U.S. Markets closed

Americans May Not Understand Their Credit Cards, but They Like Them

Paul Ausick

Less than half of Americans who use credit cards say they “completely understand” the terms of use for their cards. And just under 60% say they understand how to earn those rewards that the credit card companies promote endlessly. A full third have no idea of the benefits associated with their credit cards.

The data comes from the seventh U.S. credit card satisfaction survey by J.D. Power. While U.S. consumers may not know what they’ve got or what they’re missing, satisfaction with their credit cards is up 14 points compared with last year’s survey. On a 1,000 point-scale, the average satisfaction score is 767.

The top-ranked card, as it has been in every year of the survey, is issued by American Express Inc. (AXP), which gets a satisfaction score of 816. Close behind are cards issued by Discover Financial Services (DFS) with a score of 812. Cards issued by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) get a satisfaction score of 783 and rank third.

A J.D. Power executive notes:

The fact that the economy is improving and consumers generally feel better about their personal financial situations is certainly helping to improve satisfaction with credit card issuers, especially considering there was such instability in the industry just a few years ago.

Fewer card users have seen rate increases in 2013, just 5% compared with 6% a year ago. Credit card customers also think they are better off financially than they were a year ago, 27% this year to 23% in 2012. The percentage who believe they are worse off has fallen from 23% last year to 17% this year.

Based on the J.D. Power study, we should expect card-issuing companies to expend more effort on mobile technology. Less than one-quarter of customers now can use a mobile app view their card benefits, redeem rewards or get special promotional offers. Mobile apps are used by just 5% of credit card customers, compared with 19% who are retail banking customers. Better mobile offerings could become a significant differentiator among a group of products that are quite similar in most other respects.