Survey finds consumers are more satisfied with credit cards

Survey finds consumers are more satisfied with credit cards. More Americans are satisfied with the relationship they share with their credit card lender for the first time in three years, after consumer sentiment toward these companies bottomed out last year.

Overall satisfaction with credit cards was up after hitting a three-year low in 2009, but more consumers said they were less loyal to just one lender, according to findings from the latest annual survey from J.D. Power and Associates. Satisfaction rose to an average of 714 on a scale of 1,000, up from 705 in 2009. However, customers who say they will "definitely not switch" their primary cards over the next year declined to just 22 percent. That rate was 25 percent last year and 30 percent in 2008. Consumers used terms like "financially stable" and "reliable" to describe issuers, but hardly ever said they were "customer driven."

The survey found that about 16 percent of consumers never received the disclosures that were federally mandated by the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, and only two-thirds of those that did said that reading the documents actually improved their understanding of how their accounts worked. Of that group, only 33 percent said they now "fully" understood them.

"Despite massive efforts by the credit card industry during the past year to educate customers about credit card terms as a part of the CARD Act, customers’ grasp of those terms continues to be elusive," said Michael Beird, director of banking services at J.D. Power and Associates.

The survey found that those who were most satisfied with their credit cards this year were consumers who keep money in their account from one month to the next. These so-called "revolvers" said they were happier despite 29 percent getting a rate increase in 2010, largely because they were more likely than others to report understanding their accounts better after reading their disclosures.

American Express ranked the highest in customer satisfaction for the fourth straight year, the report said. It boasted an average score of 769 out of 1,000, 12 points higher than Discover, its next-closest competitor.

Overall, many consumers may have said they were less loyal to one lender over another because of how high the average American’s debt has climbed, making them more likely to look for better deals from other issuers.