Credit card confusion: How do I earn rewards?

Credit card confusion: How do I earn rewards?

Confusion abounds

Rewards programs are one thing, the basic terms of use are quite another. According to the J.D. Power survey, fewer than half (47 percent) of the cardholders responding said they “completely understand” those terms. Of these customers, 73 percent weren’t sure of the interest rate and 31 percent did not know the late-payment fees.

This comes as no surprise to Bill Hardekopf, CEO and founder of the comparison website LowCards.com.

“Credit card terms and conditions are very complicated,” he said. “You practically need a law degree to fully understand them and I think people get frustrated with that.”

The best credit cards

J.D. Power asked 14,000 credit card customers how satisfied they are with their card when it comes to rewards, benefits, terms, billing and payment, customer interaction and problem resolution.

(Read more: Future of banking: Putting humans insider ATMs)

Overall satisfaction was up slightly for the fourth year in a row—767 points out of 1,000. Miller said that could be because of the improving economy which has many people feeling better about their personal financial situation.

American Express rated the highest for the seventh consecutive year, scoring 816.

“They do a really good job with the rewards. They make it fairly easy to understand and use and they have a great selection of rewards to choose from,” Miller said. “And if you have a problem, they excel at resolving that problem in one contact.”

Discover came in a very close second, scoring 812. It has a simple product line, a rewards program that’s easy to understand and gets high marks for customer service, Miller explained.

“They’ve also done well at creating a sense of fairness around late fees and other fees,” he said.

(Read more: What ticks you off? Top 10 consumer complaints)

Chase, with a score of 783, was the only other major credit card issuer to rank above the industry average.

The banks that rated below average are: Barclaycard (764), U.S. Bank (759), Wells Fargo (757), Capital One (756), Bank of America (749), GE Capital Retail Bank (742), Citi (741) and HSBC (709).

If you ever have an unresolved complaint with your credit card company, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

More information:

Consumer Reports: The Best Credit Card for You

—By CNBC contributor Herb Weisbaum. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @TheConsumerman or visit The ConsumerMan website.

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