Discover joins AmEx as top credit card

American Express (AXP) and Discover (DFS), the two credit cards with the fewest number of cards in use in the U.S., are also the tops in customer satisfaction.

This year Discover moved into a tie with AmEx in the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study. This is the first time since the survey started in 2007 that AmEx hasn't had the top spot to itself. Both companies scored 819 on a scale of 1,000.

"This is really a tale of two very different credit card companies that both excel at customer interactions," Jim Miller, senior director of banking services at J.D. Power, said in a statement. "American Express and Discover provide great personal service when customers call in and also make it easy for customers to manage their accounts online as well as by using mobile apps."

American Express customers are more affluent, spend more and are less likely to carry a balance than those of other card issuers. Further, AmEx offers 21 cards aimed at different customer segments -- some with annual fees and some without -- and an array of reward options ranging from cash back to travel rewards.

Discover, on the other hand, issues only one type of card, with cash-back rewards and no annual fees. In addition to serving a broad customer base, Discover offers tools to help users manage spending and debt, and it provides cardholders with credit scores free of charge.

About 1.9 billion credit cards are used in the U.S. by approximately 200 million people, according to the website Statistics Brain. Of those, 36 percent have a Visa (V) card and 27 percent have a MasterCard (MA), compared to 7.2 percent who have Discover and 6.5 percent who have AmEx. Because AmEx and Discover issue their cards directly, they have much more control over customer interactions than Visa and MasterCard, whose cards are issued by other companies.

Among the other companies that issue those cards, Chase (JPM) had the best customer satisfaction score with 789. It was followed by Barclaycard (BCS) at 776 and then U.S. Bank (USB) and Wells Fargo (WFC), which both scored 773 points.

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    Constantine von Hoffman is a freelance writer and writing coach. His work has appeared in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, NPR, Sierra magazine, Brandweek, CIO, The Boston Herald, TheStreet.com, CSO, and Boston Magazine.

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