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JPMorgan Chase top big bank, consumer survey finds

(MoneyWatch) Bank of America is the nation's least popular bank -- again -- according to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index financial services survey released today (Tuesday, Dec. 11). The Charlotte, N.C.-based banking company scores a dismal 66 points, a full 8 points lower than the nation's most popular big bank, JPMorgan Chase, which jumped in the rankings to get a total score of 74.

Still, the nation's most popular bank isn't a bank at all -- it's a credit union -- actually credit unions in general, which are recording record deposits in an era of widespread dissatisfaction with banks. But all the new business may be causing growing pains for the credit union industry, according to the survey, which measures just how happy consumers are with industries and specific businesses.

Overall, people who have stuck with their banks have been a little happier with them over the past year, with the average bank rating jumping 2.7 percent to 77. They're less happy with their credit unions than they were a year ago, but they still like credit unions a lot more than banks, with average credit union score settling at 82 -- 5 points higher than the average bank score.

However, all banks are not alike. The biggest reason that bank scores have risen over the past year is that small banks have been scoring well and because JPMorgan Chase has been doing a dramatically better job at pleasing its customers, says David Van Amburg, managing director of ASCI. JPMorgan's customer satisfaction rating rocketed 4 points in 2012, according to the survey, going from 70 to 74, the highest score among the nation's biggest banks.

The other three banks big enough to score their own ratings -- companies are only rated when they have a statistically significant number of responses -- earned lower scores in 2012 than they did in 2011. Wells Fargo dropped 2 points for a score of 71; Citigroup dropped 3 points, scoring 70; and Bank of America dropped 2 more points to solidify its position as the nation's least popular bank, with a total score of 66. The industry's overall score rose because more people have moved their business to small banks, where they're more satisfied, Van Amburg says.

Meanwhile, consumers are a little more positive about their life insurers this year than they were a year ago, according to the survey, giving the industry a 81 ranking versus 80 a year ago. However, they're less satisfied with property insurers, giving the group a total score of 78 versus 83 in 2011.

The property insurers that ranked the highest in 2012 were Progressive and State Farm. However, Progressive's ranking was up two points to 81, while State Farm's was down a point to 81.

Among health insurers, Blue Cross scored the best at 73 -- recording a five point gain in customer satisfaction, which ACSI attributed to a rare year without many premium hikes. Aetna Insurance scored the worst with an overall satisfaction rating of 67.

The American Consumer Satisfaction Survey aims to help consumers choose providers of everything from financial services to phones by providing regular updates on how well these companies please their customers.

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