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Big Banks Do Good for Victims of Hurricane Sandy

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Many of the nation's largest banks are waiving fees and donating money to disaster relief efforts.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Giant American banking institutions such as Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) have been slammed by customers in recent years for their nickel-and-dime policies such as charging for replacement debit cards or mobile phone deposits, all enacted after Dodd-Frank regulations came into effect.

However, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, one of the most destructive storms ever to hit the East Coast of the US, many banks have decided to waive a slew of bank fees for customers in areas affected.

Citigroup (NYSE:C), Bank of America, and TD Bank (NYSE:TD), for example, were some of the banks waiving overdraft fees, late fees, and fees incurred for using out-of-network ATM fees through yesterday in storm-hit areas.

Chase, Wells Fargo, and PNC (NYSE:PNC) also waived overdraft fees, though customers at the latter have to contact the bank to get refunds for late fees on consumer and business loans. Meanwhile, customers of American Express (NYSE:AXP) received an email from the company saying that American Express "is here for you if you need emergency financial, medical, or travel assistance." The company said it would work out flexible payment schedules with storm-hit customers.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are also contributing to provide relief to victims of Sandy whose properties were destroyed.

"Servicers have been instructed to offer, on a case-by-case basis, a range of relief options including forbearance or delay of mortgage payments for as long as one year, suspension of foreclosure and eviction proceedings for up to 12 months, waiver of penalties or late fees against borrowers with disaster-damaged homes, and not reporting forbearance and delinquencies caused by disaster to the national credit bureaus," reported The Street.

Besides offering help to their customers, Bank of America, Citi, and Wells Fargo have also stepped in with direct aid for the disaster, having each announced $1 million in donations for relief efforts. Bank of America will donate $500,000 to the American Red Cross and $500,000 to other relief agencies in the affected regions, while Wells Fargo will give $250,000 to the Red Cross and $750,000 to other efforts.

"We have customers and employees throughout the hardest hit region and their safety is our main consideration," said Brian Moynihan, chief executive officer of Bank of America, in a statement. "As we do what we can to help them through this, we also are doing our part to help get relief to communities affected."

As of late Wednesday, JPMorgan said that it had reopened close to 55% of its Chase branches in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, while Wells Fargo reported that close to 90% of its operations in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut were back up and running. Citi had reopened 55 of its approximately 300 branches in the greater New York City area, and Bank of America said all of its operations from Virginia to Massachusetts were returning to business as usual, unless they were in areas affected by the loss of electricity.

(See also: Big Banks, Including Citigroup and Bank of America, Pitch In to Ease Financial Pain for Customers [VIDEO].)

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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