On March 28, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its monthly complaint snapshot, with a specific focus on credit cards.  Since its inception in July 2011, the Bureau has handled 1,136,000 consumer complaints across all products, with 116,200 complaints related to credit cards.  The CFPB received 26,300 complaints in February 2017, with 2,299 of those complaints related to credit cards.

“Credit cards are a vital financial tool used daily by more than half of all adults in this country,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement.  “Consumers deserve clear guidance and need to be able to resolve problems that arise with their cards.”

The Bureau’s snapshot highlights particular areas where consumers have reported problems to the CFPB, including:

  • Fraudulent Charges:  The highest number of consumer complaints about credit cards were related to billing disputes.  A number of consumers complained to the Bureau that they experienced charges on their credit cards which they had not initiated.  Many consumers disputed the unauthorized charges, but also reported difficulty having the charges removed, even after disputes were resolved in their favor.
  • Rewards Programs:  Consumers also reported problems related to credit card rewards programs.  Some consumers contacted the CFPB after they were unable to take advantage of rewards benefits after meeting program criteria.  Consumers also reported that credit card companies’ customer service representatives provided them with conflicting program information from that provided online.
  • Identity Theft and Fraud:  The Bureau also received complaints of negative credit reporting for account activity that was not initiated or authorized.  Some consumers told the CFPB that credit card companies did not respond promptly to billing disputes and did not correct the reporting of the account.  Other consumers reported that credit card accounts were fraudulently opened in their name even though their files included alerts warning of potential fraud.
  • Late Fees and Servicing Costs:  Consumers complained to the CFPB that credit card companies frequently assessed late fees to their accounts even when payments were made on the due date.  Further, consumers also detailed untimely processing of payments.

The snapshot also included a geographic analysis of the data, and highlighted trending complaints in the metropolitan Boston area, as well as Massachusetts as a whole.  The Bureau reported receiving 20,600 complaints from Massachusetts consumers since 2011, with 15,400 from the Boston area.  Average monthly complaints from Massachusetts increased 19 percent over the past three months – slightly lower than the national average of 22 percent.

The March 2017 Monthly Complaint Report is available here.