News Column

American Express, Discover rated top credit cards

August 28, 2014

By Patricia Sabatini, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Aug. 28--Two major credit card issuers targeting different clientele -- upscale American Express and mainstream Discover -- tied for top honors again in this year's J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey.

The ranking demonstrates there's more than one path to keeping customers happy, the California-based marketing information services giant said.

American Express and Discover both provide great personal service when customers call in and they also make it easy for people to manage their accounts online, as well as by using mobile apps, J.D. Power said.

The study measured customer satisfaction in six categories: interaction; card terms; billing and payment; rewards; benefits and services; and problem resolution.

American Express has ranked highest every year since the survey was launched eight years ago.

Amex -- whose customers tend to be more affluent, spend more and are less likely to carry a balance than customers of other issuers -- offers 21 cards, including some with annual fees. It also offers reward options ranging from cash-back to travel points.

In contrast, Discover focuses on a single card with cash-back rewards and no annual fees. Discover also offers tools to help customers manage spending and debt, and provides cardholders with their credit scores for free.

Overall, satisfaction with credit card issuers has improved for five straight years, hitting a record high this year of 778 points out of 1,000, up from 767 in 2013, J.D. Power said.

Rising satisfaction coincides with industry reforms ushered in by the federal Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, whose provisions largely took effect in 2010. The act, which took aim at abusive practices, capped certain credit card fees and improved disclosures.

Even with record high satisfaction, 10 percent of customers reported they switched their primary card in 2014, up from 8 percent in 2013. Among those who switched, 42 percent did so to take advantage of a better rewards program.

Nearly 20 percent of those surveyed said the value of their rewards program increased in 2014, up from 17 percent a year earlier, indicating that card issuers were working to enhance their rewards programs.

The survey also showed that the way credit card companies handle security breaches affects customer satisfaction.

When a card issuer notified customers of a security breach but did not issue a new card, satisfaction dropped. When a new card was issued, satisfaction went up and it rose even more when customers received the new card quickly -- within seven days. American Express, Discover and Chase were the only brands among the 10 surveyed that ranked higher than the overall average. After Chase, the No. 4 rated card was Barclaycard, followed by U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Capital One, Citi and GE Capital Retail Bank (now Synchrony Financial).

Patricia Sabatini: or 412-263-3066.


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Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)

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