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10 Issuers Account for Nearly 80% of Credit Card Complaints Filed With CFPB Over Past 3 Years, Led by Capital One

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From the COVID-19 pandemic to rising inflation, there’s been no shortage of financial hardships in recent years. For many, filing a dispute with a credit card company can often cause financial stress. If opening a claim isn’t a headache on its own, consumers who can’t get a response (or aren’t happy with the one they receive) must often resort to filing another complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

According to the latest LendingTree study, consumer complaints about general-purpose credit cards and store cards topped 85,000 over the past three years. What’s more, the majority of consumer complaints were filed against just 10 issuers.

For a better understanding of why consumers file complaints and how they’re resolved, LendingTree researchers analyzed credit card complaints filed with the CFPB between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2022. In addition to discussing the credit card issuers that receive the majority of complaints, we’ll go over the states where consumers are most likely to file a complaint.

Key findings

  • 85,050 complaints about general-purpose credit cards and store cards were filed with the CFPB from July 1, 2019, through July 1, 2022. Consumers most commonly complained about a purchase on their statement (29.4%) and problems getting a credit card (11.7%).
  • Consumer complaints were more likely to end in monetary relief than nonmonetary relief. 17.2% of the claims filed in this period were closed with monetary relief, while 10.2% were closed with nonmonetary relief. Examples of nonmonetary relief can include changes in account terms and corrections submitted to the credit bureaus.
  • The 10 issuers with the most consumer complaints against them accounted for 79.6% of all claims. Notably, the three with the most complaints — Capital One, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase — are among the top four issuers of general-purpose credit cards in the U.S. American Express, the second-largest credit card issuer, ranked sixth for complaints.
  • Among these 10 companies, Bank of America had the highest percentage of claims ending with monetary relief, at 30.5%. Bank of America also had the second-lowest rate of claims closed without monetary relief, at 6.9%. Comparatively, Discover Bank had the lowest percentage of claims ending with monetary relief (7.2%).
  • In the District of Columbia, 80.2 credit card complaints were filed per 100,000 adults — the highest of all states. Delaware ranked second at 64.8. Generally, the states with the highest rate of credit card complaints were also among the states with the highest average credit card debt among cardholders.

Consumers filed 85,050 credit card complaints over 3 years — here’s why

Of the general-purpose credit card and store card complaints filed from July 1, 2019, through July 1, 2022, consumers were most likely to have problems with purchases on a statement (29.4%) and issues getting a credit card (11.7%). Here’s the full breakdown:

Most common credit card complaints

ComplaintPercentage of complaints
Problem with a purchase shown on statement29.4%
Getting a credit card11.7%
Other features, terms or problems11.4%
Fees or interest10.4%
Problem when making payments9.8%
Closing their account7.8%
Advertising and marketing, including promotional offers4.8%
Trouble using card4.6%
Incorrect information on report4.5%
Problem with a credit reporting company's investigation into an existing problem2.6%
Struggling to pay bill2.1%
Improper use of report0.6%
Credit monitoring or identity theft protection services0.2%
Problem with fraud alerts or security freezes0.1%

Source: LendingTree analysis of the CFPB Consumer Complaint Database, focusing on general-purpose credit card and store card complaints. Two other complaints — being unable to get a credit report or credit score and problems with a credit report or credit score — appeared on the list but rounded to 0%.

For those who complained about purchases on their statement, the majority (68.9%) say their credit card company didn’t resolve a charge dispute they’d filed. Another 28.6% say their card was charged for something they didn’t purchase.

For those who complained about getting a credit card, identity theft was the top complaint. Of this group, 47.9% say the card was opened as a result of identity theft or fraud. Meanwhile, 31.7% say their credit card application was denied, and another 10.7% say they’d been sent a card for which they never applied.

When it came to how consumers submitted their complaints, the majority were submitted online. Overall, 78.6% of complaints were submitted over the internet. Following that, 9.9% were submitted by referral through government agencies and 8.6% were submitted over the phone.

Credit card complaints spiked in 2020

When looking at all credit card complaints by year (not just general-purpose credit cards and store cards), it’s worth noting the number of complaints in 2020 reached an all-time high since the CFPB began tracking consumer complaints in 2011. There were 33,887 complaints in 2020 — a 31.2% jump from 2019 and the first time credit card complaints reached more than 30,000.

Number of credit card complaints (overall)

YearCredit card complaints
201215,353
201313,105
201413,974
201517,300
201621,065
201722,537
201824,243
201925,828
202033,887
202131,824

Source: LendingTree analysis of the CFPB Consumer Complaint Database. This data includes all credit card-related complaints, not solely those about general-purpose credit cards and store cards.

According to the CFPB, complaints in 2020 about general-purpose credit cards increased by 24% compared to the monthly averages in 2018 and 2019 — the greatest change in volume. The CFPB directly cites the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as a key contributing factor to the increased number of complaints received.

For example, many of the consumers who complained about purchases on their statements during this period specifically cited difficulties obtaining refunds for previously booked trips and events that were canceled as a result of the COVID-19 national emergency declaration. Others who’d experienced a disruption in income reported that they’d attempted to enroll in alternative repayment or deferment options (such as waived interest rates), but their statements didn’t reflect their enrollment.

While complaints dropped by 6.1% in 2021, the number was still above 30,000 — likely, consumers were still feeling the financial impacts of COVID-19 and the spike in inflation that has since followed.

17.2% of credit card complaints end in monetary relief

Once a consumer has filed a complaint, companies can respond in various ways. Most respond by providing an explanation, but other resolutions can include providing monetary relief or nonmonetary relief. When a company provides monetary relief, it could mean it issued a refund or credited a user’s account. Providing nonmonetary relief could mean it changed the user’s account terms or corrected submissions to a credit bureau.

While the majority of complaints were closed with an explanation (71.5%), consumers whose complaints had different resolutions were more likely to receive monetary relief than not. Overall, 17.2% of the claims filed were closed with monetary relief, while 10.2% were closed with nonmonetary relief.

Most common complaint resolutions

ResolutionPercentage of resolved complaints
Closed with explanation71.5%
Closed with monetary relief17.2%
Closed with nonmonetary relief10.2%
In progress1.1%
Untimely response0.1%

Source: LendingTree analysis of the CFPB Consumer Complaint Database, focusing on general-purpose credit card and store card complaints. Totals don’t add to 100% due to rounding.

Of course, some complaints are more likely to end in monetary relief than others. Complaints about a problem with a fee, for example, are most likely to receive monetary relief, at 37.6%. Just three other complaint types were at least 20% likely to end with monetary relief: disputes about purchases on a statement (27.9%), charges for purchases the credit cardholder didn’t make (27.2%) and users not receiving advertised or promotional terms (20.7%).

Most common complaints by resolution

ComplaintClosed with explanationClosed with monetary reliefClosed with nonmonetary reliefIn progressUntimely response
Credit card company didn’t resolve a dispute about a purchase on a statement66.5%27.9%4.7%0.9%0.0%
Card was charged for something consumer didn’t purchase64.2%27.2%7.1%1.4%0.1%
Problem during payment process73.7%17.8%7.6%1.0%0.0%
Problem with fees57.4%37.6%4.3%0.6%0.1%
Company closed a consumer’s account87.4%4.3%7.5%0.8%0.0%
Card opened as result of identity theft or fraud64.4%1.9%30.4%3.2%0.2%
Other problem75.8%12.6%10.5%1.0%0.1%
Credit card application denied90.0%0.6%8.3%1.1%0.0%
Didn't receive advertised or promotional terms67.5%20.7%11.3%0.6%0.0%
Can't use card to make purchases83.9%5.9%8.7%0.8%0.7%

Source: LendingTree analysis of the CFPB Consumer Complaint Database, focusing on general-purpose credit card and store card complaints. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.

Although consumers may not always receive the resolution they were hoping for, there is one silver lining: The CFPB is generally timely. In fact, the majority of complaints (98.9%) were answered on time.

Card issuers collected $12 billion in late fees in 2020

Because the pandemic introduced unprecedented situations — including a widespread adoption of work-from-home policies and a national lockdown — consumers received unique responses to the complaints filed in 2020. For the consumers who sought refunds for canceled events, card issuers rarely reversed the charges or offered reimbursement. Instead, they typically directed consumers to the merchant for a refund, often citing difficulties adjusting to new working conditions as the main reason for their delayed response times.

Those who complained about their apparent lack of enrollment in a deferment or alternative repayment program were often told by companies that new or in-progress system updates caused these issues. In addition, consumers who reported being charged late fees while enrolled in a deferral program were occasionally reimbursed, though they were told that interest would continue to accrue on their account during the deferment period.

In total, the CFPB found that credit card issues charged consumers $12 billion in late fees in 2020. Cardholders pay around $120 billion in credit card interest and fees annually — meaning that late fees accounted for 10% of these costs.

Top credit card issuers account for the majority of complaints

In total, the 10 issuers with the most CFPB consumer complaints filed against them accounted for 79.6% of claims filed between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2022, and the top issuers of general-purpose credit cards in the U.S. were among them. Notably, Capital One — the fourth-largest general-purpose credit card issuer by purchase volume — had the highest number of complaints in this period at just over 13,000. Citibank and JPMorgan Chase — the third- and first-largest general purpose credit card issuers by purchase volume, respectively — ranked next. Here are the full rankings:

Top 10 issuers with the most credit card complaints filed between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2022

RankCompanyTotal complaints
1Capital One13,022
2Citibank12,415
3JPMorgan Chase8,585
4Synchrony Financial7,416
5Bank of America6,391
6American Express5,046
7Bread Financial4,598
8Discover Bank3,957
9Barclays Bank3,463
10Wells Fargo2,769

Source: LendingTree analysis of the CFPB Consumer Complaint Database, focusing on general-purpose credit card and store card complaints.

American Express, the second-largest credit card issuer by purchase volume, ranked sixth overall among complaints. Notably, however, when you break down complaints per $1 billion in purchase volume among the top seven issuers, American Express had the lowest rate of complaints at 5.8. Meanwhile, Capital One received 28.6 complaints per $1 billion in purchase volume — ranking it highest.

Among the other top credit card issuers by purchase volume who were among the 10 companies with the most complaints, the rate of complaints per $1 billion in purchase volume was as follows:

  • Citibank: 25.7 complaints
  • Discover Bank: 21.7 complaints
  • Bank of America: 15.4 complaints
  • JPMorgan Chase: 9.0 complaints
The CFPB doesn’t publish complaints referred elsewhere, including those about deposit institutions with less than $10 billion in assets.

Which issuers with the most complaints are most likely to resolve disputes with monetary relief, and which are least likely?

Among the companies with the most complaints filed against them, Bank of America had the highest percentage of claims ending with monetary relief. Of the company’s total complaints, just over 3 in 10 (30.5%) were closed in this fashion. It’s also the only issuer with a percentage above 30% and one of just four companies with a rate above 20%.

Following Bank of America, Synchrony Financial (23.3%) and Barclays Bank (22.4%) were the companies most likely to close complaints with monetary relief. Comparatively, Discover Bank had the lowest percentage of claims ending with monetary relief, at just 7.2%.

Bank of America also had a lower rate of claims closed without monetary relief than most other issuers, at 6.9%. Among the companies most likely to close claims without monetary relief, Wells Fargo ranks first — just over 2 in 10 (20.8%) claims were closed in this fashion. Discover Bank ranked next, with 16.0% of claims closed without monetary relief.

In the District of Columbia, 80.2 complaints were filed per 100,000 adults

Some states are more likely to file general-purpose credit card and store card complaints than others. Namely, adults in the District of Columbia ranked highest at 80.2 complaints per 100,000. Following that, Delaware ranked second with 64.8 complaints.

10 states with the highest rate of credit card complaints between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2022

RankStateRate of credit card complaints (per 100,000 adults)
1District of Columbia80.2
2Delaware64.8
3New Jersey52.4
4New York51.7
5Nevada48.0
6Maryland47.5
7Massachusetts47.0
8Florida46.3
9Georgia40.4
10California40.1

Source: LendingTree analysis of the CFPB Consumer Complaint Database, focusing on general-purpose credit card and store card complaints.

Generally, the states with the highest rates of credit card complaints were among the states with the highest average credit card debt per cardholder, according to our credit card debt statistics. Except for the District of Columbia, each of the 10 states with the highest rate of complaints ranked among the 20 states with the most credit card debt per cardholder. Plus, a notable four — New Jersey, Maryland, Florida and New York — were among the 10 states with the highest credit card debt per cardholder.

Meanwhile, Wyoming had the lowest rate of credit card complaints at 11.9 per 100,000 adults — that’s followed by West Virginia (12.2) and Alaska (13.2).

10 states with the lowest rate of credit card complaints between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2022

RankStateRate of credit card complaints (per 100,000 adults)
1Wyoming11.9
2West Virginia12.2
3Alaska13.2
4Kentucky13.4
5Iowa13.7
6North Dakota15.3
7Montana15.8
8Idaho16.1
8South Dakota16.1
10Arkansas16.2
10Indiana16.2

Source: LendingTree analysis of the CFPB Consumer Complaint Database, focusing on general-purpose credit card and store card complaints.

Similar to the states with the highest rates of credit card complaints, those that ranked lowest were generally among the states with the least credit card debt per cardholder. All except three states that ranked lowest for credit card complaints were among the 20 states with the least credit card debt. Of these, six — Iowa, West Virginia, Montana, Indiana, Arkansas and Kentucky — were among the 10 states with the least credit card debt per cardholder.

Expert tips for getting your credit card complaints resolved

Wrestling with a credit card issuer over a dispute is often stressful — particularly when it involves a large sum of money or considerable damage to your credit score. But, although the complaint process can feel difficult, it doesn’t have to be.

To improve your likelihood of reaching a swifter and more agreeable resolution, LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz offers the following advice:

  • Persistence is crucial. “Don’t worry if it takes an extra phone call or email to get things done,” Schulz says. “Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get anywhere with the first person you speak with. Keep calling and keep reaching out until you get some progress. This stuff matters.”
  • Sometimes, it might be necessary to get a lawyer involved. Some amounts aren’t worth a fight, but if your dispute involves more money than you’re comfortable losing and you keep running into brick walls, consider getting representation.
  • Organization matters. The more documentation you can have for your particular situation, the better. In addition, Schulz recommends writing down the names of the card issuer representatives you’ve spoken to and what was said to help expedite the resolution process.

While filing a complaint is sometimes inevitable, you can take a few preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of going through a lengthy dispute with your card issuer. Schulz recommends:

  • Check your statements more frequently. “Simply visiting your issuer’s website or app once a week and scrolling through the recent transactions to make sure everything is legitimate can be really helpful,” Schulz says. “Checking that often means that you’ll be reviewing fewer items, making you less likely to overlook an error.”
  • Consider consumer complaints when applying for a new credit card. “While consumer complaints are just one of many factors that should go into choosing a bank or a credit card issuer, they can be an important one, depending on the nature of the complaints and what you’re looking for from that bank,” Schulz says. “In some ways, it’s no different than looking for a restaurant, a vacation rental or most any other type of business. Reputation matters. That’s why it is important to look at things like the CFPB’s complaint database as well as talking with friends, co-workers and relatives about their experiences.”
  • Have a least broad understanding of your personal credit score before you apply for a new card. Knowing that can guide you to the right cards and prevent unnecessary credit inquiries, which can lower your credit score. Credit card comparison sites and most card issuer websites will typically say what level of credit you need to successfully apply for a specific card, which can help you compare cards that you’d most likely be approved for, depending on your score. Shopping around can help you find a card that best fits your needs, while also minimizing the risk of your application being rejected.

Methodology

LendingTree researchers reviewed consumer complaints to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau from July 1, 2019, through July 1, 2022, focusing on general-purpose credit cards and store credit cards.

To calculate the states with the highest rate of credit card complaints, researchers used adult population counts from the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey, five-year estimates.

 

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