group – Lloyds Bank (0345 602 1997), Halifax (0345 270 3040), Bank of Scotland (0345 721 3141) and MBNA (0345 606 2062)
- Banks under the RBS Group – Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) (0345 724 2424) and Natwest (03457 888 444)
- TSB (0345 975 8758)
- Barclays (0345 734 5345)
- Santander (0800 9 123 123)
- Virgin Money (0800 028 6692), Clydesdale Bank (0800 345 7365) and Yorkshire Bank (0800 456 1247)
- First Direct (03456 100 188)
- Metro Bank (0345 08 08 500)
- Co-operative Bank (03457 212 212)
- Post Office (0345 722 3344)
Each bank and lender will offer emergency relief to customers on a case-by-case basis and the amount of support offered may differ, but generally, the above-mentioned providers are offering the following services to help those affected by coronavirus:
- No fees for missing payments on mortgages, credit cards or loans
- Payment holidays for mortgages, credit cards and loans (RBS Group are offering repayment deferrals for up to three months, while some may let you request a 2-month payment holiday)
- Opportunities to extend mortgage payment terms or even switch rates
- The option to apply for an emergency temporary increase on credit and overdraft limits
- Access to fixed-term savings accounts, ISA products and bonds early without exit fees
- Higher deposit limits in online banking (cheque scanning) for those who can’t get to their local branch
- Customers are able to request a higher withdrawal limit (debit card)
- Debt restructuring and advice
- Additional support as and when customers need it
It is highly advised that customers get in touch with their bank if they are worried about missing payments so that they can offer specific support depending on the individual case.
What’s been said?
Barclays bank is encouraging customers to speak to their specialist teams who can help them, while a spokesperson from the RBS Group has stated: “We understand that there may be circumstances where a personal customer may fall into financial difficulty as a result of the impacts of Coronavirus, for instance, loss of income.
We will look to understand each customer’s situation on a case-by-case basis and can offer a number of options to help them manage their finances.
We would encourage any customer experiencing financial difficulty to get in touch with us.”
Each bank will address issues on a case-by-case basis, so if you are worried, or someone you know is worried about facing financial difficulty, please contact your bank as soon as possible. The sooner you speak to them, the quicker you can receive help.
Keep an eye out for fraudsters
Sadly, many fraudsters are taking advantage of the Coronavirus outbreak - seeing it as the perfect opportunity to scam the public, particularly vulnerable individuals.
People in the UK may receive scam phone calls, texts and emails offering things like:
- Medical products
- A ‘safe haven’ for money
It is highly important to remember that your bank will never ask you to move your money to a ‘more secure account’. Be extra vigilant and ignore any of the above if you receive them – it is always best to call your bank yourself so that you know you’re getting the correct information and are not being misled or mis-sold anything.
Be sure to check out the fraud and security pages on your bank’s website for more information on this, and check to see if they have any updates regarding coronavirus and your finances.