Do you have a problem with your credit card issuer?  Maybe you have a dispute over a bill or the fees being imposed.  Perhaps you feel that the issuer used misleading advertising.  Although you may feel like you are tilting at windmills, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is available to help your grievances be heard.

The CFPB is a relatively young Federal agency established in 2011 to enforce consumer financial protection laws.  Part of their mandate is to assist consumers with complaints regarding financial services, including credit cards.  If you have a complaint, you can contact the credit card issuer directly first, but you don’t have to.  You can go straight to the CFPB and file a complaint on their website, www.consumerfinance.gov, or if you prefer, you can call them at 855-411-2372 instead.

Filing a complaint is easy.  You just need to describe your complaint and how you would like to see it resolved.  Of course, you will need to provide your contact and account information.  The CFPB will forward the complaint to the credit card issuer who will then have 15 days to respond.  You can check the response and status of your complaint online.  Disputes are expected to be completely resolved within 60 days.  There is no guarantee that you’ll get the outcome that you want, but with the Federal government involved, at least you will get attention.

In 2012, the CFPB logged 15,402 consumer credit card complaints.  In 2013, the number of complaints through December 15 was 12,332.  Complaints are listed in 33 categories with the top five relating to:

  • Billing disputes
  • Interest rates
  • Credit reporting
  • Closing an account
  • Identity theft/fraud

If you are looking for a new credit card, it is interesting to see how complaints break down by issuer.  Naturally, the largest issuers had the most complaints so in order to compare issuers fairly, we looked at the number of complaints versus the issuer’s size, as measured by the 2012 Nilson Report on purchase volume.  Of the major issuers, American Express performed best with only 1.6 complaints per billion dollars of purchases while Capital One came out the worst with 20.8 complaints per billion dollars of purchases. This complaint rate measure by itself may not be particularly meaningful, but it is useful as a way to compare the issuers.  Here is how the largest issuers performed in 2012 from best to worst.

 

Issuer # of Complaints Purchase Volume (Billions) Complaint Rate
American Express 910 566 1.6
USAA 110 33 3.3
USBank 309 89 3.5
Chase 1,975 416 4.7
Discover 723 105 6.9
Bank of America 2,090 254 8.2
Wells Fargo 648 66 9.8
Barclays 466 38 12.3
Citi 2,987 196 15.2
Capital One 3,079 148 20.8

Sources: # of Complaints – CFPB database; Purchase Volume – Nilson Report

It is interesting that the largest issuer, American Express, performed the best and the smallest issuer on the list, USAA, was second.  Overall, the number of complaints reported is actually quite low, but of course, only a small fraction of complaints make their way to the CFPB, either because disputes are resolved directly between the consumer and the credit card issuer or because consumers simply are not aware of the existence of the CFPB.

The next time you have a problem with your credit card issuer, don’t hesitate to contact the CFPB.  Not only should they be able to help you, but the data they collect will aid in strengthening consumer protections.

Leave a comment