Do you love your credit card company?
If you do -- congratulations! And you might want to run out and buy a few lottery tickets (no, not really), because you're apparently very lucky. According to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which monitors complaints about credit card companies as part of its mission to protect consumers from unscrupulous companies, there are a lot of people out there whose love-hate relationships with their card companies trend heavily toward "hate."
CFPB began tracking complaints against credit card companies in its Consumer Complaint Database in November 2011. By the time 22 months had passed, and it was time for CFPB to compile its latest report, CFPB had recorded more than 25,000 consumer complaints about credit card companies -- more than 1,000 per month on average.
What did they learn?
Crunching the numbers, CFPB came up with several interesting findings about the relationships consumers have with their card providers. Some were unsurprising, such as the fact that four of the top five card issuers -- CapitalOne (NYSE:COF), Citibank (NYSE:C), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) -- are also the top four most-complained-about issuers of credit cards. (It stands to reason that if you issue a lot of cards, you're going to attract more complaints than if you issue few cards.)
Others were more surprising, such as the fact that CapitalOne, despite being only No. 5 in the number of cards it's issued, is No. 1 in the number of complaints it attracts -- while American Express (NYSE:AXP), despite being the No. 4 biggest card issuer, is not one of the most-complained-about issuers.
Top 5 pet peeves
Perhaps the most interesting data in CFPB's report, though, concerns the things that consumers are -- and are not -- complaining about. Here's what the data shows, in pictorial form:
In order, from most complained about to ... somewhat less complained about, the five most common complaints consumers have about their credit card companies are:
- Billing disputes -- 16%
- Interest rates -- 10%
- Identity theft, fraud, or embezzlement -- 7%
- Credit reporting -- 7%
- Closed or canceled accounts -- 7%
Less common were complaints about late fees, debt collection practices, denials of credit, credit line reductions, billing statements, and customer service -- all making up about 3% or 4% of total complaints. When you consider that as recently as the fourth quarter of 2012, some 22.2% of American cardholders got socked with late fees that still average $25, the fact that fewer than one in five payers complained about having to pay this kind of fee is pretty remarkable.
The squeaky wheel gets the cash
Finally, one bit of information for you under the "news you can use" category. CFPB, it turns out, doesn't just collect data on consumer complaints about credit card companies. CFPB also tries to help consumers resolve these complaints.
To date, CFPB has helped nearly 7,400 consumers -- about three in 10 complainants -- to obtain monetary compensation from the companies they complained about. That works out to about $128 per complainant. An additional 2,400 credit card customers were offered non-monetary relief. (That might include anything from having a credit card company volunteer to get an inaccurate entry on a credit report fixed, to convincing a card company to reconsider a rejected card application and perhaps approve it.
For all the objections that certain members of Congress, state attorneys general, and in bank lobbyists have raised about the creation of CFPB, that's a pretty compelling statistic right there: Roughly two out of every five consumers who think they've gotten a raw deal from their credit card companies, and complained about it to CFPB, have gotten the help they needed in resolving their disputes.
If you have a dispute and have been having trouble getting your card company to listen to your side of things -- maybe it's time to call in the big guns, and file a complaint with CFPB at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/.
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Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends American Express and Bank of America and owns shares of Bank of America, Capital One Financial, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.