Consumers still slow to forgive credit card companies

Americans have been slowly returning to the use of credit cards in recent months, even as they make greater efforts to avoid taking on debt with those accounts, but new data suggests many are unwilling to forgive their lenders for mistakes made in the past.

Consumers tend to value customer service very highly regardless of the industry they're dealing with, but when it comes to forgiving missteps, it seems credit card lenders come in last, according to the annual Forgiveness Ratings from the Temkin Group. These ratings track consumer sentiment for 18 industries, and while companies like grocery stores, appliance manufacturers and retailers were all rated fairly high, credit card companies lagged in three key areas.

"Forgiveness is a valuable asset that you earn by consistently meeting customers' needs, but many companies don't have enough forgiveness stored-up to recover from their miscues," said Bruce Temkin, author of the report and managing partner of Temkin Group.

Consumers generally felt that lenders did little to meet customer needs, and therefore did not feel good about their experiences with those companies, the report said. In particular, the most common complaints consumers had about their credit cards were changes to their interest rates, and surprisingly high penalty rates and fees for even small mistakes they made dealing with their accounts.

However, despite the generally negative sentiment consumers carry toward their credit card lenders, the rate at which they are likely to forgive that company is far higher than it was last year, the report said. This year, 13 percent of borrowers said they were likely to forgive their credit card lender, compared with just 3 percent last year, exhibiting an ameliorating relationship between financial institutions and borrowers as the economy continues to improve.

Consumers who are dealing with credit cards and high monthly bills may want to consider checking their credit reports before signing up for a new account. By doing so, they may be able to find unfair markings that are having a negative effect on their credit standings. Working with credit repair companies can help to clear up these problematic entries and put consumers' credit scores back where they should be.