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American Express continues to dominate customer satisfaction survey

By , CardRatings contributor
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J.D. Power has been issuing its annual U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Survey for seven years, and for seven years, American Express has ranked first on the list. The credit card issuer narrowly edged out Discover for top honors on the 2013 survey.

Three companies exceed industry average

In developing its rankings, J.D. Power considered six aspects of service provided by 11 major card issuers. The criteria used for scoring included the following factors:

  • Interaction
  • Credit card terms
  • Billing and payment
  • Rewards
  • Benefits and services
  • Problem resolution

On a 1,000-point scale, the industry average for this year was 767 points, with three issuers coming out ahead of the curve. American Express took top honors with a score of 816, but Discover was right behind, earning 812 points. Chase also exceeded the industry average by earning 783 points.

Coming in dead last on the survey was HSBC. The company scored a 709. The next lowest scoring credit card issuer was Citi, with 741 points.

Rewards an important part of satisfaction

J.D. Power notes American Express scored particularly well in rewards, benefits and services, and billing and payment. The survey also noted rewards points and other benefits are an important part of overall customer satisfaction.

According to the poll results, 33 percent of customers were unaware of the benefits provided by their credit cards. Among these customers, overall customer satisfaction was an average of 59 points lower.

"While most customers change cards for a better rewards program, they often don't fully understand the rewards offered with their current card," Jim Miller, senior director of banking services at J.D. Power, said in a written statement.

Which begs the question of whether some credit card issuers would have scored higher if cardholders better understood the benefits attached to their account.

Making the most of your rewards credit card

While American Express may be tops in customer service, you don't necessarily need to have one of their cards to get great rewards. Many issuers offer perks beyond basic rewards points.

The bigger issue, as demonstrated by the J.D. Power survey, may be that you don't even realize what rewards and benefits your card offers. For example, an airline credit card may come with free baggage checks, or a cash-back card may feature bonus offers you need to activate each month.

To ensure you are taking full advantage of your rewards credit card, be sure to carefully review the benefits booklet that typically arrives with the welcome packet for a new card. In addition, if you are planning any travel, it may pay to call your issuer and ask if there are any special benefits, such as travel insurance for airline tickets or hotel accommodations purchased with your credit card.

As for American Express, it appears to have no intention of resting on its laurels.

"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," Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and chief executive officer of American Express, noted in a written statement.

Can your card say the same?

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