As ECQ drags, when do you really need to pay your credit card bill?

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at May 12 2020 10:26 AM | Updated as of May 12 2020 11:08 AM

When the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or R.A. 11469 was passed, I was relieved to learn I will get a 30-day grace period to pay my credit card bill. Who wants to risk exposure to COVID-19 just to keep their credit history healthy?

But now that the ECQ has been extended twice, and the end date has become a moving target, I am confused as to when do I really need to pay my bill without having to incur any penalties and interest? 

Checking the implementing rules and guidelines of R.A. 11469, it said: “The initial 30-day grace period shall automatically be extended if the ECQ period is extended…”. So are we now all entitled to a 60-day grace period? Or is it still 30-day reprieve but it starts on the date the ECQ is lifted? Say your credit card was due March 17, and the 30-day grace period lapsed with ECQ still in effect. Will your friendly credit card company grant you another fee-free 30 days?

It turns out I am not the only one scratching my head as cardholders who have been receiving their second credit card statements during ECQ are seeing fees slapped on their outstanding balance. Some credit card companies are proactive with SMS and emails communicating the adjusted dates, while others appear to be speaking a foreign language.

To help make it a little easier for you, I put on my consumer watchdog hat to translate some of the financial jargon they posted on their websites. Here are the terms and conditions of five of the leading credit card issuers in the country regarding payment extension. As of today, let’s assume ECQ will be lifted on May 16.

BDO

BDO is one of the two banks in our list that offered a 60-day payment extension to its clients soon after R.A. 11469 was passed. That’s over and above the mandated 30-day reprieve.

If your credit card due dates fall from March 16 to April 15, 2020, you can grab this offer without incurring penalty interest and additional charges. However, not all customers are eligible – BDO sent SMS and email to qualified cardholders. Note too that if you own more than one BDO card, getting extra grace days for one does not mean you will enjoy it for the other. BDO’s advisory is on a per credit card basis so make sure to check your SMS history and email inbox. If you did not make the cut, you still have the 30-day grace period so you can exhale.

But with the ECQ extension, that means by law, the grace period has also been extended right? From the update on the BDO website, your new due date is now your next due date after the ECQ. So if your due dates were March 28 and April 28, you can settle your penalty-free bill on your next due date which is likely May 28, post-ECQ.

Did you set up an automatic debit arrangement for your BDO card? No need to worry as they have suspended this too while ECQ is in effect. 

Bank of the Philippine Islands

To comply with R.A. 11469, BPI is giving its credit card (and personal loan) customers a 30-day grace period for all dues within the period of March 17 to May 15, 2020. On the extension and/or modification of the ECQ, the covered period will also be adjusted.

If you have already received two billing statements for the same credit card, and both have payment due dates falling within the covered period, does this mean you can enjoy the 30 day grace period twice?

From its website, BPI says yes, so that means you can settle the balance indicated in the latest statement without incurring late payment charges. Their sample illustration makes it easier to understand:

1ST STATEMENT: Received Feb 27 with March 17 due date (within covered period)

2ND STATEMENT: Received March 27 with April 20 due date (still within covered period)

3RD STATEMENT: Received on April 27 with May 20 due date (if ECQ is lifted May 15, then this is no longer within covered period)

WHEN TO PAY: Customer must pay on or before May 20 to avoid fees and charges

Do not worry about the charges that will appear in your statements for now, as these are system-generated. BPI in its website assured clients they will automatically clean up eligible accounts so they only pay for what they spent during the covered period. 

BPI also did one Good Samaritan act worth highlighting during this time: they gave a 90-day grace period program to qualified healthcare workers and front liners who are currently helping contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Citibank

Citibank is complying with R.A. 11469 provision on the mandatory grace period to the letter. Cardholders are given a 30-day grace period for payments falling due on their Citi credit card/s from March 16 to May 15, 2020. 

Some customers have reported seeing charges to their account, as these are system-generated. In its website, Citibank announced that customers will be notified of late fee and interest charge reversals, as applicable, once posted to their accounts.

Compared to a whole page dedicated on the payment extension in BDO’s website, and to a comprehensive question and answer in BPI’s website, there’s very little information offered on Citibank’s. To be sure of what you have to pay and when you need to do so, I suggest calling their hotline at 8995-9999 or send a message through www.citibank.com.ph. 

HSBC

HSBC is honoring the 30-day grace period for all loans due within ECQ, and claimed on its website that said accounts will not incur interest on interest, penalties, fees and other charges. The payment extension applies to all payments due on HSBC credit cards, as well as personal loan and housing loans.

This is good news especially to cardholders who paid their outstanding balance in full in their last statement prior to ECQ. They will not be charged any interest during the grace period. However, if you did not pay your total balance before ECQ, HSBC will only reverse the interest accrued on the minimum payment due, and that can hurt your wallet. Sadly, the interest on your outstanding balance will continue to accrue during the grace period.

Security Bank

The second credit card issuer to offer a 60-day grace period soon after ECQ was enforced is Security Bank.

If your original payment due date is from March 17 to April 15, 2020, you can enjoy a 60-day reprieve because they recognize that the previously extended due dates still fall within the ECQ’s updated duration.

For customers whose original payment due date is from April 16 to May 15, 2020, you can rest assured that your due dates are extended by 30 days.

To pay or not to pay

If you have the means to pay for your bill, and can do so from your phone, tablet or computer from the comfort of your home, you may want to do so. This way, you don’t end up spending the money. Remember, it’s only a grace period – you will still need to settle the bill.

It’s also one way to help your bank or credit card company in this difficult time when their resources are stretched thin. Let’s keep them in business so we can continue to enjoy the convenience of available credit when we need it.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.