While many consumers shied away from borrowing on their credit cards during and following the recent national recession, many have returned to doing so as the economy improves, and during that time, satisfaction with lenders and accounts has increased.
On a scale of 1,000, consumers' happiness with their credit card and lender now ranks at 753, according to the latest annual U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study issued by J.D. Power and Associates. That rating is up from 731 in 2011, and 714 in 2010. This change has come despite the fact that lenders are now changing their fee and credit limit structures, as well as the way in which they grant new lines of credit.
The significant increase in the last three years now has satisfaction with credit cards and lenders at the highest point observed in the past six years, and puts this type of borrowing on par with consumers' contentedness with retail banking, the report said. The latter industry has only seen a five-point increase in satisfaction during the same period.
The study is based on six different criteria related to credit cards, the report said. These include interaction with the lenders, the terms of their account, billing and payment processes, rewards programs, other benefits and services available, and the ability to get problems solved when they arise. The largest increase in these six criteria was observed in problem resolution, which rose 31 points, just ahead of rewards, which jumped 28.
Today, 84 percent of borrowers who had a problem were able to resolve them, up from 82 percent last year, the report said. Further, the average amount of time it takes to have such an issue cleared up dropped to four days from five over the last year.
Perhaps more important, though, only 11 percent of people reported having had such a problem at all in the 2012 study, the report said. That's down from 18 percent in 2009. The current level is almost half of the 21 percent who had issues with retail banks.
Rewards have also been a boon to borrowers in the past year, as 66 percent say their lenders have allowed them to completely understand how best to earn these perks, and 80 percent said the same for redeeming them. The number of people who said their programs have increased in value over the last year also rose to 18 percent from 15 percent, and only 24 percent said they saw rewards they'd earned expire in that time, compared with 28 percent in 2011.
Many consumers may also be benefiting from having changed their borrowing habits in helpful ways, such as by reducing the amount of debt they carry from one month to the next and spending more cautiously than they might have in the past. Both practices can be significantly helpful in dealing with these debts.