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J.D. Power & Associates is out with a new credit card consumer satisfaction survey, and the results may surprise you.

The “gold standard” for credit card customer satisfaction, according to the 2009 consumer survey, is American Express (Stock Quote: AXP). Amex racked up 762 points (out of a possible 1,000) on five key card consumer issues,

  • Interaction with customer service or via the company’s Web site
  • Billing and payments
  • Fees and rates
  • Reward programs
  • Benefits and services

Tracking closely to Amex was Discover Card (Stock Quote: DFS)  at 751 and National City (Stock Quote: NCC) at 740. Discover was the only credit card issuer, besides American Express, that garnered a “five-star” rating on overall customer satisfaction.

American Express received five stars in all categories but one – it earned four stars for its fees (unlike most card issuers, Amex charges an annual fee to card members).

Also receiving good marks in overall satisfaction (four stars) and with card fees (four stars) was Wells Fargo (Stock Quote: WFC). On the down side, Washington Mutual, recently taken over by JP Morgan Chase (Stock Quote: JPM), ranked at the bottom of the J.D. Power list, with a “two-star” overall customer service ranking.

Back to the winner. How did Amex perform so well?  J.D. Power maintains a key reason is recognition of card benefits. According to the survey, 82% of American Express cardholders are aware of the benefits and services associated with their card, compared with an industry average of 70%.

The study also reports that Amex customers appreciate a wide breadth of card services. Says J. D. Power, “American Express customers also report having access to an average of approximately five benefits and services, compared with the industry average of less than three. This awareness is an important contributor to the high level of satisfaction with rewards and benefits among American Express customers (757), compared with an industry average of 690.”

Technology counts for a lot, too. Discover Card earned high marks because customers like the Web site, especially its easy and dependable accessibility. Another winner for Discover: its average customer service phone wait time was only three minutes – a real crowd-pleaser among respondents.

J.D Power also offers a few tips for consumers looking to get the best customer service from their credit card companies:

  • "Make sure you are getting a card with the features and benefits that are important to you and that fit how you plan to use the card. For instance, if you plan to carry a balance on the card, find one with the lowest rates and fees. On the other hand, if you use the card to pay for everything from gas to groceries to vacations and pay off the balances each month, you may want a card with a rich and flexible reward program.
  • Educate yourself on the benefits and services available on the card and use them. Customers who are both aware and take advantage of card features are more satisfied than those who don't.
  • When there's a question about the appropriateness or accuracy of a fee or rate, request that it be waived or adjusted. Issuers are anxious to fix mistakes on their part and are willing to make accommodations for valued customers."

See how your credit card stacks up here.

—For a comprehensive credit report, visit the Credit Center.