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Credit card applications are more transparent

However, a new study shows that information about redeeming rewards and balance-transfer fees could be clearer.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 1, 2011 2:13PM

This post comes from Jeanine Skowronski at partner site MainStreet.


Credit card issuers have improved their digital transparency, according to an annual analysis of credit card applications conducted by Card Hub.


The credit card comparison website examined online credit card applications of the top 10 issuers to determine how visible key components like annual percentage rates (APRs), fees and rewards programs are. Card Hub found that the majority are doing a better job of keeping such details out of the fine print, with improved scores relative to 2010.


Just like it did last year, Card Hub evaluated online applications for, when available, two rewards credit cards and two non-rewards credit cards from each provider. The cards received points on a scale of 10 based on clarity of information for four categories: how you earn and use reward points, how much you pay in annual fees, the costs to carry a balance for new purchases, and the costs of making a balance transfer.


Points were based on how visible this information was on the page, whether applicants had to click to a new page to find pricing information, and whether or not they had to read the fine print to find these key components.


Only one issuer, Wells Fargo, netted a lower score year over year, experiencing a very small drop from a 87.9% in 2010 to an 87.1% this year.


Capital One and Bank of America were ranked first and second, with top scores of 98.6% and 97.9%, respectively. The most improved issuer was U.S. Bank, which improved its score by 32.1 percentage points in just one year, going from 59.3% to a 91.4% by including a significant amount of information on its homepage.


Discover and Citibank were ranked ninth and 10th, respectively, largely because they didn't make any improvements during the year. Both issuers netted the exact same score that they did in 2010.


Card Hub said that, generally, applications were very clear about annual fees, how to earn rewards, and information on the purchase APR. However, information related to redeeming rewards and information on balance-transfer fees continue to be areas where issuers could improve. The 2011 scores for the 10 issuers that CardHub analyzed are:

  1. Capitol One -- 98.6%.
  2. Bank of America -- 97.9%.
  3. Chase -- 91.8%.
  4. U.S. Bank -- 91.4%.
  5. Wells Fargo -- 87.1%.
  6. HSBC/Orchard Bank -- 86%.
  7. USAA -- 85%.
  8. American Express -- 85%.
  9. Discover -- 82.5%.
  10. Citi -- 82.1%.

You can find a complete explanation of how each issuer fared individually on Card Hub's website.


Card Hub's analysis isn't the first to suggest that the CARD Act has accomplished some of its intended goals. Earlier this year, the Center for Responsible Investing also said the legislation had resulted in significantly greater price transparency for consumers.


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