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Biggest Credit Card Complaints in America

Credit card complaints can be difficult to address. Sometimes credit card companies are hard to reach or it’s not clear who you should be complaining to. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, the federal government set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to help protect consumers. The CFPB government agency helps consumers address complaints they have with banks, credit unions, credit card companies, payday lenders and other financial companies.

Check out our guide to the best balance transfer credit cards.

The CFPB releases data on complaints that it receives (but keeps consumer information anonymous). Below, we dive into credit card complaint data to see what issues keep cropping up.

Key Findings

  • The big three Billing disputes, identity theft and account closings dominate the list of credit card issues American consumers complain about the most. These three issues make up over 36% of all complaints. (Note that “Other complaints,” which are undefined, account for 12% of all complaints.)
  • Filing complaints works  Over 30% of complaints ended with the consumer receiving a resolution of some sort. More than 20% received monetary relief and 11% received non-monetary relief. Non-monetary relief includes resolutions like changing account terms or correcting submissions to a credit bureau.
  • Fighting fees has the best results – Complaints about fees have the highest chance of being resolved with monetary relief.  For example balance transfer fee complaints are closed with monetary relief 35% of the time, cash advance fee complaints received monetary relief 38% of the time and complaints about late fees are resolved with monetary relief a whopping 56% of the time. This compares favorably to the overall chance for monetary relief which is around 21%.

Biggest Credit Card Complaints Nationwide

1. Billing Disputes

The number one issue Americans complained about most when it came to credit cards was billing disputes. Over 17% of complaints, or 3,653 complaints, were about this issue. The good news is that for consumers looking to dispute a charge on their bill, credit card companies tend to be adept at resolving billing disputes. Over 35% of all complaints about billing disputes end up with monetary relief for the consumer.

2. Other Complaints

Complaints that aren’t covered by any specific category are classified as “Other.” “Other” complaints make up 12.26% of all complaints in the CFPB database. Consumers whose complaints fall under “Other” tend to get the least back in terms of monetary benefits. Only 9.99% of “Other” complaints received monetary benefits.

3. Identity Theft/Fraud/Embezzlement

Identity theft, fraud and embezzlement can come in a few forms when it comes to credit cards. Someone may have opened credit cards in your name and used them to make charges or simply used your existing credit card to make charges. The scary thing about identity theft is that it can be hard to spot until quite late, putting a dent in your credit score. There are some simple ways to protect yourself against identity theft, like setting up alerts with the major credit bureaus and your bank.

4. Closing/Canceling Account

Disputes about closing and canceling accounts come in two forms. There are consumers who report an inability to close an account and then there are other consumers who are reporting accounts being closed without their consent. About 7% of all complaints fell under closing/canceling an account.

5. Rewards

Consumers complaining about credit card rewards often say they feel misled. Overall 4.87% of credit card complaints are related to rewards. Just under 35% of reward complaints are resolved with either monetary or non-monetary relief for the consumer. Of that, 19% are resolved with monetary benefits.

6. APR/Interest Rate

Overall 918 credit card complaints fell under APR or interest rate complaints. That’s 4.36% of all credit card complaints. Much like with rewards complaints, consumers complaining about APR or interest rates often say they have been misled about how interest rates change. The problem for many people is that once they start racking up unexpected interest payments, credit card debt can start piling up. Around 39% of complaints under this category are resolved with either monetary or non-monetary benefit.

7. Customer Service

Many of the complaints around customer service focus on how difficult it can be to communicate with financial companies. Consumers complain about being on hold for hours, phone calls going unanswered or questions not adequately being answered. Over 20% of customer service complaints receive monetary relief.

8. Delinquent Account

Consumers who complain about delinquent accounts are typically aggrieved by one of two things: Either a consumer is making a complaint about a delinquent account they were unaware of, or consumers complain about the methods financial companies use to collect delinquent debt. One reason this is a big complaint for people is it can really hurt your credit score. It’s important to check your credit report to make sure you do not have any delinquent debt.

9. Late Fees

Complaints about late fees account for 3.69% of all credit card complaints. Financial companies charge late fees when people miss payments. Typically, consumers who file complaints say that they paid their balance on time and no late fee is owed. In these disputes consumers tend to come out on top. Over 56% of late fee complaints receive monetary relief. Data from the CFPB shows that the median amount of relief is $130 and $25 is the most common amount.

10. Advertising/Marketing

Credit card consumers file complaints under advertising and marketing when they feel that either a company’s advertising was misleading or inappropriate, or a company failed to meet their promises laid out in a marketing campaign. For example, the aggrieved party may complain about the tactic of advertising to a minor. Advertising and marketing complaints make up just over 3.5% of all complaints.

Data and Methodology

In order to find the top credit card complaints in the country, we gathered data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Specifically, we filtered data from the CFPB complaint database to create a data set of all credit card complaints from 2016. We broke down the complaints by issue type, for example late fees, billing disputes, identity theft and so on. We then ranked each issue by most prevalent to least prevalent.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com. 

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

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Derek Miller Derek Miller studied economics at the University of Edinburgh and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. As the data journalist for SmartAsset, he conducts and writes data-driven studies on a broad range of personal finance topics.

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