Consumers Feel Card Companies Treat Them Better, Finds Study
By Jill Jaracz
Back in August we reported on customers' increasing satisfaction with their credit cards, as discovered by J.D. Power and Associates in its annual U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. The love affair hasn't ended, it seems, with Consumer Reports announcing the results of its latest Credit Card Use study, which has been released in the December 2011 issue of its magazine.
The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted its survey this past July, asking 1,258 adults aged 18 and over how they felt credit card companies treated them. The rate of respondents who have felt unfairly treated has declined for the second year in a row, with only 12 percent of Americans feeling that credit card companies were treating them unfairly. This number is down three percentage points from 2010, and ten percent from 2009.
Consumer Reports found that those who paid off their credit cards every month were actually the happiest with their card issuers. However, this number may increase as customers pay down their balances. For the second year in a row, the percentage of cardholders carrying balances declined, from 46 percent in 2009 to 39 percent in 2011. The amount of debt they carry has also declined substantially, with the median debt level today being $3,414, compared to $4,920 in 2009.
||Credit card companies are also approving more people for new credit cards, according to the survey. Denials of card applications have also dropped ten percent, with 14 percent being denied a card in 2011, down from 24 percent in 2010.
This year, ten percent fewer credit-card holders received bad news about their cards in the form of card issuers lowering their credit, charging higher interest rates, enacting late payment fees, canceling their cards or other events that would negatively effect one's relationship with their credit card. This number is down from 47 percent in 2010.
Conversely, over half of cardholders were able to get a higher credit limit, lower interest rate or more rewards this year, compared to 46 percent last year.
While these numbers show an improvement, the Consumer Reports survey still found that credit cards are one of Americans' least favorite services. While seeing an improved satisfaction, much like the J.D. Power survey, just over half of Americans are happy with their credit cards.
"Things are looking rosier for credit-card holders," says Noreen Perrotta, finance editor, Consumer Reports in a press release. "Consumers are paying down balances and facing fewer punitive actions by credit-card companies such as higher rates, late-payment fees, and canceled cards. But average interest rates on new cards are still up and you have to read the fine print of rewards programs."
Consumers may find they're facing the options of card rewards programs more often, now that card issuers have turned up their efforts in direct marketing. Consumer Reports advises that those who are considering getting a new rewards credit card read the agreement closely to make sure the rewards will actually work for them.
However, the 2009 CARD Act's requirement for clearer disclosure may be continuing to help consumers understand how different credit-card offers really stack up against each other. The Center for Responsible Lending found in a study released this past June that the law has helped provide borrowers with more clarity around rates listed in credit card solicitations.
"People mistake higher rates on mail solicitations and other offers in the last year as a price hike," says Josh Frank, senior researcher, Center for Responsible Lending, in a press release. "But the acts show that offers now just more closely match actual costs. Prices have been level, but borrowers have a much better picture of what those prices are."
November 2, 2011