The biggest credit card complaints in America

Credit card complaints can be difficult to address. Sometimes credit card companies are hard to reach or it's not clear who you should be complaining to. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, the federal government set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to help protect consumers. The CFPB government agency helps consumers address complaints they have with banks, credit unions, credit card companies, payday lenders and other financial companies.

Check out our guide to the best balance transfer credit cards.

The CFPB releases data on complaints that it receives (but keeps consumer information anonymous). Below, we dive into credit card complaint data to see what issues keep cropping up.

Key Findings

  • The big three – Billing disputes, identity theft and account closings dominate the list of credit card issues American consumers complain about the most. These three issues make up over 36% of all complaints. (Note that "Other complaints," which are undefined, account for 12% of all complaints.)
  • Filing complaints works Over 30% of complaints ended with the consumer receiving a resolution of some sort. More than 20% received monetary relief and 11% received non-monetary relief. Non-monetary relief includes resolutions like changing account terms or correcting submissions to a credit bureau.
  • Fighting fees has the best results – Complaints about fees have the highest chance of being resolved with monetary relief. For example balance transfer fee complaints are closed with monetary relief 35% of the time, cash advance fee complaints received monetary relief 38% of the time and complaints about late fees are resolved with monetary relief a whopping 56% of the time. This compares favorably to the overall chance for monetary relief which is around 21%.

Biggest Credit Card Complaints Nationwide

1. Billing Disputes

The number one issue Americans complained about most when it came to credit cards was billing disputes. Over 17% of complaints, or 3,653 complaints, were about this issue. The good news is that for consumers looking to dispute a charge on their bill, credit card companies tend to be adept at resolving billing disputes. Over 35% of all complaints about billing disputes end up with monetary relief for the consumer.

2. Other Complaints

Complaints that aren't covered by any specific category are classified as "Other." "Other" complaints make up 12.26% of all complaints in the CFPB database. Consumers whose complaints fall under "Other" tend to get the least back in terms of monetary benefits. Only 9.99% of "Other" complaints received monetary benefits.

3. Identity Theft/Fraud/Embezzlement

Identity theft, fraud and embezzlement can come in a few forms when it comes to credit cards. Someone may have opened credit cards in your name and used them to make charges or simply used your existing credit card to make charges. The scary thing about identity theft is that it can be hard to spot until quite late, putting a dent in your credit score. There are some simple ways to protect yourself against identity theft, like setting up alerts with the major credit bureaus and your bank.

4. Closing/Canceling Account

Disputes about closing and canceling accounts come in two forms. There are consumers who report an inability to close an account and then there are other consumers who are reporting accounts being closed without their consent. About 7% of all complaints fell under closing/canceling an account.

5. Rewards

Consumers complaining about credit card rewards often say they feel misled. Overall 4.87% of credit card complaints are related to rewards. Just under 35% of reward complaints are resolved with either monetary or non-monetary relief for the consumer. Of that, 19% are resolved with monetary benefits.

RELATED: Here are the best credit cards to use at every major US airport:

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best credit cards to use at airports

25. Salt Lake City International Airport — Salt Lake City

Best Credit Card: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

Why We Chose It: Salt Lake City is a Delta hub and there’s a great Delta Sky Club lounge between concourses C and D.

Baseline Rewards: Two miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, one mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. You can earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 during the first three months.

Great Perk: You check your first bag free on every flight along with priority boarding, which is like saving $50 on each round-trip flight (assuming you check a bag each way).

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year

APR: Variable 16.24% to 25.24%

Photo credit: Reuters 

24. Chicago Midway International — Chicago

Best Credit Card: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

Why We Chose It: CMI is a major hub for Southwest, so frequent fliers are bound to get good use of this card.

Baseline Rewards: Two points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases; one point per dollar on all other purchases. You can earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on the card in the first three months.

Great Perk: You get 3,000 anniversary gift points once you’ve had your card for a year.

Annual Fee: $69

APR: Variable 16.49% to 23.49%

Photo credit: Getty 

23. Ronald Reagan Washington National — Arlington, Virginia

Best Credit Card: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Why We Chose It: American Airlines is prominent at this airport and the list of perks with this card is great, whether you’re coming here for work or going on your own adventure.

Baseline Rewards: Two miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines purchases and one mile for every dollar spent elsewhere. You can earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on the card in the first three months.

Great Perk: Free access to the Admirals Club.

Annual Fee: $450

APR: Variable 15.74%

Photo credit: Getty

22. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall — Baltimore

Best Credit Card: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card

Why We Chose It: Turns out, the majority (70.34%) of this airport’s traffic from December 2015 to November 2016 was tied to Southwest Airlines flights. So it makes sense to choose a Southwest card.

Baseline Rewards: Two points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases; one point per dollar on all other purchases. Earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on the card in the first three months. You’ll get 6,000 bonus points on your cardmember anniversary. (Fly Southwest, but not sure if the Premier or the Plus is a better fit? We’ve got a guide that compares the two right here.)

Great Perk: No cap on the number of points you can earn, as long as your card is open and active.

Annual Fee: $99

APR: Variable 16.49% to 23.49%

Photo credit: Getty

21. Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International — Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Best Credit Card: JetBlue Card

Why We Chose It: Fort Lauderdale is a focus city for the airline and has a strong presence in terminal 3.

Baseline Rewards: Three points per dollar on JetBlue purchases, two points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. You can earn 5,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 90 days.

Great Perk: This card gets you 50% off your in-flight purchases.

Annual Fee: None

APR: Variable 12.49%, 20.49% or 25.49%

Photo credit: Reuters 

20. LaGuardia — Queens, New York

Best Credit Card: Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

Why We Chose It: Delta has a strong presence in this airport and it continues to grow, most recently with a 600-foot bridge linking its two main terminals, C and D.

Baseline Rewards: Two miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and one mile per dollar everywhere else. You can earn 35,000 bonus miles, 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $1,000 on the card in the first three months and $100 statement credit if you make a Delta purchase in the first three months of having the card.

Great Perk: You get a round-trip companion pass each year when you renew this card.

Annual Fee: $195

APR: Variable 16.24% to 25.24%

Photo credit: Reuters 

19. Philadelphia International — Philadelphia

Best Credit Card: Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard

Why We Chose It: American Airlines flights went to the 10 most popular domestic destinations from this airport from December 2015 to November 2016, so this card could come in handy on your travels.

Baseline Rewards: Two miles for every dollar spent with American Airlines and one mile for every dollar spent everywhere else.

Great Perk: Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending only $1,000 in the first three months after getting the card.

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year

APR: Variable 16.24% to 24.24%

Photo credit: Getty

18. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County — Detroit

Best Credit Card: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

Why We Chose It: Delta is one of the main airlines coming and going from Detroit and several of Delta’s partners also fly to and from Detroit. There are also four Delta Sky Clubs throughout the airport.

Baseline Rewards: Two miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, one mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. You can earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 during the first three months.

Great Perk: You can redeem your points with Delta or with any of its more than 15 airline partners.

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year

APR: Variable 16.24% to 25.24%

Photo credit: Getty

17. General Edward Lawrence Logan International — Boston

Best Credit Card: The JetBlue Plus Card from BarclayCard

Why We Chose It: Whether you’re headed to a seasonal destination, like St. Lucia or Martha’s Vineyard, or not, JetBlue has an extensive list of places they fly.

Baseline Rewards: Six points per dollar on JetBlue purchases, two points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. You can earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 90 days and receive 5,000 bonus points on your cardholder anniversary.

Great Perk: You can earn a $100 statement credit when you use your card to purchase a Getaways vacation package.

Annual Fee: $99

APR: Variable 12.49%, 20.49% or 25.49%

Photo credit: Getty

16. Minneapolis-St. Paul International/Wold-Chamberlain — Minneapolis 

Best Credit Card: Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

Why We Chose It: If your heart can dream it, odds are Delta can fly you there from Minneapolis-St. Paul International. And why would you want to limit yourself? (For the card’s major terms and conditions, see above).

Photo credit: Getty

15. Newark Liberty International — Newark, New Jersey

Best Credit Card: United MileagePlus Club Card

Why We Chose It: Newark Liberty is a hub for United Airlines and this airline flies the majority of passengers from this airport.

Baseline Rewards: Two miles for every dollar spent with United Airlines and 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all other purchases. You can earn a $100 statement credit after making your first purchase on the card.

Great Perk: Free access to the United Club, an annual savings of up to $550. Even with the annual fee, that’s still a savings of $100 (assuming you use the card responsibly, of course).

Annual Fee: $450

APR: Variable 16.49% to 23.49%

Photo credit: Getty

14. Orlando International — Orlando, Florida

Best Credit Card: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Why We Chose It: There is an Admirals Lounge coming later this year and this card can get you in to enjoy the fancy new digs. (For the card’s major terms and conditions, see above).

Photo credit: Reuters 

13. Seattle-Tacoma International — Seattle

Best Credit Card: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card

Why We Chose It: Seattle is a hub for Alaska Airlines as well as several of its partners.

Baseline Rewards: Three miles for every dollar spent on Alaska Airlines purchases and one mile for every dollar spent on all other purchases. You can earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Great Perk: This card offers the flexibility of choosing which airline you redeem your points with, from American Airlines to Emirates.

Annual Fee: Depends on which version of the card you’re approved for (based on creditworthiness): $75 for Visa Signature card or $50 for Platinum Plus accounts. You can find an explainer on the difference between the two cards here.

APR: Variable 12.74% to 19.74%

Photo credit: Reuters 

12. George Bush Intercontinental/Houston — Houston

Best Credit Card: United MileagePlus Explorer card

Why We Chose It: There are some great renovations coming this year to terminal C that will help this card come in extra-handy.

Baseline Rewards: Two miles per dollar spent on United Airlines tickets and one mile per dollar on all other purchases.

Great Perk: You get 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Annual Fee: $95

APR: Variable 16.49% to 23.49%

Photo credit: Getty

11. Miami International — Miami

Best Credit Card: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

Why We Chose It: There are two Admirals Club lounges in terminal D you can enjoy whenever you are at Miami International, whether you’re heading there on vacation or waiting for a flight home after a Caribbean cruise. (Again, for the card’s full terms and conditions, see above.)

Photo credit: Getty

10. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport — Phoenix

Best Credit Card: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card

Why We Chose It: Southwest recently announced plans to expand their presence at the Phoenix airport, including eight new gates and more flights, so this card just makes sense. (For the card’s full terms and conditions, see above.)

Photo credit: Getty

9. McCarran International Airport — Las Vegas

Best Credit Card: The Platinum Card From American Express

Why We Chose It: Nothing says Vegas like a little flash of luxury, and American Express’s premium credit card can get you into the airport’s swanky Centurion lounge.

Baseline Rewards: Right now, cardholders receive five times the points on airfare booked directly with a carrier or American Express travel and one times the points on everything else, but those rewards, along with the card’s annual fee, are set to go up, effective March 30.

Great Perk: You’ll get a $200 airline free credit, good for baggage fees and more at one airline.

Annual Fee: Currently $450; but that’ll go up to $550 once the new benefits come online

APR: The Platinum is a charge card, meaning you’re required to pay your balances off in full each month. 

Photo credit: Getty

8. Charlotte/Douglas International Airport — Charlotte, North Carolina

Best Credit Card: Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard

Why We Chose It: This civil-military public international airport is a major hub for American Airlines. (For the card’s full terms and conditions, see above.)

Photo credit: Getty

7. San Francisco International Airport — San Francisco

Best Credit Card: The Virgin America Premium Visa Signature Card

Why We Chose It: Take one look at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and you’ll see why we couldn’t pass this one up.

Baseline Rewards: Eight points (five points for being an Elevate member and three for card usage) per dollar spent on Virgin America purchases and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. You can earn 15,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 90 days.

Great Perk: This card is a member of the Visa Signature family, which offer additional perks like lost baggage reimbursement or an auto rental damage collision waiver.

Annual Fee: $149

APR: Variable 16.48%, 20.49% or 25.49%

Photo credit: Getty

6. Denver International Airport — Denver

Best Credit Card: Frontier MasterCard

Why We Chose It: Frontier is one of five airlines at the Denver airport that offers the convenience of curbside check in.

Baseline Rewards: Two miles per dollar on FlyFrontier.com purchases and one mile per dollar on any other purchases. You can earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $500 on the card in the first 90 days.

Great Perk: You get a $100 voucher toward a flight after spending $2,500 during your first (anniversary) year.

Annual Fee: $69

APR: Variable 16.49% or 25.49%

NVER, CO - September 7, 2016: An aerial view of Denver International Airport as seen from a passenger plane landing at the airport on September 7, 2016. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Photo credit: Getty 

5. John F. Kennedy International Airport — New York City

Best Credit Card: The JetBlue Plus Card from BarclayCard

Why We Chose It: There’s a lot to see and do in the recently-renovated terminal 5, including the exciting Airspace Lounge — and that’s all before you even board the plane. (For the card’s full terms and conditions, see above.)

Photo credit: Reuters 

4. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport — Forth Worth

Best Credit Card: Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard

Why We Chose It: While there are some updates being made to the Admirals Club lounge in terminal A, there are others you can use, getting perks like free Wi-Fi and access to showers in case you come straight to the airport from the office. (For the card’s full terms and conditions, see above.)

Photo credit: Getty

3. Chicago O’Hare International Airport — Chicago

Best Credit Card: United MileagePlus Explorer credit card

Why We Chose It: O’Hare is a major hub for United Airlines. (For the card’s full terms and conditions, see above.)

Photo credit: Getty 

2. Los Angeles International Airport — Los Angeles

Best Credit Card: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card

Why We Chose It: Alaska and several of its partners are a big presence at this airport and offer deals for passengers. (For the card’s full terms and conditions, see above.)

Photo credit: Reuters 

1. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport — Atlanta

Best Credit Card: Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Why We Chose It: Atlanta is a major hub for Delta. Atlanta is also popular connection airport, so you’ll get more bang for your buck with this high-annual-fee card.

Baseline Rewards: Earn two miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, one mile per dollar spent on all other purchases. Earn 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles after your first purchase on the card.

Great Perk: Cardholders get complimentary first-class upgrades and Delta Sky Club access.

Annual Fee: $450

APR: Variable 16.24% to 25.24%

Photo credit: Reuters 

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6. APR/Interest Rate

Overall 918 credit card complaints fell under APR or interest rate complaints. That's 4.36% of all credit card complaints. Much like with rewards complaints, consumers complaining about APR or interest rates often say they have been misled about how interest rates change. The problem for many people is that once they start racking up unexpected interest payments, credit card debt can start piling up. Around 39% of complaints under this category are resolved with either monetary or non-monetary benefit.

7. Customer Service

Many of the complaints around customer service focus on how difficult it can be to communicate with financial companies. Consumers complain about being on hold for hours, phone calls going unanswered or questions not adequately being answered. Over 20% of customer service complaints receive monetary relief.

8. Delinquent Account

Consumers who complain about delinquent accounts are typically aggrieved by one of two things: Either a consumer is making a complaint about a delinquent account they were unaware of, or consumers complain about the methods financial companies use to collect delinquent debt. One reason this is a big complaint for people is it can really hurt your credit score. It's important to check your credit report to make sure you do not have any delinquent debt.

9. Late Fees

Complaints about late fees account for 3.69% of all credit card complaints. Financial companies charge late fees when people miss payments. Typically, consumers who file complaints say that they paid their balance on time and no late fee is owed. In these disputes consumers tend to come out on top. Over 56% of late fee complaints receive monetary relief. Data from the CFPB shows that the median amount of relief is $130 and $25 is the most common amount.

10. Advertising/Marketing

Credit card consumers file complaints under advertising and marketing when they feel that either a company's advertising was misleading or inappropriate, or a company failed to meet their promises laid out in a marketing campaign. For example, the aggrieved party may complain about the tactic of advertising to a minor. Advertising and marketing complaints make up just over 3.5% of all complaints.

Data and Methodology

In order to find the top credit card complaints in the country, we gathered data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Specifically, we filtered data from the CFPB complaint database to create a data set of all credit card complaints from 2016. We broke down the complaints by issue type, for example late fees, billing disputes, identity theft and so on. We then ranked each issue by most prevalent to least prevalent.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

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