For this sixth year in a row, American Express has topped the results of a customer satisfaction survey conducted by J.D. Power & Associates. With a score of 807 out of 1,000 points, consumers who hold American Express credit cards are satisfied with their experience more than customers with cards from all other issuers. This survey has only been conducted for six years, and American Express has been the victor every year.
On average, customer satisfaction with credit cards has improved every year since the Credit CARD Act of 2009 was made into a law. Despite added regulation pertaining to fees and the abilities of the card issuers to find other ways to profit from customers, credit card holders are having better experiences. The average satisfaction score across all cards is at a high of 753 this year.
The survey evaluates customer satisfaction across six dimensions including communication with the company, terms, billing and payment process, rewards, benefits and services, and problem resolution. Part of the increase in satisfaction this year is the reduction of customers reporting that they’ve encountered a problem with their credit card. In 2009, eighteen percent of those surveyed had some kind of problem with their credit card, including being a victim of fraud. 84 percent of those who encountered problems saw resolutions to their issues, an increase over last year.
Satisfaction is highest among customers who use mobile devices to connect with their credit card account, but only seven percent of customers use mobile devices for this purpose. This slice is increasing, just as mobile phone usage is increasing as companies develop useful applications. Companies that embrace mobile and social technology to interact with their customers are more likely to succeed and satisfy their customers, as it makes it possible for customers to take care of their needs in the same manner they are increasingly conducting their lives. If customers are spending more time on one website, such as Facebook, than all other websites combined, businesses must find a way to meet their customers there. When customers are spending more time on mobile devices than in front of a computer, credit card issuers and other businesses should use the same tools for interaction.
American Express offers a mobile app to the company’s credit card customers, and this may help this company continue to enjoy its spot as the top-ranked credit card issuer in customer satisfaction according to this survey. The application for the iPhone and iPad includes a feature called My Offers, presenting customers with exclusive deals and discounts. The Android app does not yet include this feature.
Also on the cutting edge of social and mobile technology, American Express introduced this year a feature called sync, allowing customers to access discounts by using Twitter, engaging its customers in social marketing in favor of the company.
Other credit card issuers offer mobile applications, but for the most part, these options enable customers to do not much more than check balances.
For many customers, and for most Consumerism Commentary readers who have credit cards, the most important feature, perhaps even more important than problem resolution or communication, is the rewards program. In terms of rewards, credit card issuers are continuing to improve. 66 percent of customers report they understand how to earn rewards. Earning rewards is the primary factor in comparing rewards programs across the issuers, so it’s important that this process is clear.
Years ago, issuers made rewards programs simple to understand. For example, with my favorite card at the time, every purchase would allow me to collect 5% in cash back rewards. For every dollar I spent, I would earn five cents, which I could later claim in the form of a check, after the rewards balance accumulated beyond $50. It was simple and straightforward. Today, more issuers have tiers. Cash back earnings may be at one rate until total spending crosses a threshold, then earnings might continue at a different rate. With some cards, the best cash back deals require enrolling every three months. Cash back rates can differ depending on the type of store shoppers are in for each transaction. It seems that given the increasing complication of earning rewards, it’s a miracle that 66 percent of customers fully understand how to earn them.
The survey didn’t test the customers, though; J.D. Power might have found that even though 66 percent of customers claim to understand how to earn rewards and 80 percent of customers claim to understand how to redeem rewards, actual understanding may be at a lower level.
Eighteen percent of customers believe their rewards programs have improved this year. For the last year or so, credit card issuers have been putting more effort into improving rewards. This is a reaction to the recession and credit crunch, when rewards programs declined a bit in value, and rather than spending money on marketing their cards and rewards, issuers held onto their cash and reduced their expenses. When issuers decided to begin dedicating more money to acquiring new customers after the recession, issuers competing with each other by attracting new customers with sign-up bonuses and other benefits.
If you have one credit card or more, how satisfied are you with your experiences? Did you have trouble resolving a problem this year or has problem resolution been smooth? What do you consider to be today’s best credit card?
J.D. Power & Associates
Updated June 18, 2014 and originally published August 27, 2012.