Despite America’s continued economic and unemployment struggles, overall customer satisfaction with the 11 largest credit card issuers that were part of the 7th annual JD Power and Associates Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Study℠ has risen 14 points, according to press releases on both the JD Powers website and the American Express website.

Last year’s survey results had four card issuers, American Express, Discover, Chase, and Barclaycard, scoring above that national average. This year’s results leave only American Express, Discover, and Chase ranking higher than the national average for credit card customer satisfaction.

To determine rankings, JD Powers uses a 1000 point scale and tabulates answers from over 14,000 credit card holders. Credit card customers answer questions in six categories: benefits and services, billings and payment, credit card terms, customer representative interactions, problem resolution, and rewards.

Apparently, credit card issuers take card holder feedback seriously as every card issuer increased reported satisfaction levels over last year’s results, with many of the score advancements being a significant achievement in one year. GE Capital Retail Bank increased its score by 38 points. Besides American Express, Discover, Chase®, Barclaycard®, and GE Capital Retail, also in included in the JD Power survey were US Bank®, Wells Fargo®, Capital One®, Bank of America®, Citi® and HSBC®.

American Express, ranking number one for the 7th straight year, scored highest out of all card issuers surveyed in the Customer Service Representative Interactions category. Additionally, American Express also ranked highest in Benefits and Services, Billing and Payments, and Rewards. American Express has emphasized its focused efforts on improvements, seemingly specifically in giving it’s customers additional accessibility through technology. Notable are the addition of several new features including ability to manage their accounts through a Facebook application, mobile gift cards that can be used with smart phones, and Pass for American Express® for Passbook.

Although American Express has made intentional efforts to better its customer experience, the company acknowledges its customers for the ranking it received.

“We are truly honored that our Card Members have recognized us for seven straight years.  This prestigious recognition demonstrates the importance of putting customer satisfaction and service at the heart of everything we do and delivering outstanding value through extraordinary products, service and experiences,” said Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and chief executive officer, American Express. “The feedback provided by consumers through this study will help us continue to raise the bar as we work to exceed the expectations of our customers.”

Discover Card has again ranked second in overall customer satisfaction. Each year Discover Card has made increases in its scores and has moved steadily to close the gap between itself and American Express. The 2013 results leave only a 4 point gap between the two top-ranking cards: Discover Card scored 812 out of 1000, and American Express scored 816. The JD Power report indicates that Discover Card’s three top areas of performance are Credit Card Terms, Customer Service Representative Interactions, and Problem Resolution.

Even with all the gains made by credit card issuers in general, there is still much room for improvement, especially in helping customers understand both the terms and the benefits associated with their credit cards. Customers continue to express concern or dissatisfaction with credit card terms. According to survey results, less than one half of cardholders feel they completely understand the terms they have agreed to in obtaining their card. Additionally, over one-third of cardholders self-reported they are unaware of the benefits associated with their credit cards. Perhaps the 2014 JD Powers Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Report will reveal that credit card issuers have heard the voice of the consumer and addressed these areas of concern adequately.

In a recently published article, The Wall Street Journal reporters Siobhan Gorman, Evan Perez, and Janet Hook asserted that the National Security Agency (NSA) has accessed, and stored permanently in a database, the every-day credit card transactions completed by average Americans.

The article, “U.S. Collects Vast Data Trove,” indicated that credit card issuers, when contacted, refused to give any comment. Certainly, a question about the “relationship” the large credit card issuers have with federal government is only one of a myriad of questions one would love to ask.

Information regarding the government’s tracking of credit card purchases came to light as The Wall Street Journal’s reporters conducted research on a story about the NSA’s collection of American’s phone usage information and cooperative relationships with Verizon™, AT & T™, and Sprint®. The article covering the storage of phone records of regular American citizens also disclosed that there is an agreement between major technology providers (such as Google™, Facebook®, Apple®, Yahoo™, Microsoft®, and Skype™) and the FBI and NSA. Allegedly, the federal agencies have authority and perhaps permission, to directly mine the servers operated by these companies.

Wall Street Journal reporters indicated that three former NSA officials stated that the NSA does have relationships established with large credit card issuers. However, the article indicated that the Wall Street Journal reporters could not establish if collecting the credit card activity data was an on-going arrangement or was a one-time effort to mine data.

Although government officials have been forced to admit the existence of a data base containing records of millions of American citizens, they were quick to assure potential readers that the majority of the information stored will never be viewed by a human being. It will only be individuals who have seemingly posed a threat to national security who may potentially have their data searched.

Gorman, Perez, and Hook quote Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregonian Democrat, as saying he had been warning about “the breadeth of the government program for years.”

The federal government received limited authority to conduct such a collection of information through the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which originally allowed the collection of data of foreign intelligence information from either foreigners, foreign entities, or agents for foreign powers. The authority to collect information has been expanded by amendments, including by the Patriot Act after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, which expanded the power given to the federal government by allowing an institution to supervise the collection of data rather than supervision or enactment of the FISA being the responsibility of the President of the United States of America. Also as a result of the Patriot Act, there was a secret court established to oversee the FISA.

Even though the original act was established specifically to collect information on foreign terrorist threats, information on average Americans with no foreign connections has been collected and stored. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is among federal officials reassuring the American people. According to the Wall Street Journal article quote of Clapper, the secret court will control the access to the giant database of information, limiting queries to “when there is a reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts, that the particular basis for the query is associated with a foreign terrorist organization.” Allegedly, the program is reviewed by the secret court approximately four times each year.

Despite reassurances about the NSA’s collection and handling of data from various government spokesmen, there is an element of doubt about the truthfulness of their statements as expressed by Oregon Democrat, Senator Ron Wyden. Gorman, Perez, and Hook wrote, “In March, Mr. Wyden noted, he questioned Mr. Clapper, who said the NSA did not “wittingly” collect any type of data pertaining to millions Americans. Spokesmen for Mr. Clapper didn’t respond to requests for comment.”

Readers may access the original Wall Street Journal article here.  The internet has many additional articles concerning the recent gathering of data by the government. Readers will need to evaluate articles read for bias as much of what is published on the internet can be reactionary and not based solely on fact.

Additional information on the FISA of 1978 or the Patriot Act is easily accessible by doing a Google search. Sources such as WikiPedia® have information that is written in layman’s terms and easily understood.

US Bank® scored highest not only in Overall Customer Experience with a credit card website, but also highest for speed of responsiveness in the most recent study of credit card websites conducted by Keynote® Systems, according to it’s press release.

This is the second year US Bank has bested the competition in this relatively new study. Keynote Systems, “the global leader in internet and mobile cloud testing,” conducted the online testing of eight US credit card issuer websites using over 1800 prospective customers. Other websites tested included American Express®, which ranked highest in Reliability (with a perfect score of 1,000), Bank of America®, Capital One℠, Chase®, Citi®, Discover®, and PNC℠.

Achieving top ranking in Overall Customer Experience is quite telling in that the testing required users, who previously did not have a credit card from the issuer whose site was being tested, to navigate through the site, decide on a credit card that best fit their individual situation, complete the credit card application process except for the final submission action, and check out the other online account features offered in relation to the card.

“The study revealed that when tested by actual consumers U.S. Bank’s website offered the strongest overall Customer Experience, and finished first in the Brand Impact and Customer Satisfaction Overall Customer Experience categories,” stated the press release.

Presumably, the feedback from actual potential customers is invaluable not only to US Bank, but also to the other credit card issuers whose websites were evaluated. The information gathered through both the responses of individual testers and also the thousands of transactions monitored on computers at 12 locations throughout the US for the Technical Quality rankings, provides a basis from which credit card issuers can plan to improve their websites and the online experience of their customers. For instance, one result of the testing conducted by Keynote indicated that the “top predictor of brand outcomes and the second biggest predictor of acquisition” was website organization.

So where should consumers look if ease of use, site organization, and overall customer experience is what they are most looking for in online services provided by credit card issuers? US Bank ranked first. Other top performers included Discover, Chase, and PNC.

Interestingly enough, although US Bank ranked highest in customer experience, Discover card was the leader for Acquisition and Chase the top dog for Online Adoption.

“Our quantitative analysis revealed that when actual consumers visited the card marketing sites, satisfaction with the credit card products drove acquisition likelihood, but so did aspects of the site that go well beyond the terms of the card issuer,” said Chris Musto, general manager of the Keynote Competitive Research group at Keynote.

In today’s world, consumers are looking for reliable, secure, and convenient means of banking, purchasing, bill-paying, and account management. Studies like that conducted by Keynote provide feedback and guidance to credit card issuers in tailoring their online services to better meet the needs of their clients. Studies of credit card websites conducted by credible companies benefit the consumer as products and services are upgraded to meet the standards and demands set by an increasingly technological and mobile society. Kudos to US Bank for an excellent job in responding to consumer needs!

American Express® and USAA® lead the top ten US credit card issuers in customer experience according to the 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings® recently posted here.

“USAA and American Express set the pace for customer experience in credit cards,” a press release on the AP newswire quoted Bruce Temkin, managing partner of the Temkin Group.

The Temkin Group, based in Waban, Massachusetts, is known for its customer experience research. The 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings involved customer feedback from over 10,000 consumers invited to participate via an online customer survey. The invitations were distributed according to a scientific formula to include a wide range of demographics. For survey results to be considered valid, each of the credit card issuers rated had to have a minimum of 100 responses.

The Temkin Group said survey participants were asked to rate credit card issuers on a scale of 1 to 7 in three areas:

  • Functional – to what degree was the customer able to accomplish what they wanted to do?
  • Accessible – how easy was it for the customer to interact with the company?
  • Emotional – how did the customer feel about the interactions?

While USAA scored highest of all credit card issuers in the Emotional customer experience category, its overall score dropped 3 percentage points compared to last year’s survey. American Express made a gain of 2 percentage points and took the top spot of all credit card issuers for Functional experience.

American Express and USAA tied with a 70% ranking and landing both companies with a “Good” overall rating. The survey results included a total of 246 companies spanning 19 different industries from grocery store chains to restaurant chains to internet providers. USAA and American Express tied for 89th out of the list of 246.

Meanwhile, Discover® made an impressive 4 percent gain over last year’s results, landing a 68% and placing 100th overall for a ranking on the very top edge of the “Okay” category. Discover lead all credit card issuers in the Accessible customer experience category.

On the other end of the spectrum, Temkin reports that for the third year in a row, HSBC® scored lowest of all credit cards issuers reported in the survey results. In the credit card industry, HSBC scored lowest in all three customer experience areas and dropped two points lower than last’s year’s score. Capital One® was the only other card issuer that also scored a “Very Poor” rating.

Other card issuers with reportable results were US Bank®, Chase®, Wells Fargo®, Bank of America®, and Citigroup®.

Temkin’s annual Experience Rankings are a tool the consumer can take advantage of in deciding which credit cards to apply for and use. Another important use for the ranking is to help credit card issuers receive feedback from customers that ideally helps the company to improve its services, as was exhibited by both American Express and Discover. Consultation and leading industries in making those improvements is the other branch of services provided by the Temkin Group.

Started in 2010, the American Express® annual Small Business Saturday® creates a win-win situation for consumers and small businesses alike.

Sounding the call to support local businesses, often owned by friends or neighbors, American Express has set aside November 24, the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as a day to drive home the importance of shopping small.

During the recent presidential campaign, Americans were told that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. Small businesses have experienced growth while larger corporations have laid off employees. Small businesses keep jobs in America rather than sending them overseas.

It is logical, then, to conclude that when small businesses benefit, the American middle class benefits through a more stable economy and through a better employment rate.

In addition to the satisfaction one gets from supporting local businesses, consumers using their registered American Express card at participating small businesses on Small Business Saturday qualify for a $25 statement credit from American Express. It literally pays to Shop Small®!

Card registration officially opens on Sunday, November 18. To register, consumers must go to the American Express Shop Small website.

Shoppers can follow the “Where to Shop” link at the same website to locate participating small businesses in their local area. Simply enter a zip code or city and state, and a listing of participating businesses will display with a Google® map of their locations.

Not only is American Express offering the $25 Statement credit as an incentive to shoppers, they are going the extra mile to support small businesses by offering free tools to help small businesses take full advantage of the day. Businesses that qualify can get free online advertising, free templates for social media, free in-store signage, and even free Shop Small® door mats from American Express.

Some of the qualifications for Small Business Saturday include that the individually owned business makes no more than 10 million in annual revenue, whether it’s a storefront or online business, and that the business, if a franchise, has no more than 100 stores (or 20 corporately owned stores). Other eligibility qualifications are covered in the “2012 Small Business Saturday Free Online Advertising Program Terms of Participation” found on the American Express website.

Granted, one day isn’t going to solve all the economic problems America faces, but it is a start and creates a focus. American Express estimates that last year’s event involved over one hundred million shoppers. Small Business Saturday is a great example of people choosing to work together for the common good. Kudos to American Express!

In August 2012, Time Magazine evaluated credit card recommendations on eleven comparison websites using two hypothetical scenarios. Each site was evaluated using the same hypothetical scenarios and the results were disappointing. See how PlasticRewards.com beats out the competition with our unbiased recommendations and superior technology.

Time Magazine Credit Card Comparison

JD Power and Associates® began conducting its US Credit Card Satisfaction Survey℠ six years ago, and each of those six years American Express® has claimed the top spot. Whether the card is a stand alone card or a partner card, such as a Delta SkyMiles® American Express or a Costco® True-Earnings® American Express, customers have reported increased satisfaction levels each of the six years.

American Express scored 807 out of 1000 points, according to the JD Power and Associates press release. This is up 21 points from the 2011 results. Discover Card® again ranked second, improving by 20 points over last year’s performance. These scores are reflective of the huge gain made by the credit card industry in the the last three years. JD Powers reports a leap of 39 points in the average score, moving the average from 714 in 2010 to 753 in 2012.

The Credit Card Act of 2009 caused upheaval within the credit card industry as card issuers made moves to protect themselves and to come into compliance with the new legislation. Consumers rode the storms of increased fees and more limited credit availability while those within the industry sought to adjust to new government mandates. JD Power and Associates cites stabilization within the industry as a whole for the improvement in scores over the last three years, especially noting a 22 point increase in the average this year.

“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.”

JD Power reported increased levels of satisfaction in all six key factors measured in the survey.

  • Interaction

  • Credit card terms

  • Billing and payment process

  • Rewards

  • Benefits and services

  • Problem resolution

Considering the 10 major card issuers involved in the survey, the most significant improvement in overall customer satisfaction levels were made in the problem resolution category, with 84% of consumers reporting that the problems they contacted their credit card company about were resolved. Also affecting the 31 point gain in this area were factors such as credit card issuers alerting consumers they had become victims of fraud prior to the consumers discovering it themselves, customer service representatives giving consumers a time-frame within which the consumer’s reported issue would be resolved and completing the resolution process within the stated time-frame, and a reduction in the average length of time it takes to resolve a problem from 5 days to 4 days.

“Although credit card companies have been criticized for some of their business practices, when we look at overall customer satisfaction, they’re doing a good job,” said Miller. “It is evident in the 2012 study that credit card companies have really done a great job in handling problems and achieving quicker resolution.”

Both American Express and Discover Card again achieved five star ratings, a significant accomplishment considering the card issuer ranking closest to the leaders in the industry was Chase®, with a score 37 points lower than Discover.

This year’s JD Power and Associates survey results showing a solid average gain over the last several years clearly communicates that the credit card industry as a whole is listening to consumers and taking intentional steps to address the needs consumers have expressed.

According to an August press release posted on the Citi® Transaction Services site, Citi has captured The Nilson Report’s top honors for US Corporate Bank Card Issuer for three years running. The number one ranking is primarily based on volume. Citi’s numbers are impressive to say the least.

Citi touts itself as the “leading global bank,” citing the vast number of its business locations (over 160 worldwide) and immense volume of customer accounts (more than 200 million) to substantiate the claim. Citi also boasts “an extensive proprietary local currency network of 65 countries.” The efforts Citi has made to develop such a network is a benefit to large corporations doing a multinational business and offers a great advantage to corporations headquartered in the United States doing business on both a national and international level.

Of the recent honor for its US Corporate product, Manish Kohli, Citi’s Global Head of Commercial Cards, stated, “The U.S. market is a major strategic focus for us. We have continued to innovate and expand our product offering within the US market to complement our aggressive expansion globally.”

In a competitive market, Citi has focused on providing business solutions for account holders that make accountability and transparency much more convenient. A wide variety of online reporting tools gives corporations more control of expense management and planning with Citi’s tools making it easy to see what is spent and where.

Citi’s corporate credit card program is only the beginning of the services Citi has developed to support businesses on the national and international level. Citi also offers cash management, trade, and securities and fund services through its Citi Transaction Services, one division of Citi’s Institutional Clients Group. As Citi continues to play a prominent role in national and international banking products, the organization is committed to seeking additional avenues to serve the needs of its client base.

“We are pleased to be recognized again as the largest U.S. Corporate bank card issuer,” added Julie Monaco, North America Region Head and Global Head of Banks, Public Sector and Marketing for Citi Transaction Services. “We look forward to continuing to provide the innovative products and exceptional service that our clients have come to expect.”

Google™ Search, Google Earth™, Google Business Solutions™, Google Maps™, Google Calendar™, Google Docs™, Google News™, Google Analytics™, Google Groups™, Google Alerts™, Google Voice™, Google Moon™, Google Chrome™, Google Reader™, Google Sky™, Google Music™, Google Latitude™, Google Trends™. Today, EVERYTHING’S Google.

And Google Wallet™ just announced it is adding MORE to everything! With a new storage system and a virtual MasterCard®, consumers now have the ability to link American Express®, Discover®, MasterCard, or Visa® credit or debit cards with their Wallet account. The Google prepaid MasterCard can also be used with Google Wallet.

Originally partnered with MasterCard and Sprint’s™ Nexus 4G smartphone, Google Wallet was released in September 2011 and boasted the ability to use a smartphone as a virtual wallet anywhere that accepts MasterCard’s PayPass™ system on their NFC reader. Google Wallet is also used for online purchases. Initially, credit card information was stored securely on the phone. The goal of the application was to offer consumers both convenience and security.

Since it’s original release, Google Wallet has expanded to include a partnership with VISA and availability on additional Android™ phones including Galaxy Nexus, LG Viper 4G LTE, and LG Optimus Elite. Google’s Android tablet, Nexus 7, also supports Google Wallet.

Seeking to expand convenience for Wallet account users and to enhance security, Google Wallet has moved encrypted, password protected credit card account information storage to Google Cloud Storage™. According to Robin Dua, Head of Product Management at Google Wallet, credit card information entered on Google Wallet or Google Play™ is now stored on Google’s highly secure servers and the wallet ID (a virtual card number that is actually a MasterCard) is stored on the phone’s secure storage area. The virtual card, which the customer will never physically receive, is what is presented to the retailer or point of sale terminal.

In addition to added levels of secure storage by using both Cloud and the phone’s secure storage area, Google Wallet still requires use of a PIN for any transaction. A new security measure Google Wallet added with this update is the ability for consumers to disable their Wallet account remotely. If a phone is lost or stolen, the consumer can log onto the web to deactivate the phone’s ability to make transactions. The phone is cleared of transaction and virtual card information. If the phone is later found, the customer can go back online to re-activate Google Wallet.

Google Wallet’s new credit card storage location and the new virtual card enhancement has hit the news as the web has been flooded with press releases, blogs, and reactions to the announcement. The ability to select any of the four major credit cards to use with Google Wallet does not mean that the cards have entered an official partnership with Google Wallet, as American Express has adamantly denied.

Prior to the newest version of Wallet, all four major credit cards have been accepted by Google for purchases on its various apps. Essentially, the principal is the same as if a customer were purchasing something directly from Google. As the virtual card is presented at the point of sale, Google is paying the retailer and then charging consumer’s selected credit card. The link between the virtual MasterCard and the customer’s selected credit card is set up online and can be changed at any time. That change is made online. Using a virtual card means the merchant never has the customer’s credit card information. With the virtual card, the Android phone never has the customer’s credit card information either. Customers with some Citi® MasterCards may select to use the Citi card directly and bypass the virtual card.

Online Wallet account information will include records of transactions made. Credit card statements or transaction information for debit cards will indicate a purchase made through Google.

Google Wallet’s adding MORE means more flexibility, more options, and more security for the consumer.

In late July, Bank of America announced it will be adding EuroPayMastercard Visa (EMV) chips to some of its currently offered magnetic strip scredit cards,  while offering consumers a choice to include the two technologies on several of its other credit card programs.

Since its introduction in 1985, integrated circuit (IC) card technology adhering to EMV standards has grown in use and popularity internationally in places such as Europe, Australia, and Canada. The United States has not seen a large-scale move to use IC card technology, which would require installation of new card readers at retail point of sale (POS) terminals.

Chip cards contain microprocessor chips that make use of a PIN and cryptographic algorithms to protect a consumers personnel and account information as well as prevent use of a lost or stolen card. Credit Cards now in use in the United States have magnetic strips with all the owner’s personal and account information embedded on the strip. Proponents of the chip state that it is much more secure than a magstipe credit card.

“The new chip-enabled cards will improve convenience and security of customers’ transactions when traveling abroad,” said Consumer and Small Business Products Executive Susan Faulkner. “We want our customers to have the best possible experience while making purchases with their credit cards anywhere in the world.”

Bank of America’s integration of EMV technology is focused on providing support and convenience to cardholders identified as international travelers. According to Bank of America’s press release, cards containing EMV chips will include “all newly issued Merrill Lynch credit cards, U.S. Trust Accolades, BankAmericard Travel Rewards, BankAmericard Privileges, and Virgin Atlantic travel credit cards.” The cards will also continue to maintain the magnetic strip required for use at US point of sale terminals.

Additionally, existing credit card account holders identified as international travelers will be issued cards with EMV technology. Consumers with existing BankAmericard Cash Rewards, BankAmericard Power Rewards, BankAmericard, AAA Members Rewards, NEA, Asiana Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines card programs will be able to go to a Bank of America banking center or phone Bank of America customer service to request they be issued a credit card containing chip technology. The capacity to make such requests online will be activated later this year.

Although EMV technology can allow for a PIN only transaction, Bank of America cards will continue to prompt consumers to sign for a purchase.

In addition to potential added security with EMV technology, another of the original purposes of the IC chip cards was to allow consumers to choose from multiple applications on one card. For instance, cards with IC chips could allow the cardholder to determine whether a transaction was to come from a credit card account, a debit account, or a wallet account. Although the US has been slower than some other countries to adapt EMV technology, credit card issuers, such as VISA, are publishing policy that will shift fraud liability to retailers who have not made the switch to EMV enabled POS terminals. VISA’s policy takes effect in 2015.