Keynote: Credit Card Sites Perform Poorly

Dial-up users should be prepared for lengthy delays--in some cases, more than two minutes--when visiting leading credit card Web sites, according to a study released Tuesday by research company Keynote.

When using a dial-up connection, it took an average of around 35 seconds for pages to load at Web sites of nine leading banks--American Express, Bank of America, Bank One, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Discover, MBNA, and Providian. Keynote researchers tested the sites hourly between Feb. 21 and March 21; each site was tested a total of 288 times.

The results indicate that credit card Web sites are much less consumer-friendly than other types of financial sites, said Ben Rushlo, manager, professional services at Keynote. "This was really outside of what I would have expected in terms of financial services," Rushlo said. "Compared to other sister industries, they're really not doing a very good job." Recent Keynote research on Web sites of brokerages and banks showed average loading times of 15 to 20 seconds for dial-up users, Rushlo said.

What's more, some credit card pages, such as the account summary page, had an average wait of 45 to 50 seconds for dial-up users, while the delay at one site was longer than 150 seconds, Rushlo said. Around 40 percent of U.S. online users connecting from their homes are believed to have a dial-up connection.

The problems weren't limited to delays when using dial-up. Researchers also found significant outages at credit card sites. On average, the nine sites were down 2.5 percent of the time between 8 a.m. and midnight, while one site was down for 6 percent of that time. Only Bank of America and MBNA were working throughout--around 99 percent of peak hours.

Bank of America's site scored highest in terms of all-around performance, which looked at factors such as page design, reliability, speed, and network connectivity. Still, Bank of America scored just 77 points out of a possible 100. Capital One and MBNA placed second and third, with 66 and 63 points, respectively. The bottom two banks scored a 38 and 34 overall.