Banks still haven't counted the full cost of business they've lost to credit unions over the past few months, but a major consumer sentiment indicator shows that member-owned financial institutions lead the industry in customer satisfaction. According to survey results released by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, credit unions scored an 87 on a 1-to-100 weighted scale. The figure marks an 8.7 percent gain from the same period last year, and an all time high score across all 47 business sectors tracked by ACSI researchers.

In a statement to reporters, ACSI founder Claes Fornell cited grassroots campaigns like Bank Transfer Day as a reason why American consumers have embraced credit unions. "Banks are facing difficult times on multiple fronts," Fornell said, "profits are being squeezed, regulators are more demanding, foreclosures remain problematic, and consumers are fighting back on fees." Larger credit unions, like Pentagon Federal, SECU and Navy Federal, now offer rewards credit cards and online banking services that rival those of major banks.

Credit union ranking overshadows improvements at big banks

Despite the show of positive sentiment toward credit unions, a few of the country's biggest banks also posted customer satisfaction gains in the latest ACSI index. After a painful restructuring, Citibank's smaller retail footprint and enhanced customer focus earned the major credit card issuer a 6 percent gain from last year's score. Citi's 73 score ties that of Wells Fargo, while JPMorgan Chase posted a score of 70.

Bank of America's failed attempt to charge monthly fees for debit card users impacted its ACSI index ranking, dropping it to last place in the financial category with a score of 68. ACSI researchers track customer satisfaction across ten industries by interviewing over 70,000 American households every year. The organization's data shows a strong correlation between customer satisfaction and financial performance, informing the selection of securities for investment portfolios.