Back in 2007, J.D. Power and Associates released their inaugural Credit Card Satisfaction Study, ranking American Express the top credit card issuer in the United States.
Since that time, AmEx has consistently held the top spot, though Discover is now within serious striking distance.
When the study was first released, Discover held the second spot, and was just seven points behind AmEx in terms of cardholder satisfaction.
However, that gap widened to as much as 32 points a year later, and then hovered around 10 points below AmEx ever since.
But the latest survey results, released last week, revealed a much tighter race, despite American Express continuing to be the top dog.
On a 1,000-point scale, AmEx received 816 points, followed very closely by Discover with 812 points.
That’s the smallest margin since the survey was released six years ago. And it seems like just a matter of time before AmEx is eventually dethroned, unless it’s all fixed…just kidding.
Like prior years, it appears to be a two-horse race, with Chase a distant third standing on only 783 points. For the record, the industry average is just 767, which marks a 14-point improvement from 2012 and the fourth consecutive annual increase.
The survey relies on six key factors, including interaction, credit card terms, payment/billing, rewards program, benefits/services, and problem resolution.
Satisfaction seems to be up because the economy is getting back on track, which helps consumers feel better about their financial positions. Additionally, there were fewer interest rate increases this year compared to 2012.
AmEx leads in the rewards, benefits/services, and billing/payment categories, whereas Discover does best with card terms, interaction, and problem resolution.
Fewer than Half of Cardholders Completely Understand Their Credit Card Terms
Interestingly, cardholders still don’t seem to know much about their credit cards, with only 47% indicating to J.D. Power that they “completely” understand the terms associated with their plastic.
The biggest issue seems to be a lack of clarity regarding interest rates (73%), followed by a lack of understanding regarding late payment fees (31%).
It’s unclear if cardholders will ever fully understand them, given the fact that card issuers are constantly changing things up.
However, if companies like Discover continue to make strides toward transparency, American Express may finally be knocked from atop its perch.
Their latest offering, the Discover it Card, aims to make the card issuer a familiar friend, as opposed to a faceless foe operating behind a curtain.
And credit card issuers are beginning to embrace the idea of clarity, seeing that they actually stand to profit from it.
J.D. Power found that customers who take advantage of their card’s benefits spend an average of $400 more per month than those who don’t.
So if issuers make things clear, as opposed to employing clandestine tactics, they may actually win the battle.
Of course, just because you name something the Simplicity Card doesn’t mean it’s simple, or that cardholders will appreciate it. Not to say that’s the reason Citi is ranked near the bottom, but it makes you think cardholders are demanding more nowadays.
The Complete 2013 Credit Card Satisfaction Rankings
1. American Express – 816
2. Discover – 812
3. Chase – 783
4. Barclaycard – 764
5. U.S. Bank – 759
6. Wells Fargo – 757
7. Capital One – 756
8. Bank of America – 749
9. GE Capital Retail Bank – 742
10. Citi – 741
11. HSBC – 709
Read more: What credit card offers the best rewards?