Crunching the Numbers – Amex Still Tops in Customer Satisfaction

CFPB Complaints by IssuerBack in June, banking analyst Ken Thomas released a study based on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s complaints database that measured consumer satisfaction. Basically, he took the number of complaints for each issuer and divided that number by the issuer’s market share to come up with an index–the lower the index, the better. The theory was that bigger issuers should naturally have more complaints, so a better gauge of satisfaction would be to normalize the complaints based on market share.

I thought it would be interesting to update these results with the latest months of data.

The results
Between June 1, 2012 and August 30, 2012, the CFPB has collected a total of 3855 new complaints. When we slice these complaints by credit card issuer, this is the break down for the top 11 U.S. issuers:

Issuer # Complaints (6/1-9/30)
Bank of America 533
Capital One 913
GE Capital 295
Amex 209
JP Morgan Chase 570
Citibank 653
Discover 167
Wells Fargo 140
Barclays 105
US Bank 63

When we factor in market share as measured by outstanding balances as of 6/30/12 (data provided by The Nilson Report), this is how the issuers rank, from best to worst:
Credit Card Complaints by Market Share

Note: The numbers are normalized, meaning only their relative values are important.

If we instead normalize complaints based instead on dollar transaction volume, then Amex looks even better:
Credit Card Complaints by Transaction Volume

Either way you slice it, Amex comes out smelling pretty good. Conversely, Capital One and GE Capital have more than their fair share of complaints.

It is interesting to note, however, that the pace of complaints against Capital One seems to have slowed since the announcement in July of its $210 million settlement over deceptive marketing practices. The number of complaints against Capital One fell from 391 in June to 358 in July to 164 in August. Whether that is due to a delay in updating in the database or an actual change in consumer sentiment towards Cap One is unclear at this time.

Should you base which credit card to apply for based solely on this data? Probably not, but it’s one more piece of information to consider.

Note: The CFPB does not verify complaints when they are filed. It only establishes that a relationship exists between the consumer and the bank, so it is possible that some issuers may be the subject of undeserved complaints.

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