Canadians who had a Chase credit card got some shocking and profitable news late last week: The balances on their Chase credit cards are vanishing. Chase Bank is forgiving what customers owe on two old Visa cards – the Amazon.ca Rewards card and the Marriott Rewards Premier Visa. Both cards were closed last year.
Chase isn’t doing this as an early holiday present. It’s simply a prudent business move. Chase Bank pulled out of Canada in 2018, and it was taking too long and costing too much to collect balances of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars on cards that were no longer active. It was easier to simply walk away.
“Chase made the decision to exit the Canadian credit card market,” says Maria Martinez, a Chase Card Services vice president. “As part of that exit, all credit card accounts were closed on or before March 2018. A further business decision has been made to forgive all outstanding balances in order to complete the exit.”
How much is Chase forgiving? The huge bank won’t say, but news media interviewed individuals who saved more than $6,000.
Of course, this only applies to Canadians who owned one of those two now-closed Visa cards, and Chase isn’t saying how many cardholders that is. Everyone else who owes big balances on their credit cards still must pay them off.
Don’t expect to ever see anything like this again, warns Jeff Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Canada.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime windfall,” Schwartz says. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my three decades in the financial industry. I don’t expect to see it happen again.”
Schwartz hopes Chase’s debt forgiveness will have a ripple effect and help even those who never owned one of its two Visa cards.
“Credit card balances aren’t something most Canadians brag about, because it’s embarrassing to admit you owe thousands of dollars you can’t pay back,” Schwartz says. “But now, Chase has put the topic on the front page of every newspaper and website. It’s the perfect time to remind Canadians that they can get rid of their steep balances without Chase’s help.”
Schwartz runs one of the country’s biggest and oldest credit counselling agencies. Since 2005, Consolidated Credit Canada has helped more than 1 million Canadians get out of credit card debt. How does the nonprofit do it? One powerful tool is called a Debt Management Program.
Schwartz’s trained counsellors work with Canadians and their credit card companies to reduce total monthly payments by up to 30 percent or even half. How do they do that? While it’s rare for a company like Chase to forgive entire balances, other card issuers will negotiate with Consolidated Credit to relieve the burden of steep interest rates and formidable fees.
“Best of all, you don’t need to wait for a one-time windfall,” Schwartz says. “All you need to do is make a simple phone call and get a free debt analysis. While we can’t forgive your balances like Chase just did, we’re the next best thing.”
If you’ve had debt forgiven by Chase, but are already in a debt management program, find out what happens next.