Kiplinger’s Best Firms for Customer Service: Banks, Credit Cards and More
We crunched a lot of numbers (and ran a survey) to crown top firms for their service on banking, credit cards, mortgages, and home and auto insurance.
As a personal finance publication, we spend a lot of time evaluating the numbers when we recommend financial institutions and their products. We spotlight banks that offer high interest rates and low fees on checking and savings accounts, and we note credit card issuers that provide ample cash back or points on everyday spending. When you’re in the market for a mortgage, we encourage you to shop for a low interest rate, and we advise you to regularly compare premiums on home and auto insurance policies.
But many would argue that exceptional customer service is just as important as low fees or competitive interest rates. An insurance company is worth its weight in gold if its agents are responsive and fair when you’re dealing with a damaged car or home. A mortgage lender that helps pave the way to a smooth close on a home purchase can save you a lot of headaches. And banks and credit card issuers with strong customer service teams can quickly put a lid on fraudulent activity or other problems with your accounts.
That’s why we’re introducing our rankings of large companies with the best customer service in four categories: banking, credit cards, mortgages, and home and auto insurance. We started with 10 large companies in each of those categories, then crunched a lot of numbers to determine the champions. We conducted a national survey of current customers to gauge their experiences with the companies and identified the top five based on the results. For each of those businesses, we considered consumer complaints made about the institutions to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). We also evaluated the companies’ responses (or lack thereof) when we contacted them to pose questions as a potential new customer, and we reviewed their mobile apps to get a sense of their digital prowess.
Then we pulled it all together to give each company a score and award medals to the overall first, second and third place winners in each category. We’ve also chosen the companies with the best digital capabilities in each category, based on customers’ ratings of their digital services in our survey as well as our own reviews of their mobile apps. And we delved deeper into our customer satisfaction survey to see which firms stand out for high-net-worth customers as well as those in certain age groups. (There's more detail on our methodology at the end of the article.)
Kiplinger’s Best Firms for Customer Service: Banks
- Gold: Capital One
- Silver: TD Bank
- Bronze: Chase
- Best Digital Tools: Capital One
Whether you have a checking account, savings account, certificate of deposit or line of credit with a bank, you want its customer service department to come through when you need help. For example, if you suspect that a criminal has unauthorized access to your bank account—which can cause serious and urgent complications, especially if funds you need for everyday expenses disappear—quick and decisive action is a must. Banks with great service should readily assist with any other issues or questions that you have, too—say, arranging transfers or resolving difficulties with deposits or withdrawals.
Capital One, which has increasingly shifted its focus to its online banking segment in recent years, clinches first place in our bank ranking. It was a top scorer in our customer service survey, and it far outperformed many of the other finalists when we phoned the company to pose questions as a potential new banking customer. Some other banks had no apparent contact numbers for new customers or directed callers to visit their website or a branch to open an account. Capital One, however, had friendly, knowledgeable agents available both times we called.
Survey respondents scored Capital One’s digital capabilities more highly than those of other banks, and that, combined with our own review of its mobile app, pushes Capital One to the top in our digital category, too. The app is clean and uncomplicated, and it provides features and details important to bank customers. You can view recent account balances, transactions and statements; deposit checks; transfer money; receive an instant notification when your debit card is used for a purchase; find a nearby branch or ATM; lock your debit card so that no one can use it to make purchases in the event you lose it or suspect fraud (you can later unlock it); and find contact information to call Capital One’s customer service line.
On the downside, the volume of consumer complaints to the CFPB about Capital One’s banking services were high relative to the bank’s share of the market. Problems with managing an account (such as difficulties with making deposits and withdrawals, using an ATM or debit card, or accessing an account) and closing an account composed the majority of complaints. And we would have liked to see more options for ways to contact the company within the app.
TD Bank, which has branches in 15 eastern states and Washington, D.C., takes second place. It performed well in our survey, and it was one of a handful of banks for which we were able to get a customer service representative on the phone at least once when we called with a few questions as a potential new customer. Its mobile app can be a bit difficult to navigate—for example, from some screens, you have to go to the menu and then hit the home link to get back to the opening screen—but it has a clean interface and packs in plenty of features for bank customers, who can check their balances and recent transactions, deposit checks, set account activity alerts, lock and unlock their debit card and more. If you need customer service help, you can try using a virtual assistant through the app, call a customer service line—with live agents available at all hours—or connect through social media. Complaints to the CFPB about TD mostly involved trouble with managing an account (including difficulties with making deposits and withdrawals or using an ATM or debit card) and problems opening an account.
Chase, our third-place winner, is a big bank with branches spread across 38 states and Washington, D.C. Chase was a high scorer in our survey, and it had one of the lowest complaint levels compared with its share of the market among our bank finalists. As with many other banks, problems with deposits and withdrawals and using an ATM or debit card were major causes of complaints. We docked some points from Chase because we were unable to reach a representative on the phone when we wanted to ask questions as a potential new customer.
Current customers who responded to our survey were mostly happy with Chase’s digital capabilities, and our review of its mobile app revealed a decent range of features, including options to see your available account balance and recent transactions; set activity alerts; transfer money; lock and unlock your debit card or order a replacement card; and use budgeting tools that help you see your cash flow, estimate how much you have to save or invest, and review the amounts you’ve recently spent in certain spending categories. You can get customer service phone numbers through the app, but it recently came with a disclaimer that call centers have “extremely long wait times” because of COVID-19 impacts.
Kiplinger’s Best Firms for Customer Service: Credit Cards
- Gold: Discover
- Silver: American Express
- Bronze: Chase
- Best Digital Tools: Discover
If you find an unauthorized transaction on your credit card account, having tools available or representatives on hand to swiftly remove the charge and issue you a new card number is essential. You’ll also appreciate great service if you have a problem involving your card’s interest rate, fees, rewards or any other terms, and a feature-rich mobile app makes it a snap to manage your account on the go.
Discover stood out in every area we evaluated, handily boosting it to the number-one spot. It scored more highly than any other card issuer in our survey, and the number of complaints about Discover in the CFPB database were reasonably low in comparison to Discover’s share of the credit card market. Among the complaints consumers lodged about Discover, problems with suspect or incorrect purchases on card statements—such as the company failing to resolve a disputed purchase—and issues with closing an account were among the most common.
Discover doled out great service for potential new customers, too. When we contacted the company to ask a few questions about card features, we reached a human on the phone almost immediately, and the reps were thorough and knowledgeable with their responses.
And thanks to a strong rating by customers in our survey for digital capabilities combined with a user-friendly mobile app, Discover is the winner in our digital ranking. The app is simple to navigate, and the home screen summarizes recent transactions, your balance, the amount of credit available to you and your cash-back bonus balance. The app also packs in several useful features: You can set up activity alerts (to notify you when a payment is due or paid, for example); freeze your card so that no one can make charges to it in case you lose it (you can unfreeze it if you later find the card); and order a replacement card if yours is lost or compromised.
Cardholders can also view their FICO credit scores and get fraud-monitoring alerts—for example, notifying you if your Social Security number shows up on internet black markets or if a new inquiry appears on your credit report. And the app makes it easy to contact customer service, listing phone numbers and social media information as well as offering the option to message representatives through a chat feature.
American Express, landing in second place, also rose in our rankings thanks to a solid all-around performance. Our survey respondents gave it high scores, and complaints to the CFPB were fairly low relative to Amex’s share of the market. Common complaints included problems with purchases shown on a billing statement, trouble using a card, advertising and marketing issues (such as consumers not receiving advertised or promotional terms), and other difficulties with features and terms, such as problems involving rewards.
Like Discover, American Express was one of the few issuers that were friendly and responsive when we posed as a potential new customer with questions; phone wait times to reach knowledgeable representatives were mercifully short. Amex’s mobile app is capable, and then some. You can view statements and balances, make payments, receive activity alerts, see your FICO score, switch your account off or on in case you lose your card, and order a replacement card. A couple of other nice features: You can split purchases with users of peer-to-peer payment apps PayPal or Venmo through the app, and it’s easy to find customer service contact information by tapping a box that appears in the upper right corner of the app no matter what page you’re on.
Chase takes third place, with a strong survey score and an especially low number of complaints compared with its share of the market among our credit card finalists. As with our other winners, complaints about purchases shown on a statement were common. Customers also had problems with closing an account and with other features and terms. Chase lost some points because we were unable to contact a customer representative when acting as a potential new customer. But its mobile app has some appealing features. As with apps of many other major issuers, you can check your card balances and recent transactions on the go, set up activity alerts, manage payments, order a replacement card and switch your card off and on. Plus, you can see a free VantageScore credit score and check the “Daily Snapshot” feature to see charts that show recent card transactions and the amounts you’ve spent in categories such as travel and food and drink.
Kiplinger’s Best Firms for Customer Service: Mortgage Lenders
- Gold: Quicken Loans
- Silver: U.S. Bank
- Bronze: Chase
- Best Digital Tools: U.S. Bank
Because buying a home may be the biggest financial transaction you ever undertake—and securing a home loan and getting to settlement can be stressful and time-consuming—working with a mortgage lender who is knowledgeable and available when you need help makes the process go a lot smoother. And once you have the house keys in hand and start making mortgage payments, solid customer service continues to be valuable. (The lender that originated your mortgage may sell the loan or transfer servicing of it to a different institution, but the loan terms will not change.)
Our winner, Quicken Loans, took the top spot with a commanding lead. Quicken is a nonbank lender and the largest issuer of residential mortgages in the U.S., funding $124 billion in loan volume in the first six months of 2020, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry research firm. Despite its behemoth status, its CFPB complaint tally regarding mortgages in the one-year period we studied was just slightly more than 400, compared with complaint counts approaching or topping 1,000 for some of its competitors. Among complaints about the company, nearly 40% involved applying for or refinancing a mortgage.
Quicken also performed well in our customer service survey, and we were able to reach a representative on the phone who could answer our questions as a potential new customer. We like the handy online calculators Quicken provides to help you calculate your potential mortgage payment, the maximum home price you can afford, whether renting or buying makes sense, and more. Through Quicken’s Rocket Mortgage website and app, you can get a rate quote and apply for a home purchase loan or a refinance.
U.S. Bank earns second place overall, receiving high marks in our survey. Its CFPB complaint count was below the expected level based on the lender’s size, with most complaints involving trouble during the payment process, difficulties for customers struggling to pay their mortgage, and problems applying for or refinancing a mortgage. A large national bank with branches in 27 states, U.S. Bank is a good choice if you prefer in-person service. But we also had a pretty good experience when we called the bank as a potential new customer with a few questions.
U.S. Bank is the leader in our digital category, too, earning the highest score among mortgage lenders in our survey for digital capabilities and offering an impressive array of tools within its app and website. You can check your mortgage balance, make payments, download statements and set alerts for when statements and tax documents become available. Soon, you’ll be able to use the app to track your home’s estimated value. Plus, the app has tools to show you how quickly you could retire your mortgage by adding money to your monthly payment. Another helpful feature: If you want to call customer service, you can see estimated phone wait times on the app and request a call back rather than wait on hold. You can also use a voice-activated virtual assistant to get information on balances and payment due dates.
Rounding out the top three mortgage lenders is Chase. It performed respectably in our survey, and the proportion of complaints about Chase to the CFPB is about on par with the lender’s share of the mortgage market, with most complaints involving customers who had trouble during the payment process or were struggling to pay their mortgage. Along with using Chase’s mobile app to view account balances and statements, make payments and set activity alerts, customers can use the MyHome feature to view their home’s value and get information about sales and value trends in their neighborhood.
Kiplinger’s Best Firms for Customer Service: Auto and Home Insurers
- Gold: Farmers Insurance
- Silver: Geico
- Bronze: USAA
- Best Digital Tools: Geico
Auto and home insurance are vital services that you hope you never have to use. When you do need to file a claim for damage or theft involving your home or vehicle, working with an insurer that can efficiently process claims and employs representatives who are knowledgeable and quick to respond helps offset the inconvenience that comes with dealing with home or car repairs.
Farmers Insurance takes the top spot in our ranking of insurers, thanks in large part to an exceptionally low number of complaints relative to the company’s share of the market. Complaint volumes were especially small for homeowners insurance policyholders, but complaints about auto insurance were also well under the amount expected for a company of its size. Farmers did not score quite as high overall in our survey as Geico or USAA, but it earned a good rating and got high marks for agents’ knowledge and availability.
When we called the company posing as a potential new customer, we had the same positive experience, with agents providing thorough answers to our questions. The mobile app includes many features that customers have come to expect from major insurers, including the ability to view coverages and deductibles; make payments; pull up digital versions of auto insurance ID cards; file claims and submit photos of damage to your home or car; and find contact information for your agent.
Geico, sliding into second place, is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and is one of the country’s largest auto insurers. It doesn’t write homeowners policies, but you can buy home insurance through Geico’s agency and get a discount for bundling it with auto insurance. Geico fared well with customers in our survey, and its agents proved helpful when we called to pose a few questions as a potential new customer. Complaints about Geico to insurance regulators were below the expected level based on the company’s market share.
Geico’s mobile app is a highlight and helps boost the company to the top of our digital ranking among insurers. The app is attractive and easy to navigate, and it hosts an appealing array of features, from digital insurance ID cards to claim filing and tracking to a tool that provides an estimate of vehicle damage based on photos you submit. It also has a gas station locator to steer you to the cheapest gas nearby and provides several avenues to contact customer service—through a virtual assistant for answers to basic questions, via e-mail or by phone (you’re directed to the right phone number based on your needs).
USAA, which offers insurance to military servicemembers and their families, posted a close third-place finish. It scored the highest among respondents in our survey and maintained a decently small number of complaints relative to its market share, though not low enough to push the company to the top of the overall ranking. Survey respondents were highly satisfied with USAA’s digital capabilities, and, as with the other top contenders in the insurance category, its mobile app is easy to use and runs the gamut of features, including digital auto insurance ID cards, access to details about your policies, and multiple avenues to contact customer service. You can use the “automated agent” to get answers to basic questions or connect with a live agent through a phone call or web chat. However, USAA’s app isn’t as robust as Geico’s, which allowed Geico to edge out USAA for second place.
More Results From Our Survey
Top-rated banks among:
- High-net-worth respondents:* Capital One
- Age 50 and over: Capital One
- Younger than 50: Chase
Top-rated credit card issuers among:
- High-net-worth respondents:* Chase
- Age 50 and over: American Express and Discover (tie)
- Younger than 50: Chase
Top-rated credit card issuers among:
- High-net-worth respondents:* Bank of America
- Age 50 and over: American Express and Discover (tie)
- Younger than 50: Chase
Top-rated mortgage lenders among:
- High-net-worth respondents:* Bank of America
- Ages 18-34†: U.S. Bank
Top-rated home and auto insurers among:
- High-net-worth respondents:* Geico
- Age 50 and over: Geico
- Younger than 50: USAA
*Household assets of $250,000 or more †Too few respondents in other age groups to name winners among older customers.
How We Chose the Winners
We started by identifying 10 of the largest companies in each category. For banks, we used Federal Reserve data regarding the institutions’ domestic assets. For credit card issuers, we examined information from industry publication Nilson Report about issuers’ total credit card purchase volume. For mortgages, we checked lending volumes for residential properties, using data from industry research firm Inside Mortgage Finance. And for home and auto insurers, we used data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners on the dollar value of premiums written.
Then we scored our finalists in four areas. Half of the total score is based on responses to a September 2020 nationwide survey of current customers, conducted by Brown Oak Audience Insights, regarding their experiences with the companies. We asked respondents to rate representatives’ availability to provide assistance, timeliness of the companies’ response to questions and concerns, how satisfactory the companies’ actions to resolve questions and concerns were, and how knowledgeable representatives were. We also asked respondents to rate the companies’ digital capabilities as well as their overall satisfaction with the firms.
To determine 30% of the score, we checked volumes of complaints about the companies to regulators and analyzed how the complaint totals for each company compared to the firm’s share of the market. For banks, credit card issuers and mortgage lenders, we evaluated complaint submissions in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s complaint database between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020. For home and auto insurers, we checked 2019 complaint data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
For 10% of the score, we rated the success of our attempts to contact each company by phone and online, how quickly representatives were reachable, and how thorough and helpful their responses were. For the final 10% of the score, we judged the features and user-friendliness of our finalists’ mobile apps. To name digital winners in each category, we added our app review score to the digital-capability ratings that survey respondents provided.
Spencer Philps contributed research for this article.