While many Americans' attitudes toward their credit cards and associated lenders have changed significantly since the recession, it seems that many remain satisfied with their situations.
Despite increased fees and tighter lending restrictions, consumers are once again happier about their credit cards and lenders for the third consecutive year, according to the latest U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study released annually by J.D. Power and Associates. Overall, on a scale of 1,000, borrowers' contentedness with their credit cards rose to a rating of 753 in the latest study, up from last year's 731 and 2010's 714.
The study's criteria
J.D. Power and Associates has been conducting this research for six years now, based on consumers' satisfaction with their interactions with their lenders, the terms of their credit card agreements, how much they like the billing and payment processes, the rewards they can earn, associated benefits and services, and their ability to get problems resolved when they arise, the report said.
Satisfaction increased, on a year-over-year basis, in all six criteria, with the largest jump coming from problem resolution, the report said. That category saw a 31-point improvement, and was trailed only slightly by an increase in satisfaction with rewards, which climbed 28 points. In the overall rating, the 39-point improvement over the past three years is more or less on par with retail banking satisfaction, and that has only improved five points during the same period.
"There has not been a lot of change in the past year in fees, credit limits and card terms – the things that often affect customers in a negative way," said Jim Miller, senior director of banking services at J.D. Power and Associates. "After a series of dramatic changes, credit card customers are enjoying a time of stability."
Steep drops in consumers' problems
Perhaps the huge jump in consumer satisfaction is due to a significant decline in consumer problems during the past few years, the report said. Now, the number of people who reported having had a problem with their credit card since the last study stood at just 11 percent, compared with the 18 percent recorded in 2009.
This is likely due to new consumer protection laws having been put into place since that time, but also because lenders are now working to more quickly and easily resolve billing issues, the report said. The 2012 study shows that the length of time needed to resolve such a problem has declined 20 percent to just four days, compared with five last year. Further, lenders are now more likely to give borrowers timeframes in which they can expect an issue to be resolved, and more likely to meet those goals.
In fact, 84 percent of borrowers who had a problem in the last year said they got them resolved, up slightly from 82 percent in 2011, the report said. Further, 61 percent said they did so on their first call to their lender.
Other perks considered particularly valuable
These days, many consumers choose rewards credit cards when they qualify for them, because they may see the ability to earn points, miles or cash back as increasing the value of their account, the report said. Now, 66 percent of borrowers say they completely understand how to earn rewards, and 80 percent said the same about redeeming them. Further, 18 percent say the value of their rewards programs has risen in the past year, compared with 15 percent responding similarly in 2011.
Meanwhile, a new type of purchasing that relies on mobile phones to complete transactions seems to be gaining a foothold as well, the report said. In all, 7 percent of borrowers say they use their mobile phones to complete transactions, and that's nearly double the 4 percent in 2011 who said the same.
Further, satisfaction is considered highest among consumers who use their mobile device to deal with their lender, the report said. Miller noted that as more mobile options are given to borrowers by lenders (in the form of apps, text alerts and so forth), cardholders will feel better about dealing with the account because it gives them as much information as they want. Further, the study found that those who have access to these things now also better understand the account they currently control.
To obtain the best possible terms on a credit card, you will have to have the highest credit score you can. One way to ensure this is the case is by taking the time to order a copy of your credit report, and check it closely for unfair markings. If any are discovered, you might want to contact a credit repair law firm and work with it to resolve this issue.