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Banks waive fees for customers in storm-hit zone

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DAVE CARPENTER | October 31, 2012 06:49 PM EST | AP

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Banks have temporarily waived a variety of fees and late charges for residents of states hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. It's an effort to ease pressure on customers to make bill payments when many remain without power.

The shelving of fees comes as banks moved Wednesday to reopen thousands of branches and ATMs that had been shut down due to storm damage, power outages or inaccessibility after the blockbuster storm.

Chase, the nation's largest bank, reopened 587 branches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, or 55 percent of its total in the Tri-State region. More than 40 percent of its 3,200 area ATMs were not yet up and running, however.

"Our employees have done simply heroic things to get more than half of our branches open today," said Ryan McInerney, CEO of Chase's consumer bank. He said the bank would go so far as to help customers charge their cellphones.

Others gave similar updates. PNC said it had reopened hundreds of branches in the Northeast, and other banks were doing the same. HSBC said it opened 101 of 189 affected branches in the New York City area, Connecticut and New Jersey.

While it could still be days before some bank branches reopen, any longer-term impact should be limited.

Customers may be inconvenienced by severe storms but generally don't need to worry about their banking information. Financial institutions tend to be well-prepared for natural disasters, according to Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate. Even local and regional banks often have data centers backed up in another part of the country, he said.

Here is a look at what some of the biggest banks are doing:

JPMORGAN CHASE

The country's biggest bank told customers by email Tuesday night that it would extend through Thursday its waiver or automatic refunds of certain fees for those living in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The bank added customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island to the list.

BANK OF AMERICA

Customers affected by severe storms and floods in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia and the District of Columbia may qualify to receive a refund on any overdraft, insufficient funds and non-Bank of America ATM fees incurred as a result of storm conditions.

CITIGROUP

PNC FINANCIAL SERVICES

HSBC

Customers in storm-affected areas received an e-mail that they can seek additional support, including reversing fees that may be generated due to limited availability of banking services.

WELLS FARGO

Customers can see a waiver of late fees on credit cards, consumer and certain small business loans, including home-equity, auto and student loans. Wells Fargo also said it is waiving the fee it normally charges bank customers for using another bank's ATMs in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia or the District of Columbia.