Rewards are a key factor in cardholder satisfaction, with cash rebates being the most popular form of reward.
Credit card satisfaction among consumers tumbled in 2021. While mid-size issuers led the decline, a new entrant to the credit card game made a good impression on customers.
- Overall satisfaction dropped to 805 on J.D. Power’s 1,000-point scale, down from 811 in 2020.
- Among midsize issuers, satisfaction dropped 17 points from 813 in 2020 to 796 in 2021.
- Shrinking credit limits were a cause of dissatisfaction. Satisfaction scores were 141 points lower among those unhappy with limits.
- Apple Card issuer Goldman Sachs – a new entry on J.D. Power’s study – scored 47 points higher than the nearest mid-size issuer.
Credit card satisfaction study results
Cardholders didn’t hold back when it came to voicing their pleasure or displeasure with their card issuers.
Among national issuers, American Express had the highest customer satisfaction score at 838, followed by Discover at 837 and Capital One at 815. Customers were least satisfied with Credit One Bank, which had a score of 736, followed by U.S. Bank at 782 and Synchrony Bank at 788.
Among midsize issuers, defined by J.D. Power as card issuers with fewer than 4 million cardholders [TH1] as of 2021, Goldman Sachs had the highest satisfaction score at 864. Next in line were BB&T, Huntington and PNC, which all scored 817, which is 47 points lower than Goldman Sachs.
Premier Bankcard had the lowest satisfaction score among the midsize issuers at 713. Also near the bottom of the list were HSBC (777), KeyBank (779) and BBVA (779).
Complaints by credit card company
Between Jan. 1, 2018 and Sept. 1, 2021, credit cardholders were most unhappy about inaccuracies on their credit card statements related to purchases, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Just as the J.D. Power survey found cardholders unhappy with shrinking credit limits, CFPB data also found that a source of unhappiness for cardholders is the terms of their card agreements.
Citibank had the most complaints, at 8,207, lodged against it during that three-year period, according to CFPB data. That was followed by:
- Capital One with 7,343 complaints
- JPMorgan Chase with 4,994 complaints
- Synchrony with 4,711 complaints
- Bank of America with 4,395 complaints
USAA had the fewest complaints lodged against it, with 684, followed by:
- TD Bank with 912 complaints
- Wells Fargo with 1,724 complaints
- Barclays with 2,032 complaints
- Discover with 2,104 complaints
Credit card complaints by issue
|Credit Card Issue||Number of Complaints|
|Problem with a purchase shown on your statement||13,050|
|Problem getting a card or closing an account||7,959|
|Other features, terms, or problems||5,434|
|Fees or interest||5,062|
|Problem when making payments||4,061|
|Trouble using your card||2,805|
|Advertising and marketing, including promotional offers||2,542|
|Incorrect information on your report||1,451|
|Problem with a credit reporting company’s investigation into an existing problem||1,116|
|Struggling to pay your bill|
|Problem with a purchase or transfer||756|
|Improper use of your report||230|
|Credit monitoring or identity theft protection services||66|
|Unable to get your credit report or credit score||24|
|Problem with overdraft||13|
|Problem with credit report or credit score||3|
Source: CFPB 2018–2021
By far, the biggest share of credit card complaints to the CPFB in the past three years were about problems with purchases on customer statements. In fact, there were 13,050 such complaints.
The next most common complaint was about getting a card or closing an account. Consumers filed 7,959 complaints with the CFPB with problems regarding this issue.
The third common gripe had to do with credit card features, terms of the account and problems related to the account, with 5,434 complaints. Another 5,062 complaints had to do with fees or interest – the costs consumers face when using credit cards.
Some cardholders complained about how card issuers responded to their financial troubles; in fact, 4,061 complaints had to do with consumers’ problems making payments and card issuers’ handling of those problems.
The sixth most common grievance – which inspired 2,805 complaints – had to do with consumers’ challenges actually using the card.
Credit card complaints by state
Complaints also vary depending on where cardholders live.
California cardholders made the most complaints between September 1, 2018 and September 1, 2021 with 12,883. That was followed by:
- New York with 7,564 complaints
- Florida with 7,401 complaints
- Texas with 5,988 complaints
Wyoming cardholders made the fewest complaints, with 68, followed by:
- Alaska with 88 complaints
- North Dakota with 92 complaints
- South Dakota with 104 complaints
Since it’s understandable for regions with higher populations to be responsible for more complaints than regions with lower populations, perhaps a better way to compare regions is to see how many complaints were filed in a state per 1,000 residents.
The District of Columbia had the most complaints per 1,000 residents, with 0.73, followed by:
- Delaware with 0.50
- Nevada with 0.44
The states with the least complaints per 1,000 residents were Montana and Kentucky, with 0.11 per 1,000 residents each.
Several states had 0.12 complaints per 1,000 residents. They were: Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The most common complaint in most states and the District of Columbia was about purchases that appeared on the cardholder’s statement. In fact, only the state of Massachusetts had a different top complaint. In that state, the most common complaint was about a credit reporting company’s investigation into an existing consumer problem.
How to file a credit card complaint
If you have a problem with your credit card issuer, try reaching out to it directly. If it doesn’t respond or you are unhappy with the response, you can file a complaint with the CFPB.
Here’s how to file a credit card complaint:
- Gather certain information so you have it on hand. For example, make sure you know the dates, details and any amounts you want to report. Also, if you want to attach billing statements or other evidence, gather those documents together.
- Go to Consumerfinance.gov/complaint
- Scroll down the page and click on ‘Start a new complaint’
- Read over CFPB guidance for submitting your complaint, then scroll down and click on ‘Start your complaint’
- First you’ll be asked what the complaint is about. Once you click ‘credit card or prepaid card’ you’ll be asked what type of card it is
- Next, you’ll be asked what type of problem you are having
- At that point you’ll be asked to describe in your own words what happened
Once you submit your complaint, the CFPB will contact your credit card company about it. The company will review the complaint and may reach out to you. The credit card issuer will then report to the CFPB what steps they are taking to solve the problem.
In the interim, the CFPB will publish information about the complaint with your personal information removed. When the credit card company responds to the CFPB, the CFPB will let you know, then you can read the response and provide feedback on it.
If you’re wondering whether it’s worth it to file a report, the agency says 98% of consumers get a timely response from the company after doing so.
Best credit card customer service features
Cardholders want to be able to reach their card issuers easily when they have an emergency such as a stolen card, or when they have personal challenges such as trouble paying their bills. Some features that customers are likely to appreciate include live online chat features and the ability to handle card preferences themselves.
Cardholders also want to protect their accounts from scammers and identity thieves. Credit card features like travel alerts and account freezes help consumers keep their credit cards safe from theft and abuse. One example is Discover’s Freeze it option, which lets you freeze or unfreeze your account online or via Discover’s app.
Customer service and satisfaction can make the difference in whether a cardholder uses a credit card faithfully for decades or switches to a more consumer-friendly option. By looking at customer service surveys and exploring complaints from the CFPB, consumers can see which companies have the friendliest policies and better determine which issuers should get their business.
- J.D. Power “2021 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study,” 2021
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “Consumer Complaint Database,” 2018–2021
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “Submit a complaint,” 2021