Few issues confront all travelers more than credit cards. These small bits of embossed plastic are indispensable. They make our lives easier and allow us to travel without great amounts of cash. Of course, there are problems with credit cards, too. Government data provides a glimpse of credit cards with the most reported problems.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its credit card complaint data last month that covered most of the previous year, from July 2011 through May 2012.
For now this information is rather limited on the CFPB website, with a tiny slice of the roughly 17,000 credit-card complaints included. Frankly, I haven’t really figured out how to navigate the website and how to extract information, but it is there.
With a few clicks, you can search the database to see which types of complaints are most common. The two most frequent sources of consumer gripes: billing disputes and interest rates. Complaints can also be sorted by company, though the sample size is currently too small to draw conclusions about specific company practices.
Database wizards far craftier than I at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) dove into the data and blogged about it on the publications blog last week. It lamented the limitations, but there is a lot of promise for a future where credit card companies can be held publicly accountable.
For now, the information provided by the CFPB makes for quick reading. There are 137 credit-card-related complaints, all received by the agency since June 1. New complaints will be added daily once the agency verifies that the company has a business relationship with the person making the complaint.
For now, the database doesn’t include details that would help shed light on the seriousness of the complaints or provide insights into what exactly triggered the disputes or specifics about how it was resolved. A CFPB spokeswoman says the effort is still in its early stages and says the agency is “evaluating what, if any, additional information should be included.”
The main paper published a story about rankings of the credit cards according to WSJ estimates based on CFPB complaint data.
- Capital One — 2,700
- Citigroup — 2,380
- Bank of America — 1,800
- JP Morgan Chase — 1,800
- American Express — 870
Capital One, the subject of 33 of those 137 complaints, came in as the biggest source of credit-card complaints in that data set. The WSJ reported, “For the 10-month period between last July and May 2012, Capital One’s complaints included more than 400 on billing-statement and billing disputes and more than 200 each on collection practices, interest rates and identity-theft concerns.”
As might be expected, credit card companies are not thrilled with complaints being collected and publicized on publicly available government websites, but credit card companies are getting the message loud and clear about problems that are surfacing. Every company involved promised they would work more diligently to help consumers who have problems.
J.P. Morgan said it welcomes feedback from its customers and added that it has taken steps to improve its credit cards. “While we are pleased with the progress we’ve made, we look forward to further improving the service our customers expect and deserve,” the company said.
Bank of America, in a statement, said, “Our objective is to work with our customers to resolve any issues they may have.”
American Express, said “in the vast majority of cases” it is “able to work directly with our customers to resolve any concerns they have.” A Citigroup spokeswoman said the bank has been working to address consumers’ concerns.
This new CFPB asset is in its infancy. The Consumer Travel Alliance is in contact with the CFPB and will be following developments from this new financial watchdog.
In the meantime, choose your credit cards wisely and report any problems. The process is simple and it allows you to help yourself and fellow travelers. Click here or go to the resources section of the Consumer Travel Alliance website and file your complaints.