American Express and Discover Financial Services once again were kings of the mountain in an annual survey of consumers' experience with credit cards.
In J.D. Power's annual U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, American Express and Discover tied for the top spot. American Express had been the top-ranked issuer in all eight years J.D. Power has performed the study. But Discover has always ranked high as well, and this year received the same score as American Express.
"American Express provides great service and Discover gets there in a very different way, but they have been nipping at American Express' heels for a long time," said Jim Miller, senior director of banking services at J.D. Power. "It's not that American Express is falling back, it's that they both have been improving."
J.D. Power measured card issuers on six factors: interaction, card terms, billing and payment, rewards, benefits and services, and problem resolution.
JPMorgan Chase finished third. The rest of the rankings were, in descending order: Barclays, U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Capital One Financial, Citigroup and GE Capital Retail Bank.
American Express and Discover pursue dramatically different business models, J.D. Power said. American Express targets affluent customers with 21 different cards that have an array of features and rewards programs. Discover, on the other hand, has a single card with only one rewards option (receiving cash back on accumulated purchases) and no annual fee.
Credit cards are a hot product in banking these days, as consumers' confidence in the economy rises and as banks look to cross-sell products and diversify revenue streams. A number of regional banks and credit unions have recently launched new cards or remade their card programs to boost business. These upstarts could steal customers from the larger players by keeping things simple and easy for consumers to understand, Miller said.
"Where they have the advantage over a number of these larger issuers, is their relationships with their customers," Miller said. "We find that when credit card customers have that existing deposit relationship with a bank, that helps with satisfaction."