RBS and NatWest offer mortgage breaks for customers affected by coronavirus

The Royal Bank of Scotland group is offering a three-month holiday on mortgage and loan repayments for customers affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The banking group, which is 62% owned by the government and also includes NatWest and Ulster Bank, will also allow customers to temporarily increase their credit card limit and access cash in fixed savings accounts with no early closure charge. It is also offering to scrap fees on credit card cash advances and increase cash withdrawal limits up to £500.

It is part of efforts by UK banks to stem a potential tide of defaults if customers get ill or lose pay from employers and clients as a result of the outbreak.

How can I protect myself from the coronavirus outbreak?

The World Health Organization is recommending that people take simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus, for which there is no specific cure or vaccine.

The UN agency advises people to:

  • Frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap
  • Cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough
  • Seek early medical help if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share their travel history with healthcare providers
  • Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

Despite a surge in sales of face masks in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak, experts are divided over whether they can prevent transmission and infection. There is some evidence to suggest that masks can help prevent hand-to-mouth transmissions, given the large number of times people touch their faces. The consensus appears to be that wearing a mask can limit – but not eliminate – the risks, provided it is used correctly.

Justin McCurry

A spokeswoman for RBS said: “We are monitoring the potential impact of coronavirus across all our customers to ensure we can support them appropriately through any period of disruption. We have a strong track record in working with our customers who are affected by disruption outside of their control.

The news comes a day after RBS, which is to be rebranded as NatWest later this year, announced it was putting aside £5bn to cover emergency loans and scrapped borrowing fees for small businesses that are starting to struggle as the virus continues to spread.

The lender has contacted more than 5,000 business customers to offer support, some of which are being offered loan repayment holidays of up to six months.

High street rival Lloyds Banking Group said on Tuesday it was earmarking £2bn-worth of loans for small and medium-sized businesses affected by the outbreak, scrapping any resulting fees and considering repayment holidays for the worst-affected companies.

Stephen Jones, the chief executive of lobby group UK Finance, said it was important for customers to ask for help early on if they start to struggle financially.

“Banks, building societies and credit card providers understand that some of their customers may be worried about the effect that contracting the coronavirus (Covid-19) could have on their finances, for example due to a drop in income or because of unexpected expenses or bills to pay,” he said.

“All providers are ready and able to offer support to their customers who are impacted directly or indirectly by Covid-19, which could include offering or increasing an overdraft or allowing repayment relief for loan or mortgage repayments: asking for help early is key.”

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