Consumer Reports Survey on Credit Cards

Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a nationwide survey from July 1 to 10, 2011 of 1,258 adults 18 years and above regarding credit cards. Over one third of responders had at least one problem with their credit card company in a year and saw slight improvements in how they were treated by credit companies this year compared to last.

Credit cards are one of the lowest-rated services that Consumer Reports has analyzed with only 51 percent of responders highly satisfied with their credit cards in 2011 compared to 45 percent in 2010.  Thirty five percent of responders had at least one credit card problem in the last year, such as new annual fees, higher interest rates, lower credit limits, or limits on rewards.  The number of responders that experienced unwelcome news about lower credit limits decreased from 37 percent in 2011 from 47 percent in 2010.   Taking this into account, it is surprising that only 12 percent of responders said their credit card companies had treated them unfairly in 2011.  The proportion decreased from15 percent in 2010 and from 22 percent in 2009.

Credit card companies are sending out more pre-approved credit offers than in previous years and more are being approved.  Only 14 percent of the responders were denied a card in 2011, compared with 24 percent in 2010.

Credit card companies have developed more rewards programs to encourage consumers to sign up for their cards.  There are so many different deals, which can make it difficult to compare and weed through the fine print.

As has been indicated by other research studies, more cardholders have been paying down their credit card balances and so have these responders. They carried less credit card debt with median balances of $3,414 in 2011 compared to $3,793 in 2010, and $$4,928 in 2009.

The credit card industry has had a bad name, because of high interest rates, numerous confusing fees, notorious fine print, and lack of consumer service. The purpose of the Card Act was to make improvements, but much more is needed.

Credit Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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