NEW YORK - U.S. consumers satisfaction with credit cards plummeted in 2009, driven by anger due to fees and higher interest rates, according to a J.D. Power and Associates poll released on Tuesday.
The poll showed around 20 percent of customers reported an increase in their interest rates since 2008, with the largest decline in satisfaction among revolvers, those card holders who carry a balance from month to month.
In addition, 18 percent of customers complained about various fees, up from 10 percent a year earlier.
The customer satisfaction index fell 7 points to 703 points in a 1,000-point scale, its lowest level since J.D. Power, a unit of McGraw-Hill Cos (MHP.N), began conducting the survey in 2007.
The decline was a little more than we thought, said Michael Beird, director of banking services at J.D. Power and Associates. Rates and fees clearly had the largest impact ... We saw a decline in satisfaction among all types of cardholders in that category.
Overall satisfaction among credit card customers remains the lowest across the financial services industries, including insurance, banking and investment services, he said.
In the last year, credit card companies have been raising fees and interest rates and slashing rewards to cushion record high loan losses.
Those actions ignited public anger, as the same companies started receiving billions of dollars of taxpayer money in federal bailouts during the economic meltdown.
The moved pushed Washington to limit the ability of credit card companies to raise fees or interest rates from February 2010.
American Express Co (AXP.N), the largest U.S. credit card company by sales, ranked first in the satisfaction survey, helped by its rewards program, followed by Discover Financial Services (DFS.N).
JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), the largest issuer of Visa branded credit cards, was also above the industry average satisfaction mark.
However, Citigroup Inc (C.N), the largest issuer of MasterCard branded credit cards, Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), and Capital One Financial Corp (COF.N) ranked below the industry's average.
American Express, Bank of America, JPMorgan, Citigroup, Capital One, and Discover make up around 80 percent of the U.S. credit card industry.
The poll, conducted in May and June, received responses from more than 9,000 credit card users. (Reporting by Juan Lagorio; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)