Between interest rates, rewards, balance transfers and fees, there are lots of places for banks to hide information that might drive a potential credit card customer away. But a new study looked at the country’s top 10 credit card issuers to determine which companies are hiding the least from consumers. And you might be surprised at who came out on top.
For the past few years, the folks at CardHub.com have looked at a variety of credit card applications from the major card issuers and judged them based on the following criteria:
* Clarity on Rewards: The application clearly defined, without reading the fine print, how to earn rewards and how much the rewards were worth to the customer (e.g. Are 10,000 miles worth a trip to New York or a trip to Greece?).
* Clarity on Annual Fee: The annual fee is clearly displayed without having to go to the pricing disclosures for the credit card.
* Clarity on How Much it Costs to Carry a Balance for New Purchases: The introductory and regular APR for new purchases made on a credit card were clearly displayed without having to go to the pricing disclosures, read the fine print, or click out of the landing page.
* Clarity on How Much it Costs to Make a Balance Transfer: The introductory and regular APR for a balance transfer, as well as the balance transfer fee, were clearly displayed without having to go to the pricing disclosures, read the fine print, or click out of the application page.
Capital One, a perennial contender in Consumerist’s Worst Company In America tournament, beat out all other card issuers with a 98.6% transparency score, identical to its result from last year and up slightly from the 96.4% score from 2010. Cap One has been on top of the transparency rankings for all three years.
Citi’s second-place finish isn’t just notable because the bank scored and impressive 96.4% score, but because that’s a huge turnaround from the previous year, when Citi came in tenth out of ten issuers with a score of 82.1%.
Of the two companies that issue cards and operate their own networks, Discover had a respectable fourth place result with a rating of 87.5%, up 5% and five positions from 2011. Meanwhile, American Express saw a significant drop in score, from 85% in 2011 to 76.7% in 2012, to land in eighth place.
And yet, there were still two less-transparent banks on the list — USAA (72.7%) and newcomer to the list Barclays (62.0%).
CardHub says that while most banks saw an increase in transparency, which can likely be attributed to reforms introduced by the CARD Act, the inclusion of Barclays on the list and the significant declines at a couple other issuers lowered the overall level of transparency from 89% in 2011 to 84.2% in 2012.
You can check out the whole study — along with scores for each of the cards in the study — here.