Online Credit Card Applications: Lack of Clarity on Fees, Rewards Persists

Not all online credit card applications are the same. In fact, there is still much ambiguity when it comes to disclosing balance transfer fees and rewards redemption values, according to a new study from CardHub.com.

CardHub reviewed online credit card listings from the websites of 10 large national banks, along with 10 of the most popular credit unions. It then scored each website based on the manner in which they characterize the following types of account information: Rewards, Annual Fee, Costs of Purchase and Balance Transfer Costs.
CardHub said its 6th annual Credit Card Application Study evaluates how clearly issuers display key product terms on their websites.
Here are CardHub’s main findings:

  • The areas in which the most ambiguity remains – for big banks and credit unions alike – are: the disclosure of balance transfer fees and rewards redemption value.
  • Transparency is now at the highest point since we began conducting this study in 2010 – having increased ~15% in that time.
  • Capital One, State Employees Credit Union, and Boeing Employees Credit Union have the clearest overall credit card applications.
  • Barclaycard US (85.74%) and Navy Federal Credit Union (84.73%) have the least clear credit card applications.
  • Credit unions lag slightly behind big banks when it comes to overall website transparency, with the biggest deficiency being in terms of how rewards earning and redemption rates are characterized.

Here are the key points reviewed:
Rewards: Do the issuer’s product pages clearly define — without reading the fine print — how to earn rewards and how much they are worth?
Annual Fee: Is the annual fee clearly displayed, beyond pricing disclosures or fine print?
Costs of Purchase Financing: Are the introductory and regular APRs for new purchases clear to the consumer without having to reference pricing disclosures, fine print, or a separate page?
Balance Transfer Costs: Are all relevant balance transfer terms – introductory and regular APRs and balance transfer fee – clear without referring to pricing disclosures, fine print, or a different page?

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