Study: Capital One Among Issuers with Most Credit Card Complaints

Credit Card Thumbs DownIn publishing its database of consumer credit card complaints, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau hoped to improve the transparency and efficiency of the credit card market. Indeed, the data that has been gathered already provides a revealing glimpse of the industry.

While the CFPB’s public database currently only contains the complaints that have been filed since June 1, through filing a Freedom of Information Act request, banking analyst Ken Thomas obtained 13,502 credit card complaints filed with the CFPB for the second half of 2011 and most of the first half of 2012. Thomas then used this data to measure credit card companies’ customer satisfaction.

The results
Based on his study, credit card issuers with the fewest complaints in proportion to their market share, in order, were: USAA, HSBC, Discover, American Express and JPMorgan Chase.

Issuers with the most complaints in proportion to their market share were: SunTrust, TD Bank, GE, Capital One and Barclays, in that order.

Capital One had the most complaints–2,713, or 20% of the total. Citigroup had 2,378 or about 18%, while JPMorgan and Bank of America had 16% each. Thomas reasoned, however, that it makes sense that the largest issuers also have the highest number of complaints. What is more meaningful and a stronger indicator of customer satisfaction is the number of complaints relative to the bank’s market share. While Citigroup had nearly as many complaints as Capital One, it also has roughly 20% of the credit card market, compared to 8% for Capital One–which is why Capital One ranks so poorly on Thomas’s list, while Citigroup sits in the middle of the pack.

Take with a grain of salt?
As many banks on the list would be quick to point out, the CFPB does not validate the complaints that are registered, other than establishing that a relationship exists between the consumer and the bank. Banks would argue that the data is “unverified” and that “there are many complaints that at the end of the day are not justified.”

The study’s results, however, do show many consistencies with JD Power’s customer satisfaction ratings. For instance, American Express and Discover, which did well in Thomas’ study, also traditionally have the highest ratings in JD Power’s survey.

Ultimately, despite the banks’ best efforts to squelch the database, it’s hard to argue that having access to more data isn’t better.

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