American Express tops credit card satisfaction survey

But generally, credit card industry lags behind in pleasing customers

See 2008 survey, 2009 survey

American Express took the top spot in the just-released 2007 Credit Card Satisfaction Study from J.D. Power and Associates. AmEx was bolstered by strength in some areas that are vital to consumers. "They were certainly leading in membership benefits and problem resolution. When there was a problem, they did a good job of resolving that problem for the consumer," says Jeff Taylor, Senior Director of Banking for J.D. Power.

American Express was tops, but overall card issuers got low marksThe findings are based on responses from 7,812 credit card users surveyed in June and July of 2007. J.D. Power is well-known for its surveys of consumers and their satisfaction with different industries' products; this represents its first look at credit card issuers.

Of the 10 credit card issuers considered in the study, American Express walked away with a score of 735 out of 1,000. The inaugural study looked at how pleased consumers were with their plastic by weighing five factors, including benefits and features (with a 34 percent weighting), rewards (25 percent), billing and payment process (21 percent), fees and rates (16 percent), and problem resolution (4 percent).

Results showed that 80 percent of consumers have some type of rewards credit card, with 40 percent of cardholders earning airline miles with their cards.

Match card, lifestyle
The study found that consumers were happiest when they found cards that match the way they use them. For consumers who revolve a balance, low interest rates and minimal fees are key, while consumers who generally pay their account balances in full each month view rewards as the top consideration.

One implication of the study for consumers is to recognize how they use credit cards. "First, what kind of consumer are you? If you pay your bill in full each month you want to look at rewards and membership benefits. If you don't pay the full amount every month, then things like credit limit and interest should be your main criteria," Taylor says. "Customers who are aware of and use their card benefits are generally more satisfied with their issuer."

Card issuers relatively unpopular
J.D. Power reported that the average satisfaction score for credit card users was 658 points -- a number significantly below the average satisfaction level consumers reported for other financial industries, such as mortgage servicing (798), online investing (773) and retail banking (763).

One reason the credit card industry might rank so low is that the issuers don't completely control the transaction, Taylor says. Most issuers use the Visa or MasterCard networks to process their transactions. He notes that American Express and Discover -- the second-ranking issuer -- are the two that do their own transaction processing.

On the other hand, American Express and Discover were panned by customers for not being universally accepted. Almost 90 percent of MasterCard and Visa cardholders said they could use their cards anywhere they wanted. Fewer than 20 percent of the American Express and Discover cardholders agreed.

2007 Credit Card Consumer Satisfaction Study
Credit card issuer Score
American Express 735
Discover 728
Industry average 658
Citi cards 652
Chase 651
US Bank 646
WaMu 638
Wells Fargo 636
Capital One 617
Bank of America 607
HSBC 571

Source: J.D. Power and Associates     

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See related: 2008 J.D. Power satisfaction survey

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Updated: 03-23-2019