Many bank customers are still struggling financially after three months of economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Many bank customers are still struggling financially after three months of economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

If you've taken a payment break offered by your bank or restructured some of your bank debts and honoured the terms of the deal, you may qualify for more relief.

Capitec announced this week that
customers who have made use of the three-month payment break could be refunded all of the interest that accrued to their loans, and First National Bank said last week it will grant a three-month extension of payment breaks to consumers who are still in financial difficulty due to the pandemic.

Capitec's interest refund is available to all customers who opted to take the payment break or rescheduling relief plan between March 27 and June 30, according to a media release.

While payment breaks offer temporary financial relief for a set period, loans still incur interest, which increases the total cost of credit.

Gerrie Fourie, CEO of Capitec, says those who took payment breaks constitute only about 20% of its customers who have credit and the bank will waive the interest accumulated during the first three months of the relief period, provided you are in good standing and continue to make loan repayments.

"To qualify for the interest reduction, clients will need to honour their loan instalments after the relief period," Fourie says.

"After six months of successful loan repayments, a refund equal to 50% of the interest on the loan during the three months will be paid into the client's loan account. After a further six months of successful repayments, another 50% of the interest charged during the first three months will be refunded."

Fourie says the interest refund will help clients recover faster and encourage good financial behaviour, rewarding those who meet their loan repayments, which in turn keeps their credit records in good standing.

FNB says it is offering qualifying customers with existing Covid-19 cash-flow relief plans an opportunity to extend the payment breaks by up to three months.

Qualifying customers, who are in selected industries and can demonstrate "material income impact as a result of Covid-19", will enjoy a six-month payment break on their repayments through a separate credit agreement.

With FNB's cash-flow relief plan, the bank pays your instalments on your behalf instead of restructuring your debt by extending the term of your credit agreement.

You pay the bank back via a separate credit agreement that you start repaying, at prime and over 60 months, after your payment break expires. FNB says this is less costly than extending the term of the original loan, although the separate agreement may have a higher interest rate and commit you to an additional repayment.

FNB also offers a three-month payment break with an extended repayment term, whereby no separate agreement is required and the original interest rate on the credit agreement applies.

Interest and fees are not suspended during the payment break.

Anton de Wet, Nedbank's chief client officer of retail and business banking, says clients who want to renew repayment arrangements and those who want to opt in for the first time are encouraged to contact the bank.

"As the initial payment holidays were granted for a specified period, with that coming to a close, we have seen some clients applying for extensions. However, we are mindful that payment holidays only started gaining traction in April, [so] we will only see the true picture of this population coming through from the end of June."

He says Nedbank has assisted more than 228,000 clients with debt relief since March, including home loans, vehicle and asset
finance, personal loans, loans to small and medium enterprises and credit cards.

De Wet says Covid-19 payment arrangements do not adversely impact your score on your credit report.

Standard Bank spokesperson Ross Linstrom says the bank is assessing applications for extensions case by case. "Where it makes sense we will extend payment relief, [including] payment holidays, instalment reductions and debt con- solidations."

Linstrom says relief is open to all customers, including those who did not take up the initial offer. "We will continue to help all our customers . as their circumstances change."

To qualify for relief from Standard Bank, your circumstances leading to inability to pay must be as a result of the pandemic.

By the end of May, Standard Bank had provided R92bn in relief to individuals and business clients across 285,000 accounts in SA, Linstrom says.

Bongiwe Gangeni, deputy CEO of retail and business banking at Absa, says the bank is considering extending its relief programme from three to six months. "Future solutions will not only target customers who opted in for the first round, but also 'new' customers who need support now," he says.

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