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Credit Card Issuers People Love To Hate

It’s been about a year since we last looked at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s database of credit card complaints, so I thought it was worth a fresh examination.

The database is a handy tool to find out which companies receive the most consumer criticism and why. It’s not as useful for determining if the gripes are legitimate or not.

But I find the numbers one way to help judge whether you want to do business with a particular issuer.

As of late May, there were nearly 22,000 complaints included in the database against 85 companies. Ten credit card companies are the focus of more than 90% of the complaints.

These are the largest credit issuers in the United States. Some are more frequent complaint targets than others.

Here are the top 5 most-complained-about credit card companies:

Pie chart showing the 10 companies that receive the most credit card complaints

  • Capital One: 4,626 complaints
  • Citibank: 3,858
  • Bank of America: 2,885
  • JPMorgan Chase: 2,779
  • GE Capital Retail: 1,735

Capital One also led the way last year when the CFPB first announced the database. If you’ll recall, Capital One also was one of several issuers the goverment slapped with big fines last year for deceptive marketing practices.

The annual satisfaction survey from J.D. Power & Associates is another tool to use in looking for a new credit card. The companies that scored below-average for customer satisfaction in the 2012 survey all appear in the top five list above.

American Express ranked the highest for customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power. It ranked seventh on the CFPB list of complaints, with about one-third as many as Capital One.

While there are about three dozen categories of complaints in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau database, the bulk of them fell under two categories, billing disputes and interest rates.

The CFPB in March gave some insight into the top complaints:

Some consumers are confused and frustrated by the process and by their limited ability to challenge inaccuracies on their monthly credit card billing statements. For example, some consumers realize only after their claim has been denied that they needed to notify their credit card companies within 60 days of any billing errors. In other cases, consumers are not aware that companies typically do not stop a merchant charge once the cardholder has authorized it or do not override a merchant’s “no-return policy.”

Based on some quick math, it doesn’t appear one company dominates in a particular area of complaints over another relative to the overall number of complaints against that issuer. For example, some 15% of all complaints against Capital One were billing related; about 16% of all the complaints in the CFPB database regarded billing.

The chart below shows the most common complaints.

Chart showing the top credit card complaints by category

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