American Express reclaimed the top spot in this year’s J.D. Power ranking survey. Customer satisfaction with credit card issuers improved overall, spurred by the proliferation of rewards benefits.
The rewards war is raising the tide of customer satisfaction across all cards, especially with regional banks who have returned as serious players in the credit card market.
According to the 2017 J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction study, customers are more satisfied with their credit cards than they have been since the recession. This year’s industry average was the highest ever recorded at 802 points, up 6 points from 2016. The study found that rewards, especially cash back, are more competitive and thus giving customers more of what they want.
American Express reclaimed the top spot after two years of falling behind Discover. Discover’s customer satisfaction score stayed mostly stagnant while American Express improved, and in turn surpassed, Discover. Capital One stayed consistent, taking third place for the second year in a row.
Consumers have been feeling positive about all industries since the recession, said Jim Miller, senior director of banking practice at J.D. Power. But even though other industries’ satisfaction growth has slowed, credit card issuers continue to see higher customer approval each year, Miller said.
“The benefits keep increasing,” Miller said. “It’s so competitive that they’re all moving up (in customer satisfaction).”
Citi, regional banks made big progress
Citi was the most improved issuer this year, due in large part to the Citi Double Cash Rewards card and the Costco Anywhere Visa card – both of which didn’t exist a few years ago, Miller said.
Mega banks aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits from the rewards card firefight. For the first time, the study looked at regional banks’ customer satisfaction scores and found they are staying competitive with national issuers. Regions Bank came out strong, snapping at the heels of Discover’s No. 2 spot, just 13 points behind.
“They’re becoming stronger players,” Miller said. “It made sense to include them.”
Cash back is king
The survey also found that cash back reigns supreme in the rewards realm. Scores were higher for cards with cash back programs as opposed to those with miles or general rewards.
Miller said there’s a good reason for cash back’s dominance.
“It’s the simplicity of it,” Miller said.
The study was conducted by surveying 22,896 credit card customers on six major factors, including credit card terms, rewards and benefits and services.
To dig deeper into the rankings and to find out which specific cards are recommended by CreditCards.com reviewers, take a look at the interactive graphic below.
See related: Satisfaction rises for most cardholders, Compare best rewards credit cards