When disaster strikes, it's usually Main Street that helps out Wall Street, not the other way around. In a heartwarming turn of events, however, most big banks are pledging to waive fees, at least temporarily, for customers who reside in those areas hit hard by Sandy.
Most banks, you say? So, you ask, which bank is the holdout? None other than Bank of America (NYSE:BAC).
Limited help for Sandy's victims
Not that B of A isn't offering any waivers at all. If customers can get to a branch location or call a dedicated 800 number, they may be able to get some fees waived, according to the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, a notice on the bank's Facebook page acknowledges that Sandy's victims might need extra help, and that B of A has more information for those calling the special phone line. They also provide a link for customers to find out whether local branches are open or closed.
Of course, for those who have no electricity, phone, or Internet -- or cannot get around because of storm damage -- these requirements make assistance impossible.
Most banks offer help with fewer restrictions
Other big banks are saying that fees and penalties will be waived, albeit for just a few days. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) will waive some fees through Nov. 1, such as checking account overdraws, as well as late credit card and loan payments until Nov. 2. Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) is forgiving fees in a similar fashion until Nov. 1, while Toronto-Dominion Bank (NYSE:TD) will allow customers to cash in CDs without incurring the usual penalties, in addition to other special waivers.
Citibank (NYSE:C) is being the most generous, letting penalties and fees slide for late payments and overdrafts until Nov. 5. In addition, customers won't be charged for using out-of-network ATM machines.
What's with Bank of America and fees?
To those who remember the debacle last year when Bank of America attempted to levy a new $5 per month debit card fee -- which they had to retract due to customer outrage -- this new gambit may not be much of a surprise. Public relations not being B of A's strong point, the Journal quotes a bank spokesman as noting that, "...unless we speak to the customer directly, we will not know what their specific situation is." Hmmm.
To be fair, that same representative also stated that there are no timelines on B of A's waivers, unlike other banks. But it does seem like getting that waiver in the first place would take a herculean effort on the part of storm victims. Bank of America isn't the only tough guy. Capital One (NYSE: COF) seems to be just as sympathetic to customers walloped by Sandy, saying that customers having trouble with their accounts may contact the company, via phone or Internet. Some fees may be waived, and the company offers payment plans.
But don't think B of A is totally heartless. The bank has apparently notified customers that it is ready to extend credit lines for those who need money for storm-related repairs. Of course, customers will still need to make that call or visit to be eligible. Now, that's what I call a warm and fuzzy moment.
Fool contributor Amanda Alix has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.