Updated: July 9, 2012
The proof comes in the form of new consumer complaint data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is a federal agency established under the bank-regulating Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. The bureau is meant to be a one-stop shop for consumer complaints about banks. Prior to its formation, a consumer wanting to file an official complaint about a bank with the government had to determine which one of an alphabet soup of agencies (FRB, FDIC, OCC, etc.) regulated their particular bank.
Based on the 10 months of collected data, obtained from the agency through a Freedom of Information Act request, consumers filed 15,912 nonduplicated complaints with the bureau against a number of credit card issuers between July 21, 2011 and May 14, 2012.
That averages out to about 50 complaints per day.
The five largest credit card issuers received the lion's share of complaints (not surprisingly, as they have the largest consumer bases to begin with). However, the bureau's data revealed that 2,377 of the nearly 16,000 complaints -- roughly 15% -- have not been matched with the offending credit card issuer yet. That means each bank's complaint numbers may grow, and the overall rankings may change in the future as the information is continuously updated by the bureau.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, here are the 10 credit card issuers that have had the most complaints filed against them by consumers:
Note: A few of the banks below are referred to by multiple names in the CFPB database. For example, Citi is referred to as Citi Bank Products and Citi Credit Cards & Student Loans. In those instances, we combined all the complaint data under one name -- i.e., Citi.
10. U.S. Bank
Number of Credit Card Complaints: 286
U.S. Bank starts off the list, and its top three complaints look similar to many of the other banks on the list -- with billing disputes ranking as the most common consumer gripe. However, its total number of complaints equals just more than 10% of the bank at this list's No. 1.
When asked about the CFPB's list, U.S. Bank could not be reached to provide a comment.
Number of Credit Card Complaints: 497
Most Frequent Cause of Complaints: APR or interest rate issues (82), billing disputes (71) and issues with closing/canceling accounts (33).
Unlike with U.S. Bank customers, APRs and interest rates caused the most complaints from Barclays customers. Billing disputes came in second, though both issues failed to draw 100 complaints during the time period.
Kevin Sullivan, a representative from Barclaycard US, declined to comment on our report.
8. Wells Fargo
Number of Credit Card Complaints: 542
Most Frequent Cause of Complaints: Billing disputes (70), late fees (56) and identity theft/fraud-related incidents (54).
Wells Fargo ranks eighth in most complaints and is the eighth-largest credit card issuer, according to a Nilson Report released in 2011. Billing disputes were the most common complaints, though late fees and ID theft and fraud followed closely.
Only one other bank -- GE Capital -- joined Wells Fargo in having late fees as one of its three most common complaints.
Wells Fargo representative Natalie Brown responded to us saying, "We believe the vast majority of our customers are satisfied with our service." Brown added that when it comes to customer feedback, "we value it, take it seriously and [will] work with customers to find solutions that meet their needs and individual circumstances."
Number of Credit Card Complaints: 686
Most Frequent Cause of Complaints: Billing disputes (106), identity theft/fraud-related incidents (97) and APR or interest rate issues (93).
Discover may have received the seventh-largest number of complaints, but the news hasn't been all bad for the credit card issuer. In a 2011 J.D. Power survey, Discover's credit cards had the second-highest customer satisfaction score.
Discover's list of most common complaints mirrors that of many others on the list, with billing disputes leading the way.
Discover did not respond to our request to comment.
6. American Express
Number of Credit Card Complaints: 847
Most Frequent Cause of Complaints: Identity theft/fraud-related incidents (150), billing disputes (129) and issues closing/canceling accounts (64).
American Express, known for card offerings with sizable credit lines and prestige (think: Centurion Card), had the fewest complaints among the nation's five largest credit card issuers. That's not too surprising, since AmEx earned the highest score among all credit card issuers in the 2011 J.D. Power satisfaction survey.
Despite that, American Express received a slightly higher than average number of card complaints involving identity theft and fraud.
In response to our report, representative Leah Gerstner from AmEx said: "The CFPB's data is consistent with our experience over time. In the vast majority of cases, we are able to work directly with our customers to resolve any concerns they have."
5. GE Capital Retail Bank
Number of Credit Card Complaints: 983
Most Frequent Cause of Complaints: Billing disputes (134), APR or interest rate issues (112) and late fees (98).
As part of the finance arm of General Electric, GE Capital Retail Bank offers credit cards under popular retail names such as Walmart, American Eagle, Chevron and Amazon.com (among other retailers, listed here).
GE Capital cardholders' top three complaints look similar to the rest of our top 10 -- except that late fees ranked highly. Only Wells Fargo can make a similar claim.
Dori Abel, a representative from GE Capital Retail Bank, responded saying, "We share the CFPB’s commitment to transparency and work hard to help consumers fully understand our products and services to resolve complaints fairly and expeditiously..."
Abel added that 40-50% of the complaints received from the CFPB since last year indicated that accountholders never tried to contact GE Capital Retail Bank about the concerns regarding their account, "which is disappointing based on the numerous ways they have to reach us directly."
4. Bank of America
Number of Credit Card Complaints: 1,809
Most Frequent Cause of Complaints: Billing disputes (252), identity theft/fraud-related incidents (191) and APR or interest rate issues (140).
Ranking fourth, Bank of America had nearly twice as many complaints as the fifth-place bank. In fact, BofA had nearly as many billing dispute complaints as U.S. Bank -- the 10th ranked bank on this list -- had total complaints.
Bank of America representative Betty Riess commented, "We value our customers' feedback as it helps us continue to get better. We take every customer issue very seriously and we have processes in place to address any issues they may have."
Number of Credit Card Complaints: 1,818
Most Frequent Cause of Complaints: APR or interest rate issues (330), billing disputes (223) and identity theft/fraud-related incidents (184).
The second-largest credit card issuer, Chase ranked just above Bank of America for third on this list. However, it the highestof complaints when it came to credit card APR and interest rate issues.
That made APRs and interest rates the most common complaint from Chase cardholders. Barclays -- at No. 9 -- is the only other bank on the list that can make that claim.
In response, Chase Public Affairs Director Steve O'Halloran said, "We welcome feedback from our customers," and that the company has been working to improve policies, practices and communication with its credit card customers. "While we are pleased with the progress we've made, we look forward to further improving the service our customers expect and deserve and we encourage them to contact us directly if they have any concerns," O'Halloran said.
Number of Credit Card Complaints: 2,378
Most Frequent Cause of Complaints: Billing disputes and billing statement concerns (338), APR and interest rate issues (279), identity theft/fraud-related incidents (172) and issues with closing/canceling accounts (117).
Taking the runner-upon the list, Citi garnered more than 500 more complaints than third-place Chase.
As with many banks on this list, Citi's primary source of complaints was billing disputes. In fact, CFPB data shows that Citi received about 50 more complaints related to credit card billing disputes than U.S. Bank, Barclays, Wells Fargo and Discover combined.
"Every day we work hard to earn our customers’ business, and we have been actively and quickly responding to all complaints, including those fielded by the CFPB," said Emily Collins, Citi spokeswoman. "We recognize the importance of customer feedback and take all of their comments and concerns seriously."
1. Capital One
Number of Credit Card Complaints: 2,713
Most Frequent Cause of Complaints: Billing disputes (379), APR or interest rate issues (257) and identity theft/fraud-related incidents (240).
Capital One Bank may only be the fifth-largest credit card issuer -- behind Chase, American Express, Bank of America and Citi -- but when it comes to receiving complaints, Capital One takes home the gold medal.
Billing disputes were the most common complaint, and Capital One had more of them than any other bank. Capital One also garnered the most ID theft/fraud-related complaints.
But it didn't stop there. According to the bureau's data, Capital One also received the most complaints involving issues closing/canceling accounts (162), the bank's collection practices (151) and collection debt disputes (97) of any bank on the list.
Capital One did not respond to the request to comment.
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