American Express ranks highest in credit card customer satisfaction for a seventh consecutive year, according to the J.D. Power 2013 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study.
American Express achieves a score of 816 and performs particularly well in rewards; benefits and services; and billing and payment. Discover follows with a score of 812, performing well in credit card terms; interaction; and problem resolution. Chase ranks third at 783.
Although credit card satisfaction continues to improve, a large percentage of customers indicate they do not fully understand their card's terms, benefits and rewards program, according to the study.
The study, now in its seventh year, measures customer satisfaction with credit cards by examining six key factors: interaction; credit card terms; billing and payment; rewards; benefits and services; and problem resolution.
The study finds that customer awareness of earning and redeeming rewards with their credit card has declined year over year, with 59% of customers saying they "completely" understand how to earn rewards in 2013, compared with 66% in 2012. Furthermore, 33 percent of customers indicate they are unaware of the benefits associated with their card.
Customers who use their card's benefits spend an average of $400 more per month on their card, compared with those who are aware of benefits but do not use them, so clearly this is an area of importance to card issuers, said Jim Miller, senior director of banking services at J.D. Power.
"While most customers change cards for a better rewards program, they often don't fully understand the rewards offered with their current card,” Miller said in a release. “There is a clear opportunity for issuers to better communicate rewards programs and benefits to not only keep customers loyal, but also to attract new customers."
Fewer than one-half (47%) of credit card customers say they "completely" understand their credit card terms. Among these customers, 73% indicate a lack of clarity regarding interest rates, and 31% lack an understanding of late payment fees.
Despite low customer understanding of card benefits and terms, credit card satisfaction has improved for a fourth consecutive year. Overall satisfaction averages 767 on a 1,000-point scale, which is a 14-point improvement from 2012. The study also finds a lower incidence of interest rate increases, compared with 2012 (5% vs. 6%, respectively).
The study also finds that the percentage of credit card customers indicating they use mobile apps or text alerts to interact with their issuer has increased slightly from 2012 (5% vs. 4%, respectively), driven primarily by increased usage among customers in the Gen X and Gen Y segments.
Notably, credit card customers have been significantly slower to adopt mobile technology as an interaction method, compared with retail banking customers (5% vs. 19%, respectively). The slower adoption of mobile app technology among credit card customers may be related to a lack of desired functionality currently offered by credit card issuers.
Mobile app features that provide the greatest lifts in satisfaction include viewing card benefits and features, redeeming rewards and receiving special promotions/offers. However, these offerings are currently available to less than one-fourth of credit card customers.