Why Are American Express's Cardholders Happier Than Bank of America Corp or Wells Fargo's?

According to J.D. Power's most recent credit card satisfaction survey, American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) earned the top spot for the seventh consecutive year. So, what is American Express doing right that other major card issuers like Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) could learn from?

Source: company

American Express makes sure customers know the benefits
In the survey, one-third of credit card customers said they were unaware of the benefits associated with their card.

Card benefits can mean a variety of things including travel protection, purchase protection, and fraud protection. The study found that those customers who understood the benefits offered tended to be more satisfied with the company issuing the card. In fact, the satisfaction rating was nearly 8% lower for those customers unaware of their benefits.

American Express scored a perfect five out of five in terms of customer satisfaction with their card's benefits and features. Bank of America scored three out of five and Wells Fargo only managed a two, indicating their customers are either unsatisfied or unaware of the benefits and features included with their card.

A quick look at the companies' websites shows the emphasis Amex puts on their benefits. For example, if I go to the American Express Platinum card page, the company clearly breaks down the benefits into categories such as travel, entertainment, and shopping. In fact, thorough descriptions of the benefits take up most of the page.

In contrast, the page for Bank of America's Cash Rewards card makes you click another tab to read about most of the benefits, and doesn't go into nearly as much detail as American Express.

American Express has better and more exclusive reward programs
Not only does American Express offer generous reward programs for airlines, hotels, home improvement stores, and cash back to name a few, but the company has exclusive partnerships with some of the most popular companies in their respective categories.

For example, the only credit cards that will earn you Delta miles and Starwood Hotel's SPG points are issued by Amex. Not only that, but there are additional benefits with each partner that the competition simply can't match. Some other cards like Citi's AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard allow flyers to earn status-qualifying miles, but not as generously as Delta's Amex Reserve card. American Express' threshold is lower ($30,000 vs. $40,000) and the earning possibility per year is higher (30,000 qualification miles vs. 10,000).

American Express' customers feel the costs are worth it
American Express also scored a perfect five for satisfaction with their credit cards' terms. That is, customers feel the interest rates are fair, and the annual fees are reasonable.

This is particularly impressive considering American Express has some of the highest annual fees in the business. The company's well known "Platinum" card has a $450 annual fee, and even the Delta cards can charge up to $450 per year. American Express' highly desired Centurion, or "black card", carries an astronomical $2,500 annual fee.

However, customers feel the rewards and benefits more than justify the costs. Take the Amex Delta Reserve card, which comes with the $450 annual fee mentioned above.

Well, the card entitles the holder to a free checked bag for themselves and up to eight other people on the same reservation, worth $50 per round trip per person. It also includes free access to Delta's Sky Clubs, which normally runs $450 for an annual membership. Additionally, the cardholder receives a free companion certificate good for a first-class or coach ticket when one is purchased. This benefit alone can be worth well over $1,000 if used for a first-class transcontinental flight.

So, in addition to the normal "airline card" benefits like earning miles, the card can be worth thousands of dollars per year to frequent travelers.

In other words, consumers don't necessarily choose American Express' cards for the ability to earn miles or points. The cards have a ton of other benefits that make them so much more than just "rewards cards".

In contrast, not one of Bank of America's credit cards has an annual fee, but customers would be more than happy to pay it if the benefits justified it.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em
Recognizing American Express' loyal and satisfied membership base, Wells Fargo recently decided to partner with Amex to issue two new credit card products, both of which offer a more attractive rewards package than anything else Wells Fargo offers.

This should definitely help Wells meet its goal of putting a Wells Fargo credit card in the wallet of every banking customer.

As far as Bank of America and other card issuers are concerned, they need to find a way to make customers aware and appreciative of their cards' features and partner with other companies to create exclusive partnership cards their customers are happy to pay annual fees for.

Or, the other banks could follow Wells Fargo's lead and partner with American Express...

Your credit card may soon be completely worthless
The plastic in your wallet is about to go the way of the typewriter, the VCR, and the 8-track tape player. When it does, a handful of investors could stand to get very rich. You can join them -- but you must act now. An eye-opening new presentation reveals the full story on why your credit card is about to be worthless -- and highlights one little-known company sitting at the epicenter of an earth-shaking movement that could hand early investors the kind of profits we haven't seen since the dot-com days. Click here to watch this stunning video.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (0)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 3008435, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 8/28/2015 11:15:32 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Matthew Frankel

Matt brought his love of teaching and investing to the Fool in order to help people invest better, after several years as a math teacher. Matt specializes in writing about the best opportunities in bank stocks, real estate, and personal finance, but loves any investment at the right price. Follow me on Twitter to keep up with all of the best financial coverage!

Today's Market

updated Moments ago Sponsored by:
DOW 16,580.77 -74.00 -0.44%
S&P 500 1,985.64 -2.02 -0.10%
NASD 4,805.31 -7.40 -0.15%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

8/28/2015 11:00 AM
AXP $76.40 Down -0.48 -0.62%
American Express CAPS Rating: ****
BAC $16.33 Down -0.11 -0.67%
Bank of America CAPS Rating: ****
WFC $53.74 Down -0.29 -0.54%
Wells Fargo CAPS Rating: *****